This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Stockings. A close-fitting covering for the foot and lower leg. Stockings were formerly made of cloth or felt, and sewed together with seams. Queen Elizabeth was the first English sovereign to wear genuine knitted stockings, and as soon as the fashion had been inaugarated by royalty the ladies went wild over it. It is stated with evident surprise by historians of the time that the ladies "were not ashamed to wear hose of all kinds of changeable colors, as green, red, white, russet, tawny and else what not; commonly knit, and curiously indented in every point with quirks, clocks, open seams, and everything else accordingly." The early knitted stockings were of yarn, the fashion of knitting them of cotton not being introduced until 1730. Ribbed stockings were patented in 1759. Silk stockings were first made in England in 1575, knitted by Queen Elizabeth's silk woman, Mistress Montague, who presented Her Majesty with a pair of silk ones, which she liked so well that she kept the donor knitting silk stockings as long as she lived. Before the end of her reign "stockings were knitted of silk, yarnsey, worsted, crewel, and the finest yarn that could be had." Silk stockings were formerly regarded as extravagant and reprehensible, and so worn by men were regarded as an indication of luxurious habits; hence people who indulged these costly foot-coverings were termed the "silk stocking gentry," and a "silk stocking" was a person who belonged to the wealthy and luxurious class of society. In the year 1500, a literary society called de la calza (of the stocking), was formed in Venice, which lasted ninety years, and the members of which were distinguished by the color of their stockings, the prevailing tint of which was blue. Afterwards the term came to be applied to a literary lady, or woman who delves in literature. Until about 1860 black or dark cotton hosiery were worn only by orphan-house children, or by servants, and black silk stockings by ladies in mourning. For ordinary wear white stockings were universally worn, even to some extent as late as 1878, and white stockings are still worn by English women of all classes to-day, the cost and trouble of washing notwithstanding. A "size" in hosiery is one-half inch in length of the foot. Ladies'stockings are sized 8, 8 1/2 , 9, 9 1/2 , 10; children's sizes range from 2 1/2 to 7 1/2 . The price of the latter usually varies with the size, unless sold "by the round." A "round" of hosiery signifies an equal quantity of each size, from the smallest to the largest. [See Hose, Hosiery, Pant-ella, Appendix "A."]