How Nylon Made Silk Tights Available To The Mass Market | The Weekly Cut

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No matter what the weather forecast is for the next weeks, one thing’s for sure; we don’t plan on ditching our skirts and dresses anytime soon. Replacing them with trousers or warm leggings isn’t an option for us – despite the cold temperatures and incoming winter storms! Instead, we look forward to extending their wardrobe shelf life by covering our pins with nylon tights. Opaque, lined, polka-dotted, sheer, the options are endless. But first, let’s take a look at how these chic additions to an outfit made their debut!

The story of tights is believed to go back to the 50s, however there has been proof that as early as the 17th century, performers were wearing skintight leggings during acrobatic performance as they provided sufficient coverage during complex routines. Off-stage, women of a certain class wore the then-version of tights: stockings attached with garters. Charming and seductive still today, but not comfortable in the least bit. Those skintight leggings were mainly knitted garments made from cotton and silk. But as it so happens, cotton and silk especially were expensive and imported from China, therefore not accessible to the common woman.

The 1930s famously brought us the invention of a the famous fabric, now widely used in everyday life: nylon. Coincidentally, the first nylon stockings were spotted at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and were made commercially available by 1940. By then, women had only been used to silk-made stockings – and as the popularity of nylon rose, so did its price. Nylon stockings were sold at almost double the price of silk, despite not being a luxury material.

Later on, the changes in women’s fashion furthermore increased the demand of nylon stockings. Mini skirts started gaining in popularity, which with shortened hemlines needed to be accompanied by tights to cover up. And so, tights and stockings became an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe, considering it wasn’t good etiquette to show their legs without hosiery.

It wasn’t until the 60s, also known as the ‘swinging 60s’ that actual hip-to-toe tights made their debut. This was primarily due to the war era, in which women were expected to perform more tasks when their men were away. As it so happens, stockings attached to girdles weren’t so convenient. thankfully by the mid-century, scientists managed to file a patent for nylon-made tights, and women world-wide were finally able to get rid of their ancient versions.

As soon as nylon was marketed to everyone and available to purchase everywhere, the price started to drop and the nylon-made tights were made more durable and inexpensive. With demand and popularity growing, the tights themselves became almost scarce, yet a much-needed necessity for women. In fact, more stylish options such as with patterns and black lines were so limited that women often drew on the black lines on the back of the legs themselves

Nowadays and through the various fashion weeks in New York, Paris and Milan, tights have proven to be a women’s wardrobe staple. Not only are they used to keep warm and covered up – but also to make a statement. Bold-colored, metallic shades and patterned tights are all available for purchase, and are consistently worn by fashion girls worldwide.


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