Woman inspecting her nylon stockings, 1942.
Woman inspecting her nylon stockings, 1942.Thomas D. McAvoy—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Woman inspecting her nylon stockings, 1942.
A model wearing "hotsies," wool-lined silk faille girdle and bra, 1942.
Stockings, 1943.
"Curtain" stockings, 1943.
Nylon stockings, 1945.
Model wearing black stockings, fitted dress coat, fur trimmed hat and fur muff, adjusting garter, 1946.
Model with stockings, 1948.
Caption from LIFE. "Lace stockings with panels that run to mid-calf and enhance slim ankles," 1948.
From "Best-Selling Christmas Gifts," 1948.
Chorus girl Linda Lombard, resting her legs after a tough night on stage, 1949.
Model wearing black nylon hose permanently attached to high heeled satin mules by Herbert Levine, 1950.
Dancer Mary Ellen Terry talking with her legs up in telephone booth, 1952.
Cancan dancers flinging up their legs while they dance in Paris, 1952.
Model wearing new stay-up stocking with elastic cord spiraling around thigh, 1954.
Teenage girls resting feet at a formal dance, 1954.
Stockings and garters, 1954.
Scene at a beatnik night club, 1960.
Woman inspecting her nylon stockings, 1942.
Thomas D. McAvoy—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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In Praise of Nylon Stockings: Classic Photos of a Fashion Staple

Nov 30, 2014

The invention of nylon in the mid-1930s by the geniuses at DuPont, and the first commercial sale of nylon stockings in late October 1939, are landmarks in fashion history that anyone with a modicum of reverence for the timeline of chic would do well to note. Perhaps with a moment of silence. Or the gentle rustling of stockinged leg against stockinged leg.

[See TIME.com's "The War That Shaped Women's Legs"]

Here, LIFE.com pays tribute to nylon stockings — and hosiery in general — with a series of classic photos that capture something of the fashion staple's allure, and the quite evident reasons for the stocking's central place in the style canon.

[See all of LIFE's galleries]

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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