Stockings have been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that sexy stockings really came to be thought of as sexy. Stocking lingerie used to just be utilitarian like the rest of the undergarment wardrobe: They were simply used as something to keep the legs warm. Interestingly enough, stockings were first worn primarily by men while women wore long john-type garments under their dresses to keep their legs warm. Men wore stockings with their knee breeches.
After the 1590s when the knitting machine was invented, stockings became more prominent in women’s wardrobes too thanks to the different types of materials they were able to be made out of then. Whereas they were previously primarily made out of simple cloth, they were able to be made out of fabrics like wool, cotton, linen and even silk.
Women in the Victorian era reportedly loved the luxurious silk stockings. However, they were delicate and tended to rip easily. Plus, back then stockings were worn under garments and not meant to be seen by anyone but the lady and her husband.
By the time the 1920s rolled around, women were wearing shorter dresses, so they took to wearing stockings to cover their legs while still exposing them. As contrary as this may sound, it was the sheer stockings that came about that made stockings so popular in that era. They gave legs a flawless look while lending women a sense of propriety. They were made out of nylon by then and were comfortable. Considered very fashionable, when nylon was in short supply during World War II, some women who couldn’t afford nylon even went so far as to paint a black line up the sides of their legs to make it appear as if they were, in fact, wearing nylon stockings – see more.