1560 - Queen Elisabeth owns the first pair of silk stockings (England)
1589 - Frame-work knitting machine invented by Rev. William Lee
1816 - First Circular Knitting-Frame (England)
1838 - Steam Power-driven Hosiery Machine (USA)
1839 - Patent for Power-driven Circular Knitting Machine (USA)
1850 - US Patent for Latch Needles
1857 - Patent for Full-Fashioned Machine (England)
1937 - Nylon invented by Dr. Wallace Carothers at DuPont
1959 - Development of Spandex
Pantyhose are a form of sheer women's hosiery that extend from the waist to the toes. The terms hosiery and stocking come from the Anglo-Saxon words hosa, meaning "tight-legged trouser," and stoka, meaning "stump".
After the upper part of a trouser was cut off, the remaining stoka became "stocking," and hosa became "hosiery." For centuries, sheer stockings and hose were worn as separate leg and foot coverings. After World War II fashion designers began to attach panties to stockings, creating the form of hosiery currently available in the stores. Although their most basic purpose is to protect and beautify the feet and legs of female consumers, nylons are also put to other uses, including supporting the legs of football players and for filters used in the chemistry.
Few early references to women's hosiery exist because any public mention of women's legs was considered improper until the twentieth century. The first extant discussion of a garment resembling today's pantyhose concerns the "tight-fitting hose" young Venetian men wore beneath short jackets during the fourteenth century. Made of silk, these leggings were often brightly colored and embroidered; older Venetians considered them extremely immodest. One of the earliest mentions of women wearing stockings appears in the records of Queen Elizabeth I, whose "silk woman" presented her with a pair of knitted black silk stockings. Admiring their softness and comfort, the Queen requested more, and wore only silk stockings for the rest of her life.
In 1589, when the Reverend William Lee attempted to patent the first knitting machine, Queen Elizabeth denied his request because, she contended, the coarse stockings produced by Lee's machine were inferior to the silk hose she had shipped from Spain. Lee improved his machine, enabling it to manufacture softer stockings, but Elizabeth's successor, James I, denied his second patent application as well, this time out of fear that the machine would endanger the livelihood of English hand knitters. After Lee's death, his brother built a framework knitting machine that remained unrivalled for several hundred years.
When William Cotton invented the first automated knitting machine in 1864, he incorporated the key features of Lee's design, notably the spring-beard needle that is still used in many contemporary knitting machines. Named for the fine, open hook that projects from the needle at an angle like that of the hair in a man's beard, the spring-beard needle must be used with a pressing device to close the hook as it forms a loop. This type of needle is ideal for hosiery because it produces smaller loops and, consequently, a finer weave. Cotton's straight-bar machine created flat sheets of fabric using a weft stitch whereby a continuous yarn was fed to needles that sewed back-and-forth horizontal rows. By increasing or reducing the number of needles used to knit different portions of a stocking, workers could vary the thickness of the garment: more needles produced thicker fabric. Stitching began at the top of the stocking with a welt, or thick strip to which women could attach garters. To accommodate the feet and ankles, the stocking fabric was thinned at the bottom, although the fabric at the heel remained thick, for cushioning purposes. After it was removed from Cotton's machine, the fabric was manually shaped and seamed up the back to produce so-called full-fashioned stockings.
Also produced during the mid-nineteenth century, the first seamless stockings were made on circular machines that knitted tubes of fabric to which separate foot and toe pieces were subsequently attached. Although these stockings were more attractive in that they featured no visible seams, they bagged at the knees and ankles because circular machines could not add or drop stitches like the Lee and Cotton machines. It was not until the World War II era that two developments made possible better-fitting stockings. First, circular machines were improved so that they could knit stockings in one piece. Still more significant was the DuPont Company's invention of a synthetic fiber called nylon. After being sewn into a tube, nylon fabric could be heated and formed into a shape that it would thereafter retain through numerous stretchings and washings. Hosiery made from this revolutionary fabric was introduced to the general population in 1940, and its immediate popularity soon rendered the word "nylons" synonymous with hosiery.
However, the war that had accelerated the development of nylon also increased the demand for it, so, during the early forties, the hosiery industry offered socks instead of stockings. The anklet, a short cotton sock, became the temporary replacement favored by most women, particularly the young consumers known as "bobby-soxers." Yet, when the war ended and nylon was once again available for consumer uses, most women returned to nylon stockings. During the sixties, decreasing skirt lengths necessitated longer stockings, and fashion designers created what we now know as pantyhose by attaching panties to hosiery. In addition to accommodating all hemline fluctuations, pantyhose don't need to be held up with the garters and garter belts previously used to secure stockings. Nylons have become a fashion accessory that few women are willing to do without. This is especially true in the white-collar workforce, where they are considered an essential part of appropriate office attire.
If you want to share something with us, please contact us.