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From the Archives: Liquid stockings
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From the Archives: Liquid stockings

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liquid stockings

In August 1941, one woman demonstrated on another how to use an eyebrow pencil to draw a seam on the leg, which would give the appearance of nylon hosiery. During the World War II era, nylon was rationed for the war effort, and hosiery had virtually disappeared from stores. So-called “liquid stockings” gave the appearance of hosiery – the leg was covered in a nude-colored makeup, and then a line was drawn.

The first nylon stockings were produced in Wilmington, Delaware, in October 1939—they were invented by chemist Wallace Hume Carothers who worked for DuPont which was headquartered there. Nylon stockings were modeled for the first time at the 1939 New York World Fair—they were more durable than silk and rayon stockings which were prone to runs and it was washable as well. In no time, nylon stockings became all the rage and were selling out at department stores across the United States.

The popularity of the new hosiery was short-lived and nylon virtually disappeared from stores shortly after its debut when World War II began. Nylon was used for manufacturing parachutes, netting and rope during the war.

Nylon was strictly rationed and on May 14, 1940, which was coined “Nylon Day,” four million pairs of nylons were temporarily available for sale in department stores across the U.S.—they sold out in two days.

Nylon Day

"Nylon Day" advertisement May 14, 1940.

At the time hosiery was a prominent part women’s fashion and with a limited supply available, American women found other methods to keep up with fashion. In August 1941 photo above; one woman demonstrated on another how to use an eyebrow pencil to draw a “seam” on the leg, which would give the appearance of nylon hosiery. The line was drawn on after “liquid stockings” were applied. The “liquid stockings” gave the appearance of hosiery when in fact; only nude-colored makeup had been applied. Liquid stockings were essentially nude-colored foundation for your legs that if applied diligently, gave the illusion of hosiery. For those looking for additional detail, eye pencils were used to draw a line for the look of a “seam.”

Bottles of liquid stockings arrived in Richmond in August 1941. According to a 1942 advertisement an average bottle of liquid stockings contained about 20 pairs of “stockings.” For the “defense-conscious” woman the slogan for the stocking substitute was “Paint a limb and save silk.”

One of the first liquid stocking brands was developed in England and was called “Nina Makeup.” The liquid stockings came in six different shades. “No longer will Lulu Jane have to worry about snags and runs, just soap and water, for the stuff comes off at the slightest washing. You can even draw your own seams, only you are warned not to draw them too straight or they won’t look natural. The stuff even smells good,” a 1941 article said of the product. In Richmond, beauty parlors also offered professional application of liquid stockings which took about half an hour, 15 minutes per leg and cost $1.

Liquid stockings were not an easy fix for all. In June 1943 one woman wrote to the Times-Dispatch seeking advice. “I am wearing liquid stockings to save my rayons, but cannot stand the feel of shoes without stockings, I have some “foot socks” to wear under my shoes, but as some of my shoes are perforated or have openings, they show. Can I get them in various colors or have you a remedy to suggest?

The response: Simply use a little of your liquid stocking on the “foot socks” that you year. It will dye the same color, look the same, and will wash out just as it washes off your legs, with soap and water.

nkappatos@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6304

Twitter: @nicole_kappatos

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