Tag Archives: leg makeup

“Leg Paint On His Back!?”

“Women want men, career, money, children, friends, luxury, comfort, independence, freedom, respect, love and cheap stockings that don’t run.” –Phyllis Diller

On October 27, 1938, Charles Stine, a vice president of E. I. du Pont de Nemours, Inc., announced that nylon had been invented, the name of ‘nylon’, the ‘ny’ part of the name literally standing for the initials of New York. He unveiled the world’s first synthetic fiber not to a scientific society but to three thousand women’s club members gathered at the site of the 1939 New York World’s Fair for the New York Herald Tribune’s Eighth Annual Forum on Current Problems. He spoke in a session entitled “We Enter the World of Tomorrow” which was keyed to the theme of the forthcoming fair, the World of Tomorrow.

After the New York World Fair when nylon stockings hit the market on May 14th 1940, women rushed out to buy them, not in their thousands, but in their millions! Over 72,000 pairs of nylons were sold on the first day of release in America and 64 million by the time a year had passed. The allure of wrinkle free, bunching free, inexpensive leg wear proved extremely popular putting a colossal dent into all preceding forms of established hosiery manufacture.

From the time of their original inception back in 1940, stockings had changed little. At that time they were “fully fashioned”, created in a wide variety of sizes to fit the leg exactly and knitted together down the back showing a seam. During the time when nylon stockings were hard to come by, women had become quite skillful at drawing a line down the backs of their legs to give the appearance of stockings by mimicking this seam line. However, that changed in the late 60’s when manufacturers found they could make nylon stretchy by crimping it under heat and then when Lycra was invented by DuPont in 1959, there was no longer a need for fully fashioned stockings. Later, the seams too were to disappear as manufacturers moved away from knitting flat to circular knitting machines, which eliminated the need to join the material.

Q: What’s a wife more afraid of finding on her man than lipstick on his collar?

A: Leg paint on his back.

During World War II, many women had no stockings and so they ‘penciled in’ seams, using eyeliner or eyebrow pencil to draw lines up the backs of their legs to create the look of stockings. This was not the only cosmetic approach to hiding one’s bare legs. In a copy of The Professional Beautician 1942, there was an ad for beauty shop owners to stock Curley Colortone Cosmetic Stockings. The vintage wholesale advertisement for professionals promises that each unit of Curley Colortone Cosmetic Stockings includes a jar of Colortone and a jar of Curley Foundation Creme and clearly shows that salon product was also available.

A 1938 issue of Popular Science boasted “Cream Replaces Silk Stockings,” a new cosmetic “boon to the outdoor girl,”.  In fact, the Smithsonian, showing us Leg Silque Liquid Stockings by the Langlors Company, says that such leg makeup had been available since the 1920s — but “it wasn’t until rationing was introduced during the World War II that the product became an essential commodity for many American women.”


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