A few weeks ago I asked the followers of my Facebook page to ask me some vintage fashion related questions that they wanted answered. The response was some really interesting questions that I couldn’t wait to get answering. First up is a question from my reader Naomi who asked about repairing and maintaining vintage stockings. She mentioned that they are expensive to buy and she wanted to make them last as long as possible. Something that women of the past would definitely understand.
There is nothing worse than buying a beautiful pair of vintage stockings only to catch them on a ring or a nail and make a hole, the hole then becomes a ladder and the stockings are destined for the bin. However all is hopefully not lost and it may be possible to save them.
Firstly though it’s important to think about preventing damaging them in the first place and there is lots you can do to prolong the life of your stockings. One important factor is choosing the right stockings for the occasion. Everyday stocking should be far more robust and harder wearing so go for a thicker style with a higher denier. It’s worth remembering that low denier stockings are almost impossible to repair. This advert from the early 50s explains little about gauge and denier.
This Charnos advert from 1954 describes some of the different styles they offered for both day and night. If it’s not clear on the packaging or they have come to you unwrapped if you look closely you should be able to see how tight the weave is and how thick they are. Keep the thinner more delicate pairs for special occasions. It might also be worth investing some reproduction stockings for everyday wear.
Once you have worn them be careful taking them off and don’t put them with your other washing where they may be caught on other garments. They should be hand washed and dried away from heat. These washing instructions from a pair of my 50s stocks tell us a little about the care required when washing.
In the 1940s stocking were hard to come by and had to last as long as possible. This label from a pair of 1940s CC41 stockings from my collection explain that the stockings should not be thrown away until they are completely unusable. It also reminds us to be careful putting stockings on and not to catch them on rings and nails.
I’d have to say almost every pair of stockings I’ve ruined has been because of a nail. Remember to keep your nails well filed and don’t put stockings on at all with rings on.
If the worst does happen and you do make a hole things are a little harder for us today then they were in the past. Back in the days where every woman wore stockings and had to make them last there were repair shops you could go to have them mended for you. This was actually a very skilled and intricate job and repairs could be made almost invisible. They even developed special machines which did all the hard work. With stockings being so expensive during war-time repair was absolutely essential. Many women also often had the skills and materials needed to mend them adequately themselves. So things are definitely a little harder today.
Your first ports of call for a damaged stocking are clear nail polish and hairspray. they will both help to stop a run in it’s tracks and can be a great quick fix. If the hole or ladder is high on the leg and won’t show then this can be the ideal solution, just dab a bit of clear nail polish at either end and it shouldn’t get any worse.
If you want to try to actually repair the hole them you’ll need some hosiery mending thread, a ball point needle and a lot of patience. The thread is pretty hard to come by these days and your best bets are eBay and Etsy which always have a few on sale. Most advice I’ve read still recommends a little hairspray or nail polish to seal the ends of the run before stretching the stocking and stitching up the hole. Nylon thread is pretty stretchy and hard to work with however once you have managed so stitch up the hole the stretch is exactly what you need.
Any mends will obviously show so this will really only work on small holes or on places on the stocking that will be hidden. In the 1940s when times were hard and stockings needed to last it was completely normal to have lots of repairs in your everyday stocking but not so much today, so there has to come a point where the stockings are no longer useable.
This handy tip from a 1947 magazine shows how to use the tops from an old pair of stockings to make a too-short pair of stocking longer. So if you do have a pair that is beyond repair why not keep them to one side and see if they come in handy later on.
I hope this was helpful for you. Remember to look after those stockings!!!
Do you have a vintage related question that you’d like me to answer in a similar post? Comment below and I’ll get to work on answering them.
Thank you to Scrapiana who pointed me in the direction of Nylon mending thread.
ShybikerDecember 13, 2014 at 1:01 pm
This is such a great post! I have many pairs of vintage stockings and worry about ruining them. Now I know tricks of the trade. Thanks.
Jessica CangianoDecember 14, 2014 at 3:17 am
Really informative, excellent post, dear Katherine. I love that you mentioned the point about saving damaged stockings for future uses. I often do that, too, and never, ever throw out a good stocking if its mate has bit the dust. Often, especially with modern seamed stockings, you can pair two up and have a set that looks as though they came together originally.
Laurel JohnsonAugust 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm
I have been given a run-minder for stocking from World War I I. I would like to sell it.
CharlotteNovember 21, 2017 at 1:21 pm
I love wearing stockings over pantyhose and i use the same trick for making a pair longer to transform a nice pair of pantyhose into stockings. Hand stitched or on my trusty sewing machine with a bit of thin paper on both sides of the fabric. Works great when in a pinch.
MariaAugust 26, 2022 at 4:26 pm
There used to be extremely tiny latched crochet hooks that were used to re-knit runs in silk stockings.