by Janet Seaton
The Langport & District History Society's May meeting at Langport Library featured a presentation by Blue Badge Guide Rob Curtis, which was tantalisingly called 'A glimpse of stocking'.
The first part of the talk focussed on men's socks and stockings, going right back in history to the Egyptians and beyond. He charted their development from leggings, through knitted fabrics to silk hose, which were a clergy speciality. The flamboyant sash garters shown in many portraits of royalty in the 15th and 16th centuries showed how important stockings were to fashionable men of the day.
The arrival of Huguenots and Flemish weavers in the late 16th century boosted the development of the silk-weaving industry in this country. All forms of embellishments such as embroidery and garters, became fashionable. But the development of women's stockings only began as hemlines began to rise.
Using images from the world of advertising, fashion and costume, Rob illustrated the development of ladies' stockings, and the means of holding them up, through the ages. The introduction of machine weaving and the invention of artificial fibres such as rayon and nylon revolutionised their manufacture. The relaxation of social conventions, and the rise of music hall and burlesque, heralded a new era where the stocking became an object of titillation. Wartime restrictions led to 'liquid stockings' (leg make-up), but post-war fashions led to the decline of stockings in favour of tights. Finally Rob reminded everyone that tights — and stockings — had a life after death in the many uses they could be put to, such as straining soup and polishing boots.
The next meeting will be at Aller Church on Monday 4 June, when Anne Michell will give a presentation about the restoration of the Aller Church bells, followed by a short demonstration of bell ringing by two local tower captains. It is free to members (annual membership is £12): non-members are welcome, admission £2. Anyone interested in joining the History Society should contact Sue Standen (01458 273471, firstname.lastname@example.org). Follow the History Society at @langporthistory, and on: https://sites.google.com/site/langportheritage/home.
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