Hosiery Styles in the 1920s

This fashionable decade was about flappers, jazz and fancy stockings.

1920s inspired fishnet knee highs by Fogal, designed by Catherine Martin for The Great Gatsby movie.
1920s inspired fishnet knee highs by Fogal, designed by Catherine Martin for The Great Gatsby movie. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Updated by Kim "Kimmay" Caldwell 2/28/16

The Roaring 20s was a time of change, along with new inventions.

It was the Jazz Age, a period in history ripe with new music and upbeat tunes. So fashion was made for dancing. Women's attitude toward themselves and their clothing was different as well. In previous decades, women wore tight corsets, shapely dresses, and waist cinching undergarments. As the 1920's approached, they opted to wear more relaxed clothing styles like loose dresses, bralettes, and slips  - not constricting Victorian corsets.

Most importantly, shorter hemlines on dresses began showing off women's fancy embroidered and embellished stockings for the very first time in history. What a woman wore underneath her dress or skirt was now on display, and choosing the best stockings or hosiery to show off became an important decision for the stylish woman.

Keeping Stockings Up

The one thing that wasn't invented during the 1920s was nylon stockings. Today's stockings stretch and stay up with the help of an elastic waistband or thigh band, plus some clever silicone if it's a "stay up" style. In the 1920's, however, stockings were made from silk. Silk doesn't stretch and cling to the body, so women needed some help keeping their stockings up.

Help came in the form of garter straps, which clipped onto the top of women's thigh high stockings. The straps were attached to girdles or corsets, and eventually garter belts.

Soon, flappers began rebelling against wearing girdles and corsets by rolling their stockings down, instead of pulling them up to attach to garter straps. The rolled stocking trend emerged during the early 1920s, and they were held up with roll garters.

1920s Stockings, ReInvented Today

Every now and then, fashion designers are inspired to bring back a 1920s look - and suddenly anything with a flapper vibe is trendy again. Or, Hollywood is inspired to make a movie set in the 1920s - and suddenly the fashion world is exploding with feathered headbands, beaded dresses and Jazz Age stockings.

In recent years, the 1920s influence is more prominent in the fashion world than it has been for a while, and it's especially affecting current hosiery trends thanks to popular film and television. The making of The Great Gatsby movie in 2013 sparked a revival of modern flapper looks for all types of hosiery - pantyhose, thigh highs and knee highs. 

Lots of 1920s styles stockings were designed for the movie, some of which have been made available to consumers. Fogal's Gatsby Collection launched in 2013, and its fishnet knee highs are shown above. Catherine Martin, the movie's costume and production designer, comments in this video interview, "In the 1920s, hosiery was a very important part of a woman's wardrobe." She sums up hosiery's role during this decade in fashion history, saying it was: "...a tantalizing glimpse at what was under women's dresses."

More recently, the dashing styles worn by the cast of Downton Abbey have viewers searching for early 20th century fashion finds by modern designers. And it's not just for their long gowns, beaded and embellished overcoats, or distinguished hats. Fans are searching for Downton Abbey inspired lingerie and stockings, as well, and finding plenty of glamorous options.

Updated by Kim "Kimmay" Caldwell 2/28/16