Thursday, August 21, 2014

Faking it: stockings for the 18th century costume

There was some conversation over on the Historical Sew Fortnightly group about symmetricals (padded stockings: if you're interested in them, Leimomi has a terminology post all about them).  I had joked that these were one of the only historical garments that I would have no use for, seeing as how my legs come with quite enough padding on their own.  Enough for me have a fun cheat to share with you.  I've just in the last year started making 18th century costumes.  Prior to that, the Victorian was fairly forgiving about what sort of stockings that I wore as my legs and ankles were always covered by high boots and long skirts.  But that Victorian sense of modesty didn't exist in the 1700s.  Skirts were higher and shoes were made for showing off.  Enter the need for stockings.

Now, sources for authentic stockings certainly exist, but they're not cheap and thus far seem to all be too small for my thunder thighs to fit in to.  To get around this, I bought a pair of opague white nylon tights for $2.50 a pair.

 Ok, so I bought 8 at a post-CoCo Target run, but only after I figured out it worked.

Lay the tights out and you'll see (or maybe you won't, it's kinda hard to photograph) that there's a narrow band of heavier knit at the top of the thigh going into the briefs portion that acts as a bit of a control top. 

I found that if I cut the leg of the stockings off inside this band, they tended not to unravel.

I put them on and stretched them all the way up to the thigh, then let
them unroll naturally until they fell just below the knee.

There And the best part was... they STAYED UP!  All by themselves.  I may eventually make myself a shiny pair of garters to wear with them, but thus far it was totally not needed.  All through a night of dancing at the Costume College gala and they didn't once slip down.  It probably helps that the tights were a size (or two) smaller than what I would have gotten were I planning to wear the full things.

 Geri caught me shaking my paniers to Sir Mix-a-lot, thus proving that I really did make those stockings work.

Next up, I'll have to figure out a way to fake some clocking on a few pairs.  I've seen both painting and embroidery used for such a purpose, but I have no idea where I'll find me a set of feet willing to sit still while the paint dries.


  1. These are only $20

  2. There's a decent way to get a mold of your foot/leg for fairly cheap, used by people who make sock-paws (and for those of us without perfect limbs, it is very nice to get something exactly the right size). It is shown in this video here:
    (If you don't want to watch the whole video, the foot mold starts at the 2 minute mark; I'm guessing a bit of stuffing would mean you could make a fake pair of legs that are relatively sturdy.)

    And if you ever want wool knitted socks for a historical costume, I can help with that. :) Just... not quickly. Socks take forever.