The ‘fancy foot’ style of stocking is something that has intrigued me for a while now. Nylon stockings are incredibly delicate garments that should always be handled with care, in order to get the most amount of wear out of them. So, in my opinion, adding jewels to the heel of a stocking, or creating a design out of flocking seems like a crazy risk for stockings manufacturers!
I would love to have seen how these patterns and adornments were added to stockings, however I don’t think that that is a dream that will ever come true. I have learned that there were two main techniques of decorating the heel or ankle of a nylon stocking, flocking or nylon weaving.
Flocking is the application of fine particles to adhesive coated surfaces, which I can imagine was quite costly and time consuming. The patterns were often flowers, bows and other feminine patterns. The idea was to draw attention to what was called the ‘beauty zone’. Women used to dress quite modestly, with high neck-lines and skirts falling below the knee; a pretty, eye-catching detail around the lady’s ankle would have therefore drawn attention to her legs, a treat for a passing gentleman.
I imagine that these stockings would have been popular in New York city, as the Empire State building (completed in 1931) was the tallest building in the world for almost 40 years, and would have been quite a fun and novel design to have on the back of their legs.
Advertising techniques clearly haven’t changed much over the last century, as most of the fancy foot nylon adverts focused on how their new designs have a slimming effect on the ankle of the wearer. I very much doubt that pretty patterns such as butterflies and flowers would have helped anyone’s ankles to appear more defined!
“Come hither nylons are the nylons you want to flatter your legs, slim your ankles.” This advert plays on women’s desire to achieve more beautiful legs, and as the lower calf and ankle were the only parts of the legs that were visible at the time.
“Pure magic to slim your ankles and pretty your legs.” – I’m not convinced, however I would still like 10 pairs of each please!
The geometric style has to be my favourite. This is the style that was weaved in while the stocking was being made in the machine, rather than having embellishments added after they had come off the machines.
The Reading R100 is the machine on which nylon fully-fashioned stockings were made, you can see some short videos of the process here. During my visit to the Touchable stockings factory earlier this year, I learned that these machines can be configured to produce different heel types, such as the Cuban or the Havana heels. The below designs would have been manufactured in the same way, and would probably have been quite difficult to manage.
Sadly, other than vintage pairs scattered around online shops on the internet, the fancy foot style is extremely rare these days. The only real nod towards this unique vintage detail in modern-made styles seems to be variants of the Broadway heel by nylon stocking manufactures such as Touchable, or the Tentation style by Cervin, pictured below. The one draw back of this style, in my opinion, is that they are very pricey in comparison to the plain fully-fashioned stockings. This is of course understandable as a lot more work goes into configuring the machines in order to create them. I just hope that there is enough business for the few remaining nylon stockings manufacturers to keep on producing such beautiful designs.