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The Best Nylon Stockings and Where to Buy Them

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Fancy Heeled Vintage Stockings - Image Scan via Slip of a Girl

Today, May 14, is the 73rd anniversary of the nylon stocking, which was first introduced by the DuPont Company at the 1939 World's Fair. Before nylon, stockings had been made of cotton, wool, rayon, or silk... materials which were either too bulky and warm to wear comfortably year-round or too fine and delicate to wear all day without tearing.

When I first started blogging, it was as Stockings Addict, so hosiery will always hold a special place in my heart. I love how stockings can instantly make any outfit more sophisticated, more stylish, and, yes, more sexy just by their presence. Unfortunately, stockings have been waning in popularity for years now, and you only have to look at the photo at the top of this post to see that stockings today are far less elegant than those of previous decades.

But for those who still enjoy a fancy nylon stocking, all isn't lost. A few companies, like Cervin, still produce creative, fashion-forward styles, and the machines of today allow for combinations that could only be dreamed of in the 1960s.

The Parts of a Fully-Fashioned Stocking

If you're new to stockings, there may be a few terms in this post you don't recognize, so let's do a quick review. A Stocking (unlike pantyhose, tights, or thigh highs) requires a garter belt to keep it on the leg. RHT stands for Reinforced Heel and Toe. Fully Fashioned Stockings (like the one shown above) are made in the vintage style, sewn flat and then stitched up the back with a fully-functional backseam and trademark keyhole. Cuban and Havana Heels are squared off at the top, while French Heel stockings come to a point. Fancier styles, like Manhattan Heels, have an outline around the heel and foot. Non-stretch Stockings are more authentic as they're made of 100% nylon, but have no "give." Stretch Stockings, made of a nylon/lycra blend, are less authentic but more resistant to tearing.

And a few quick notes when it comes to hosiery care, especially for the stockings listed below. 1) Invest in a pair of hosiery gloves. 2) Purchase a specialty hosiery wash like Hosiery Mate. 3) And always, always, always hand wash and hang to dry.

And now that we've covered a few of the basics, let's move on to the stockings...

1) Kay Marel "New York" Bows

2) Kay Marel "New York" Skyscraper

Kay Marel
No one makes stockings like Kay Marel anymore, and believe me, I've looked. These authentic fully-fashioned nylons from the 1950s are almost a steal at $32.50, and the skyscraper and bow fancy heels look like something straight off the set of Mad Men. Unfortunately, if you're not petite (that is, if you're over 5'4") these stockings aren't a good fit for you. They simply won't come up high enough on the leg. To illustrate, I'm 5'8", and they came to just above the knee on me. Height issues aside though, these are fabulous nylons.

3) Secrets in Lace Diamond Backseam

4) Secrets in Lace "Cabaret" Manhattan Heel

5) Secrets in Lace "Bettie Page" Vintage Dot w/ Backseam

Secrets in Lace
If you've not heard of them before, Secrets in Lace is pretty much the resource for authentic vintage-style (otherwise known as retro) stockings. These are the nylons Dita von Teese relies on for all her burlesque shows, photoshoots, and red carpet appearances. While they offer a ton of styles suitable for everyday wear, the fancy stockings shown above are my personal favorites.  All three pairs range from size Petite, fitting women who are under 4'11" and less than 95 pounds, to size Opera, fitting women who are up to 6'2"and 200 pounds. The styles shown above cost (in order from top to bottom) $54.99, $45.99, and $25.99, respectively.

6) Agent Provocateur "Whip Me" Stockings

Agent Provocateur
With a kinky twist on the classic French heel-and-seam stocking, Agent Provocateur's "Whip Me" nylons are a delightfully naughty union of vintage style and modern flair. Wear them with your highest, most fetishy heels for a look that grabs everyone's attention. These stockings retail for $70, and the size C fits around a size 8/10 US.

7) Cervin "Swing Time" Fully Fashioned Stockings

8) Cervin "Capri" 15-denier Nonstretch RHT Stockings

9) Cervin "Capri" Bicolore Nonstretch RHT Stockings

10) Cervin "Seduction" Bicolore Seamed Stockings

Cervin Stockings via Stockings HQ
I'll just come right out and say it... I love Cervin. And apparently I'm not the only one since (full disclosure) they make stockings #3-6 on this list too. Not only are the prices incredibly reasonable, these stockings feel and look amazing on the leg. Even better, they're available in sizes Small (fitting women around 4'10") to XXX Large (fitting women up to 6'2"). I've purchased multiple pairs of what you see here in multiple colors, and never been disappointed. The stockings show above are priced at (in order from top to bottom): $56.88, $11.80, $12.61, and $17.50.

Stockingirl is another fantastic hosiery resource, especially if you live in the United States, and these lacy Gabriella stockings are perfect for a holiday party or fancy evening out. These stockings are also made of stretch nylon, so they're less likely to run and you don't have to worry about them wrinkling around the knees or ankles by the end of the day. Available for $39.99, the Gabriellas fit women up to 5'9" and 160 lbs.

12) Dollhouse Bettie Black Tulip Lace "Eternity" Stockings

Dollhouse Bettie
The last pair of stockings on this list aren't especially delicate or fancy when compared to the other nylons we've talked about so far, but they are amazing for two other reasons. 1) They're made in-house at Dollhouse Bettie (the only lingerie store I know of that makes its own stockings), and 2) They are incredibly well-made and durable. The Eternity stockings use sheer black mesh instead of traditional nylon, which makes them great for women who want to wear more hosiery, but are worried about tearing or ripping their stockings. These retail for $29 and fit up to a size US 18.

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

23 Comments on this post

  1. Seana says:

    I am new to the whole stocking craze, I believe it is making a come back. I have had to learn as I go until this blog so I am grateful it exists. So thank you I am sure I will learn a lot more than I do.

  2. KeB says:

    Sweet Lady! Thank-you for the thorough stockings article. I don’t post, don’t comment, and definitely don’t blog. That being, said here I am compelled to send gracious thanks. I love the advice, Love the designer resource suggestions (ever especially with ‘no frills’ fitting guides).
    Keep it coming, you’ve made it on my bookmarks bar!

  3. Rita says:

    Cora, have found your website and love it. Have started wearing stockings again a few years back after panty hose for long time. And my faves are the back seamed style. Especially with the French heel. Love the info on stockings, and enjoy reading the posts. My bf likes when I wear stockings, especially with backseam.

  4. Marc says:

    Gio nylons are among the worlds finest nylons made on traditional machinery . Stockings HQ offers the finest nylons fromEngland .They carry all sizes up to xxxl.Uou will not be disappointed.Marc

  5. Ashley says:

    I apologize if this is a silly question but I am new to stockings! I’d like to know why some stockings are 12 dollars and some are over 50 dollars. Are they more expensive ones supposed to last longer, or is the price based on the special design?

    • Cora says:

      Not a silly question at all. But without knowing the specific brands you have in mind, it’s hard to make any kind of general statement. Sometimes, it’s the type of material or construction of the stocking (100% nylon and fully fashioned stockings tend to be more expensive than pantyhose with lycra because they’re more difficult to knit). Sometimes it’s the size of the mill or the quality of the fiber (a smaller mill works in smaller quantities, so the per each price is likely to be more expensive; better quality fiber also costs more). Sometimes it’s a branding thing. Generally speaking though, I wouldn’t necessarily equate a more expensive stocking to one that will last longer; longevity is definitely one aspect of quality (Wolford hosiery, for example, lasts forever), but not the only one. For example, a 100% silk stocking is certainly high quality, but also very delicate, and unlikely to last very long without special treatment.

  6. I just located boxes of nylons from the early 50s in my cedar chest. They have never been worn. I would like to know how I might get rid of them.

  7. Jamie says:

    I wear stockings almost daily. Exclusively Cervin & secrets in lace. My all time favourite being Cervin Tentations. They are fully fashioned & have the most amazing feel! Trust me they are a must have. I would also like to give a shout out to the secrets in lace models . They are so sexy & elegant!

  8. Olyessa says:

    I am a big fan of Charnos and Oroblu. Both seem to cover all the bases for me.

    I put a pic on Twitter for National Stockings Day too!

  9. Neyda Frierson says:

    Gasp!!!! Kay Marel stockings would be perfect for me since I’m 4’11” :). Most stockings would feel too long on my short legs, lol!!!

  10. Coco Page says:

    It’s kind of funny to me how stockings got their own anniversarry.But anyways,I totally agree when you said when women wears them it makes them look sophistacated.For me honestly,when I wear them it makes me feel hot and sexy.

  11. Great article, as usual.. thanks Treacle!
    I’m just curious, what do you think about Gio’ fully fashioned stockings? I’m surprised they’re not on your list..:)

    I’m going to share this article with our clients, I’m sure they’ll love it as much as I did!

  12. ashley says:

    Everyday should be Nylon Stockings Day! And everyday is for me because I wear them daily. :)

  13. hans says:

    Great all the stockings

  14. this picture of those stockings leaves me with so much memories when i was in grade school and all of my teachers wore full fashioned stockings and when they moved you could hear the swish of those nylons ,such a wonderful sound.

  15. Gigi says:


    Do you have contact information for Kay Marel that is current? I remember you wrote about these stockings some time ago and I then tried to contact them through the e-mail on the website and received no response, I believe I even tried twice.

    I have been dreaming of them ever since!


  16. Thursday says:

    Also a fellow stockings lover, and was chuffed to spot the Agent Provocateur pair on one of the singers for this year’s Eurovision entry from Italy:

    Always feel that bit more “dressed” when wearing stockings, and they are certainly sexier than tights or pantyhose.

  17. Hi Treacle — not sure where you found that first image, but it’s actually a scan I made from my own collection of vintage catalogs. (You can see it and others here: ) I appreciate that you probably found it on Tumblr or another place where it was not credited, but I just wanted to let you know. :)

    • Treacle says:

      Ah! Thank you. I did it find it via Tumblr, so I didn’t know where the image originally came from. I’ll update the post to reflect the source now. :)

  18. Caz says:

    I love stockings!!! I don’t wear them all the time but when I do I feel instantly feminine! Great post and Happy Birthday to the effortlessly sexy yet humble stocking!

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