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The word 'hosiery' is used to describe a tight-fitting garment, which is worn, on the feet and / or legs.

Modern hosiery is usually knitted to be a stretchy fabric or mesh, therefore quite tight fitting.

Due to its tightness, most hosiery may be worn as an undergarment, but it is more commonly worn in combination with an under garment.

There are numerous types of hosiery ...

  1. Socks
  2. Stockings - are a means of covering the feet and legs up to thigh level, usually held up by a suspender belt.
  3. Tights or pantyhose - are stockings that extend from the waist to feet, fitting as tightly as possible to the body.
  4. Hold-ups or thigh-high stockings
  5. Leggings - is a term used to describe a knitted leg covering. The most recent adaptation is to describe a tight, waist to ankle length, form-fitting trousers.
Hosiery frilly socks Hosiery fishnet stockings Hosiery open crotch suspender tights Hosiery hold up fishnet stockings
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Denier rating

Denier is an Italian measurement for knitting yarn, with one denier equalling 5 centigrams, i.e. 0.05g, per metre of yarn.

Therefore the lower the number of denier, i.e. lower the weight of yarn, then the finer the weave.

The most common denier hosiery is in the range 15 to 30, with the 8 being the lowest available for practical manufacturing reasons, not to mention the delicacy of such a sheer material, often making it last no more than one wearing before being damaged

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Hosiery history

The earliest references to hosiery can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, whose workmen and slaves wore hosiery.

The word sock is derived from the Roman women's 'soccus' which was a short sock worn in their homes.

While in Japan and China silk or cotton socks were worn for centuries.

In Europe, around the 12th century, socks evolved into stockings when breeches worn by men became close fitting, reaching from the waist to the foot like modern tights and women wore stockings held up at the knee by garters.

1545 saw knitted stockings coming into fashion, often with elaborate silk patterned seams known as 'clocks'. This decorative seam treatment still curried popular favour in the late 1940s, 1950s and even the early 1960s.

The discovery of the New World opened up trade in rare and luxurious fibres; with the invention of the first knitting machine by William Lee, an English clergyman, in 1589 silk and cotton became the most popular fibres of the era. Naturally, silk was the choice of royalty.

In the 17th century when large boots were fashionable, linen "boot hose" were worn to protect the silk stockings underneath. They had wide lace tops, which were turned over the boots.

Men continued to wear silk stockings with garters until the end of the 18th century, but when long trousers begin to appear, socks were worn underneath; a habit that continued t this day.

In the 19th century machine-made cotton stockings became available for women.

After the First World War, short skirts became fashionable and long silk stockings were once again worn.

The invention by Dupont of nylon in the 30's forced the loss of silk's supremacy as the main women's hosiery material. Eventually, after the Second World War, silk was all but completely replaced by nylon. Nevertheless, it was not without challenges from other man made fibres such as Rayon, Bamberg, and Vilene.

Nylon stockings, up until the late 1960's had seams. They were knitted flat and 'fully fashioned' which means that they were shaped to fit the leg like modern sweaters. By decreasing the number of stitches as the stocking was knitted, downwards, towards the ankle a garment was created that was 'knit to fit'.

By the early 1960s, 'fully fashioned' stockings were rapidly replaced by modern reinforced heel and toe seamless stockings. These were made on circular knitting machines and shaped by tightening of the stitches.

Hosiery is often described as being of a particular 'denier', which refers to the thickness of the yarn. The given gauge describes the number of stitches per row.

Once again, in the 1960s, when very short 'mini' skirts were worn, women began to wear tights (pantyhose) instead of stockings. To show, 'a bit of stocking', was no longer accepted and while stockings fought for market share by becoming extremely long, they became nearly extinct as tights (pantyhose) gained in popularity.

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