Tuesday, 30 April 2013

10 ways to 1920s style: part 9, the flesh-coloured stockings

The opening scene of the 1928 film Our Dancing Daughters
Having read the words ‘flesh-coloured stockings’ you may well be recoiling in horror at the thought of wrinkly-ankled ‘American Tan’ tights. (Do Americans have ‘American Tan’ hosiery, I wonder, or do they aspire to a different tan? ‘Riviera Tan’? ‘Italian Tan’?)

The flesh-coloured stocking really came in in the 1920s, possibly as a result of the shorter skirts. Gone was the thick black woolly hosiery of the Edwardian age, and in swept silk and silk-alikes in paler shades. The ultra-fine textures helped create the illusion of showing a bit of leg even when one’s legs were still safely under a layer of fabric. However, adverts I’ve seen give the impression that the colour wasn’t completely designed to match the wearer’s skin, rather that the shade of tan should compliment the rest of the outfit, so you’d wear a cooler colour with blue than you would with red. Colours like grey and rose were also not uncommon.

I have to confess, while I have seen adverts from British magazines and know that stockings close to caucasian skin tones were marketed to caucasian women in the 1920s, I don’t know whether darker stockings were aimed at women of colour, and most of the photos I’ve seen of women of colour in the 1920s are of well-known actresses, singers and dancers, who probably didn’t dress the same as ordinary women in their everyday lives. If you’ve seen any adverts from this period aimed at women of colour, I’d love to know what sort of stockings were aimed at them.

Joan in 'Our Dancing Daughters'
Flappers famously wore their stockings rolled to the knee - Louise Brooks starred in a film called Rolled Stockings, and the start of the 1928 film Our Dancing Daughters is a shot of Joan Crawford’s stockinged legs, Charlestoning away even as she gets dressed.

If the memory of those ‘American Tan’ tights has you unconvinced, and the Duchess of Cambridge can’t tempt you into nude hosiery (although by all accounts she is bringing about a revival in sales), consider this: they do cover up flaws and irregularities in skin too, from ingrowing hairs to scars and dark veins, so they’re not all bad!

4 comments :

  1. Marks and Spencers all the way for good nude hosiery that doesn't make you look tanned, American or otherwise!

    I remember being really surprised at seeing some stocking samples from the 1930s, with all kinds of crazy colours!

    P x

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    1. I tend to go to M&S or Boots for tights, though my last pair from Boots turned out to be an oddly dingy shade.

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  2. White/ cream stocking were also very popular in the 20’s- I have loads of pictures of my great grandmother wearing them and I own a pair too. I’ve been trying to find modern cream Art silk stockings, but have been quite unsuccessful so far!
    T x

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    1. I haven't seen any, but I shall keep my eyes out for some.

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