Below I have two pages of information that came with some vintage stockings I bought, and it explains a bit about the makeup of stockings and how to care for them. First up, some handy-dandy info from Munsingwear!
Fitting and Sizing
As you can see here, vintage stockings are not like modern tights. There is a lot more sizing and fitting involved, since the nylon used was not as stretchy as our modern tights. The important measurements you need to know when buying vintage stockings are top-to-heel length, heel-to-toe length, and thigh (top) circumference. These measurements should be very close to your body measurements to fit properly.
However, you'll almost never find these measurements on vintage stocking labels or packaging; you'll find sizes. Vintage stocking sizes range from about 8 1/2 to 14, and it's based largely on foot size. Sometimes you'll find petite, regular, and tall options to account for differing leg sizes. The Nylon Swish has a really great chart to help you convert your measurements to a vintage stocking size.
For me, a size 8 1/2 works alright. I've got about a 28" inseam length and a size 5US foot. I'd rather have a bit smaller, but I've never run across a size 8 petite... though I think that would be my perfect size. (If anyone's got some... let me know! I'm interested!) I have yet to find reproduction stockings that are short enough for my legs, so petite ladies beware! Keep your eyes out for vintage ones.
You also want your stockings to be shorter than your inseam, obviously, because of how it will be attaching to the garter belt or girdle. You need a gap between them for the suspenders to stretch as you move.
Denier and Gauge
Next, I've got some info about the construction of stockings from Mary Grey Nylons:
The part that is especially useful here is the description of the terms "gauge" and "denier." In case it's a bit small for you to read, here's what the page says:
While "denier" denotes weight or thickness of the nylon yarn, "gauge" refers to the texture of the knitted fabric. High gauge stockings have a more flattering appearance and wear longer because of their fine, closely-knit fabric.
As you can see in their graphics, a higher gauge number makes for a finer, more durable stocking. A higher denier makes for a more opaque stocking, and a lower denier means the stocking will be more sheer.
Oftentimes ladies back in the day picked their stockings for the occasion. For work or everyday wear, they would go with a high-gauge, high-denier stocking that would be thick and durable. These are also good for cold weather. On the other hand, ladies preferred the sheerest, most natural-looking stockings for special occasions like parties or weddings.
Laundering and Mending
Both of these pages have similar advice for laundering stockings:
Mary Grey Nylons - For added wear and beauty, wash your nylons after each wearing. Keep finger and tonsils well manicured, and when putting on your stockings, carefully roll them first and then gently unroll them onto the foot and leg.
I strongly support that last sentence; unrolling them onto the leg will prevent a lot of wear and tear on your stockings. I also take my rings off when I put stockings on. I've snagged my nylons a couple times in putting them on, and it's very devastating. Don't do it!
Munsingwear - Rinse out your Munsingwear hosiery before the first wearing. And after each additional wearing, wash gently in warm mild suds and rinse. Roll in a towel to absorb moisture. Hang to dry away from heat and sunlight.
Always hand wash vintage nylons in some soft soap. Most of the time I use a gentle dish detergent and warm water, and it works brilliantly! DON'T ever twist or wring out your nylons. I've found it alright to ball them up and squeeze the water out then lay them flat on a towel. Rolling them in this towel squeezes out most of the water, and hanging them to dry will leave you with fresh stockings!
What about you guys? What are your top tips for stocking wearing? Do you have recommendations for your favorite reproduction brand?