A narrow calf that leads down to a well-turned ankle has something that men find difficult to ignore. When the same leg is covered in a sheer stocking, ignoring it becomes practically impossible!
Women's hosiery as we know it today -- whether the tantalizing Cuban heel seamed stockings that's carefully rolled on for those special evenings or the practical pantyhose worn to the office -- are a far cry from the coarse, hand-knitted wool stockings worn by the peasants of the 17th century.
Not only have the machines invented in [when] been improved upon, a variety of style changes have also been made to women's hosiery during the past half century.
A 1950s invention marked a temporary disappearance of seamed stockings, and the short skirts of the 1960s led to the invention of pantyhose -- passion killers as far as male stocking enthusiasts were concerned.
Modern women seem to have settled on a mixture of the practical with the aesthetically pleasing, with a greater selection of pantyhose being available for day-to-day wear along with a welcome renaissance for seamed stockings.
Modern hosiery manufacturing has to accommodate the high demand for quality goods. From the finest 7 denier sheer stockings, through multi-colored and wildly patterned hose and onwards to practical 60 denier pantyhose, women want the best.
Modern stockings and pantyhose are produced on circular machines that eliminate the need for back seams by knitting tubes that are then 'set' to the shape of the leg. While the first circular machines produced sheer stockings with a reinforced heel pocket, modern machines have eliminated this, offering a better fit regardless of the wearer's shoe size.
The addition of lycra to the stocking yarn is possibly the biggest break-through in hosiery manufacturing; the result being stockings and pantyhose that combine elasticity with the ability to cling perfectly to the leg.
Unfortunately, the addition of lycra to women's hosiery has one draw-back.
"While lycra's great," says Janine Burke, a beauty consultant and regular customer at , "I really miss that sheer stocking effect you get with old-fashioned style stockings." A sentiment shared by many a true stocking connoisseur.
Seamed stockings, having made a huge come-back in recent years, are still available but are manufactured using a different method -- one that was used before the invention of the circular machine.
Following the original hosiery manufacturing techniques of the 30s - 50s, flat knitting is used. After the fabric has been produced, each stocking is individually seamed. The top of the seam has a 'finishing loop', a small hole that every seamed stocking has as a result of the machinist turning the welt -- the stocking top -- inside out, in order to finish off.
Once sewn, the stockings are 'boarded'. This is a process where each stocking is stretched over a flat metal leg form and 'set' with steam. The knit tightens, creases are eliminated and the leg is correctly shaped.
Because the process is time consuming, seamed stockings are never cheap. Couple this with the fact that around a third of production -- especially during the production of sheer stockings -- is discarded during quality control and you'll understand why.
While the women's hosiery manufacturing process will undoubtedly continue to evolve, there will always be a demand for the sheer stockings of bygone days that are equally as loved by the women who wear them as the men who appreciate the sight of a 'bit of stocking top'.
Hosiery manufacturing has come a long way -- wear your stockings with pride!