18th Century Stockings

Last updated: Jan 7, 2024

From The Annals of Philadelphia: “Ancient ladies remembered a time in their early life, when the ladies wore blue stockings and party coloured clocks of very striking appearance … I have seen with Samuel Coates, Esq., the wedding silk stockings of his grandmother, of a lively green, and great red clocks. My grandmother wore in winter very fine worsted green stockings with a gay clock surmounted with a bunch of tulips.”

Also of note is a pair of stockings with padding to improve the shape of the calves, made from undyed knit silk c. 1775-1800. Similar sorts of prosthetics appear in Dandies Dressing (1818).

See also the linkspage on garters, as well as pages focusing on clocked stockings, striped stockings, and ribbed stockings.

  • MFA 43.1942a,b, a pair of openworked silk stockings, c. 1650-1750; “Openwork over instep embroidered with polychrome silk yarns in lozenges and chevrons. Knitted green silk ground, two narrow white bands at top, white toe.”
  • NCM 1985-770/1, Nottingham (?), England, c. 1700; “Man's or woman's stocking knitted in blue silk on the stocking frame. The ankle has 'turn shape' decoration made by taking a stitch off the needle, turning it round and putting it back on the needle. Stockings of 1732 - 1743 on the wax figure of the Duchess of Buckingham in Westminster Abbey have similar decoration.”
  • MFA 53.253a,b, a pair of white cotton knit stockings, France; “instep and lower leg in vertical stripes of fancy stitches, upper leg in horizontal stripes of fancy open-work stitches, initial: S, and symbol embroidered in black silk in cross stitch on top of stockings.”
  • LACMA M.82.8.3, a man’s silk knit stocking, England, c. 1750
  • V&A T.156-1971, Spain, mid-18th century; “Pair of women's stockings made from frame knitted green silk with a shield shaped panel of pink knitted silk inserted at the sides and running from the sole seam to mid calf. This is finely embroidered in white green and yellow silk in a design of three elongated diamond green leaves rising from a basket surmounted by two birds facing each other. The design repeats twice more becoming gradually smaller. Above the panel is an embroidery of similar but pink birds facing each other over a pink and white diamond shaped motif.”
  • Newport Historical Society 97.16.2 AB, “Pair of men's ecru [silk] full fashion stockings with and embroidered arrow design on each side. Top of hem has a narrow blue border and the intitals ‘P.C.’ embroidered in black script.”
  • Mount Vernon W-2471/A-B, a pair of frame-knit silk stockings, c. 1760-1802
  • A pair of man’s stockings knit in off-white cotton, c. 1765, in Fitting & Proper
  • Casco Bay April 23 2022, Lot 68, a pair of frame-knitted natural brown linen stockings, probably last quarter of the 18th century
  • HD 2007.9, a pair of men’s silk stockings, c. 1780; “Pair of men's silk stocking which were never worn and came wrapped in the original paper inscribed in 18th century ink, 'Taken from prize ship 'Hannah' in...' An accompanying note reads: 'Silk Stockings taken from the Prize Ship 'Hannah' captured by Capt. Dudley Saltonstall (1738-1796) of the privateer Minerva 1781.' … These stockings were knitted on a mechanized stocking frame which had been invented and successfully used in 1586 when the first silk stockings were made for Queen Elizabeth I. This pair is large, probably made for a man more than 6ft. tall.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 2009-43,4A&B, knit linen stockings, Philadelphia, c. 1785
  • Stockings from the General Carleton of Whitby, 1785
  • White wool stockings, 1788
  • Met 26.56.123 and 26.56.124, French silk stockings, c. 1788-1793
  • Met C.I.42.90.2a, b, white cotton stockings with pale blue floral embroidery along the top of each foot and lower leg, American or European, late 18th century
  • MFA 43.2004a,b, a pair of stockings knit in blue and white and black in a zig-zag pattern, probably France, late 18th century, later made over into sleeves
  • PMA 1930-8-1a,b silk stockings with zig-zag stripes, France, late 18th century
  • MFA 99.842a-b, a pair of man’s stockings, probably English, exported to America, late 18th century; “frame-knitted cotton and silk … brown-gray ribbed stocking, saw-tooth top edge, white toe and front part of sole,” possibly made in Nottingham, England (worn in Lexington, Massachusetts), late 18th century
  • Clark's Auction July 14 2019, Lot 31, a linen stocking made by the Comfort family of Pennsylvania, 18th century
  • Augusta 8.4835.110.318, a man’s hand-knit linen stockings, America, 18th-19th century
  • Meg Andrews 8412, a pair of hand-knit cotton stockings from the late 18th-early 19th centuries
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1988-466,1, “white linen stockings made of cut and sewn tabby-woven fabric … inexpensive alternatives for laborers and the poor,” England, c. 1800