Lure of the Silk Stocking: 1903

pink stockings with butterfly lace

Pink silk stockings with butterfly lace inserts, Paris, c. 1875-1910 http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/pair-of-womens-stockings-121138

Lure of the Silk Stocking,

Filled and Unfilled, It Has Manifold Attractions for Mankind

Beautiful Specimens Seen in the Stores

So sheer a thing is a silken stocking that when empty it may be passed through a finger ring, and yet when it is filled it takes a goodly circlet–sign of a king’s gallantry and a knightly order–to encompass it.

In itself, a silk stocking is something to admire merely for the delicacy of its fabric. A Frenchman once wrote a musical comedy based on the misadventure of a girl who fell out of a tree and displayed a dainty stocking, but nobody has ever written yet the tragedies–some greater, some less–of the lure of the silk stocking. For of all things that attract rather by what they reveal than what they conceal, the silk stocking takes the palm.

Much as women like them, men like them the more. A man’s first cigar, his first love, his first sunrise at sea–these are timeworn themes. But of a man’s experience when buying his first pair of silk stockings! His first experience in pawning his watch is mild excitement compared to it.

A girl at one of the counters where these things are sold can tell at glance whether a man has ever committed this crime before. After the first plunge it is never quite so difficult again, and the habit grows on a man like any other. The average man who has the silk stocking habit acquires it long before he marries, so that when he takes a wife to himself that only means more silk stockings to be bought.

A man went into hosiery shop here the other day and picked out a dozen pairs of costly and varied patterns and then ordered a dozen pairs of perfectly plain ones that were not so costly. “For heaven’s sake!” he implored the shopkeeper, “don’t mix them up. One dozen is for my wife.”

The shopkeeper, with a philosophical eye, had no difficulty in determining which dozen was for his wife.

Of course there is a type of youth who cannot at first face the ordeal; and so, when it becomes absolutely necessary for him to buy a pair of silk stockings he takes refuge behind a letter to the girl he knows best in his own set and gets her to do it for him. She should not execute this commission, but, sad to state, she always does, and usually buys much prettier ones than he would have done. And then she will take the trouble to do them up in tissue paper and colored ribbons–just like a man would! Yet it is a fair bet that if the silk stocking habit gets a grip on that same youth within a year he will examine “opera-length stockings at the most crowded counter and will indulge in pleasantries with the young woman attendant about the possibilities of her showing him how they looked by trying them on.

A boy of this type came into the dining room of a Broadway hotel one day last week while the silk stocking reporter was trying to find the cheapest thing on the bill of fare. He was accompanied by a young man and a young woman, and the trio sat down at the next table to that at which the reporter was trying to figure out how a sixty-cent dish could go into a fifty-cent piece and leave anything for a tip and carfare to the office. It was clear that the youth and the young man had been engaged in an alcoholic contest at catch weights, and that the young woman was cross. The first thing she said to the young man was: “Did you get those silk stockings?” and her voice and her question attracted the attention of every one at that end of the room. The young man declared he hadn’t, and that he had no money, at which she began to upbraid him for his neglect to obey her commands. After this had been going on for ten or fifteen minutes the youth leaned across the table, and, putting his hand on the young woman’s arm, said with drunken solemnity: “Don’t you mind him, Minnie. I bought a pair for you.”‘ And then he pulled a package out of his pocket, opened it carefully and held up to the gaze of all the persons in the room a pair of stockings that probably cost nineteen cents and were fearfully and wonderfully ringed with stripes of black and red and yellow.

The silk stocking habit is rather an expensive one, as minor habits go, for they cost anywhere from $5 to $50 pair. For $3 one may buy a pair that will easily slip through a man’s finger ring. And for $50 anyone who has the price and cares for Her that much may send Her a creation of silk and lace that no mere man can appreciate unless it, is in active use.

Of course these fine ones have the disadvantage of being rather plain compared to the cheaper grades at $7 or $8 a pair. No loud designs in. blue or red or yellow appear on the fronts of the costliest ones nor climb up the clocks. Long snakes with forked prongs, all a-glitter of green and white cut glass beads, do not twine themselves over the instep and up the leg. The highest priced ones are beautiful in a quiet way, while the cheaper ones are produced in bizarre designs, often made to order, as in the case of one dozen turned out by a local dealer, which showed a design of red flames, leaping upward, on a black ground. A dozen pairs of silk stockings at $50 is not an unusual sale in one of the department stores, while the highwater mark of a sale of this kind in one shop was $100.

The Narka [KS] News 16 January 1903: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The author is right to reference “the tragedies–some greater, some less–of the lure of the silk stocking.” The dainty accessory is fraught with peril. Mrs Daffodil has written before about the domestic trouble that ensued when a shop-keeper inquired of the wrong lady about silk stockings in “His Little Valentine,” while a telegram about a pair of stockings to be sent to a “blonde darling” nearly caused a divorce in a Minnesota household.

And one shudders to think what mischief could be gotten up to with “Cross-Word stockings.”

cross word stockings

Cross-Word Stockings American Fad in Paris

Paris, Jan. 2. The “cross-word puzzle” stocking is the latest novelty among Paris hosiery makers.

When the first really cold days of Winter came, silk stockings of gossamer texture were gradually discarded and many women adopted fine hand-made Angora wool stockings.

This is the material of which the “cross-word puzzle” stockings are made. A shopkeeper got the idea from a puzzle design which he saw two American women working over while waiting to be served. A few days later he displayed in his windows a stocking of checker-board design with the squares in black and white, about the same size and distributed haphazard in the manner which has become familiar to lovers of cross-word puzzles.

The novelty has found good customers among American women, but French women call it hideous. The cross-word fad itself has not reached France as yet.

Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 2 January 1925: p. 2

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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