Covering your legs: a little longer story

by Ms Orange Stocking

As 14% or seven of my #fiftyitems are taken up by tights and socks I wanted to look into the production of this kind of footwear/legwear. When I was choosing what I needed the inclusion of tights, nylon ankle socks and what I’d call ‘normal’ socks presented a bit of dilemma. I love coloured legs.


Did I really have to count them as part of my #fiftyitems, after all they take up so little space in the cupboard? And we all know how easily they get holed, laddered, or start to look worn. Ultimately I decided that if I was to be honest with myself, and there was no point doing this project if I wasn’t, yes, they had to be included in the #fiftyitems.

 So here’s what comes up in the count:

  • one pair of socks included as one item in my sports/workslothes outfit (shorts, tshirt, longseleeved cotton shirt for keeping the sun off and a cotton hoodie for when it gets chilly, plus one pair of socks)
  • four pairs of tights for winter adding variety
  • two pairs nylon ankle socks: one beige, one black
  • one pair of green flouro cotton socks

 Stockings have been worn for centuries, even having been found in Egyptian tombs. Originally they consisted of ‘upper-stocks’ (later knee breeches for men) and ‘nether-stocks’ and were made of cotton, wool, silk and linen.

Screenshot 2016-01-25 15.48.18In the 1900s as women’s hemlines changed, and horror of titillating horrors, their ankles and then their actual legs could be seen, decorum demanded that women’s legs be covered by stockings. In the 1940s Dupont chemical company began dupont nylonsproducing ‘nylons. ’ Dupont retooled during WW11 to produce parachutes, rope & cord and the shortage created a black market for stockings.

Pantyhose emerged in the late 1950s and rapidly replaced stockings in the market. Today there is still an unspoken rule that women’s legs must be smooth and shiny. Generally for professional women, polished presentation means pantyhose, particularly for evening and formal gatherings.

InThe Coloured Heart our humid climate this just makes no sense in the summer. But tights and pantyhose can make cool winter mornings and evenings bearable, especially if you choose zany bright colours. A good friend and former colleagues named me Ms Orange Stocking because I brightened up the winter workplace with my coloured tights. My favourites here, which I call the colourful heart, I purchased at Craft Victoria about fifteen years ago so these are well-loved and well cared for.

IMG_4179 (1)Nylon ankle socks or footlets certainly make boots and shoes easier to wear. But if I had my time over again I’d only buy footwear that enabled me to wear socks on my feet as they keep your toes warmer and are more comfy.

 Tights and pantyhose generally have annoyingly short lifespans, if we are not super careful with them in the putting on, the wearing and the washing. Nothing worse than arriving at an all- important engagement and finding you have a visible snag or hole. But enough of the whys & wherefores, what are the concerns about how these fashion items are produced?

 Here’s a wild generalisation: no one mends pantyhose any more. Today they are often sold packaged in twos or fives implying they are throw-away items. If they are laddered or holed on the first wear, that’s the end for most of us. They might be the most intrinsically environmentally unfriendly items of clothing there is.

Almost 2 billion pairs of pantyhose are manufactured each year and demand is growing.

Pantyhose are usually made from a nylon-based blend of synthetic fibres including nylon (most commonly Nylon 6,6 – adipic acid, an organic acid, and hexamethylene diamine), an organic base. All pantyhose are dyed generating even more toxic waste and potentially exposing workers to health risks. Higher deniers (the smaller the number, the finer) often include blended microfibres which do not break down when released into our waterways. Their long-term impacts have not been widely documented, nor have their potential impacts on the workers in the industry. Pantyhose also contribute large amounts of plastic and cardboard packing waste to our landfill; they have to be packaged, to be protected before purchase. 32014nylon-bikini-full

Unfortunately there do not appear to be too many uses for recycled stockings but they certainly come in handy for gardening ties. My grandma made some bathmats by crocheting stockings in a circle and I have found one crazy bikini made from recycled hose. It would certainly have the advantage of being quick dry.

It is most definitely time to make the leap to tights made from natural fibres. Please get in touch if you know of any good ones.

#legs #footwear #nylons #pantyhose #winterchoices #fiftyitems2016 #lessismore #industrialpollutants


7 thoughts on “Covering your legs: a little longer story

    1. Hi Heather
      You must have seen some interesting differences in attitudes to stocking wearing across the various places your work has taken you. I agree that wearing stockings can help shoes to wear better and longer, and make it a more comfortable experience, especially if you are doing a lot of walking and standing.


  1. I hate how quickly pantyhose ladder! I source all mine at op-shops and have reduced how often I wear them, but I’m still left with lots of laddered hose. I don’t need any more for gardening! I do cut 1 inch rounds and reuse as hair ties, but those too last a long time. Perhaps I will try crocheting a bikini 😉 Do you have any good tips for mending? I don’t own any clear nail polish, and I’ve never had much success with that method in the past anyway.


    1. Hi there cheliamoose. I don’t have an answer for you. As I have said, I love tights: especially colourful and patterned ones. I continue to look for natural ones but I see that even those sold as ‘eco’ have some nylon content to help them hold their shape. But living in Brisbane I wear tights less frequently than you would get to in Melbourne (I checked out your very interesting blog). I also try to limit the wearing of pantyhose as they are not good for all sorts of health and environmental reasons. It is alarming to read how many are purchased each year and they take up so little space we probably don’t realise the impact they have downstream when discarded, not to mention the nasties used in the production of them. I have never worn nail polish (well maybe once or twice) and I think that ‘mend’ might only work to inhibit a ladder from getting longer. My grandmother made bath mats incorporating stockings into rag rug crotchet and my sister has incorporated some into woven mats but prefers the natural fibres too. It’s a conundrum isn’t it? So many of the expectations about how women ‘present’ themselves have consequences for personal and environmental health.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Pamela, at least I’m not leaving stones unturned! Even in Melbourne I can usually get away without wearing pantyhose and I’ve begun to preference tights or leggings because those tend to need less repair. I’d only ever thought of my own pantyhose use, but when you describe it systematically like that it’s even more terrifying! Thank you for reading my blog 🙂


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