Stocking Supporters: Country Trends

Figure 1.--.

We have very limited information at this time on the stocking supporters worn in different countries. There were difference between European hose supporters and the American style. Here are information is limited. We know a great deal about American support garments because of all the catalogs and magazine advertisements. There does not seem to be anything quite like this in Europe. We do not have much information on many European countries. In part this is because long stockings were not very common im many countries. In addition, in Germany, Russia, and other northern countries, long stockings for boys persisted much longer than elsewhere. Some German and Russian boys were still wearing long stockings as late as the 1970s although tights began to replace them in these places. Here climate was partly a factor. But many parents in northern Europe continued to insist on long stockings for boys for reasons of class propriety, tradition, and formality. Hose supporters in these places were clearly necessary as long as long stockings continued to be worn. The Y-shaped supporters are distinctly American. They weren't worn in Europe at all so far as we can tell. European hose supporters (in Germany, Russia, and elsewhere) were always single garter straps.


Long stockings were very common in America. Boys and girls of all ages wore them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, even during the summer. After World War I they became more often worn during the Winter and by younger boys. They were also wore as dress wear to some extent. A wide variety of stocking supporters were worn by American children to hold upthese stockings. The stocking supporters discussed on the main stocking spportr page are largely American. Mail order cataloga and magazines have many ads for waists and stocking supporters during the early 20th century. We note samples from the the 1920s. The last prominent ads we note are from the early 1940s. Some call ads continue into the early 1950s.



A French Canadian reader writes, "Your German correspondants are very interesting. I learn a lot of things . Surprisingly, I am discoverijng more and more that Canadians were influenced by Germany more than I tought at first. I remember a little 6 year old girl, my cousin, wearing a leibchen with buttons at back with two garters on each side as it was specified in a book edited by the Government on child rearing. It advised mothers to avoid the four garters system which exerts too much pressure simultaneously at front and at rear. It was also suggested to attach the clasps at the side and strongly discouraged placing the clasps at th front." We notice underwaists and suspender waists similar those worn by American children being commonly offered in Canadian catalogs throughout the 1940s. A good example is the Eaton's winter 1948-49 catalog.


In hose supporters ("suspenders") were buttoned onto a bodice known as the "liberty bodice," but these garments were only for very small boys, because after World War I, knee socks almost universally replaced long stockings. Girls continued to wear liberty bodices with buttoned on garters up through World War II. This fashion for boys seems to have disappeared in Britain by about 1920.


A French reader tells us that the elaborate susspender waists worn in America were unknown in France. French children used buttons to keep up their stockings. A French reader writes, "The American fashion is realy different from that worn by French boys. I find the suspender devices American children wore rather humerous. We do note that French children wore undewaists. They were not commonly used to hold up long stockings because long stockings were not very common in France, much less so than in Germany. They were called gilet-corcets. A good example are gilet-corsets offered by Galerias Lafayette, a Paris department store, in 1937.


Long stockings were commony worn in Germany. Even after World War I when long stockings became less commn in many other countries, they remained widely worn in Germany, especially during the Winter. We have, however, very limited informaion on stocking supporters. One German reader tells us that the kind of elaborate stocking supporters common in America were not widely worn in Germany. More common were make informal, shift devices such as elastic bands or pins. We have no 19th century accounts. In Germany, boys' hose supporters were of two types.


We believe long stockings wereworn less in Italy than in northern European countries. As a result, stocking supporters were less needed.


We know Polish children commonly wore long stockings. We are not alltogether sure how they were supported. We suspect the same way as in Germany and Russia.

New Zealand

Long stockings were commonly worn in New Zealand. Trends were similar to Britain with the exception that it was much more common for New Zealand boys to go barefoot. We do note a Sterling Skeleton Waist being sold in the early 20th century. We think it may have been imported from the United States rather than made in New Zealand.


Long stockings were widely worn in Russia. We even note long stockings being worn well after World War II (1939-45). Of course the climate was a factor. After the revolution, the poverty and lack of a real consumer economy suggests to us that stocking supporters were not common. As farcas we can tell they were very make-shift sevices. We believe that the informal devices like the ones used in Germany were common. We are less sure about the era after World war II. We note these in various school portraits. We note a Soviet kindergarten boy in 1964. We are not sure precisely what kind of stocking supporter that he is wearing, but the photograoh gives some idea because you can see the garter attachment. An example is a Soviet kindergarten photographed in 1971. The photograph shows the way the garters were placed. This is one of the last images of Soviet children wearing long stockings. At ghis time, long stockings were being replaced by tights.


We note a Swedish boy in 1945 wearing long stockings. We are not sure just wehat kind of stocing supporters are holding up his stockings. A reader writes, "This image shows the attachment of the hose supporters in a way HBC has never seen before. Note that the customary clip with the rubber button and metal loop that we see on American, German, and Russian hose supporters is not used here. The photograph shows the garter attaching to the stocking by some means that is not familiar or clear (perhaps some sort of concealed button or snap arrangement). The garter strap is not the usual white or black elastic that was customary in other countries but seems to be of the same color as the stocking--probably dark tan or brown." HBC does not have enough Swedish images to know if this was the common way that Swedish children kept up their long stockings.


Long stockings needed some method of suspension. We do not have much information on how Swiss children supported their long stockings. Swiss long stocking trends as well as many other clothing trends are similar to German trends. As far as we can tell, Swiss children used the same methods as German trends. This generally meant as hoc methods like garters and safty pins. The Germans also used a kind of underwaist called a Leibchen. It is a little difficult to tell from the photographic record what the methods used were. Available photographic images suggest that Swiss children did use the same methods as German children. We do note one boy that seems to be wearung a more elaborate underwaist with buttoning tabs.

Other European Countries

Other European countries seem to have featured boys' garters for long stockings very similar in style to the German fashion. Certainly we know that Russian children wore bodices with garters attached in the same fashion as the German children. But our limited evidence seems to indicate that the Russian hose supporters were of the standard metal clip type and didn't use the somewhat home-made button-hole and white button arrangement, although we are not completely sure about this. We have seen a few German advertisements for Leibchen, and these garments are illustrated by the German Hosiery Museum. But we have no visual equivalent for other European countries.


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Created: 11:29 PM 5/21/2005
Last updated: 12:35 AM 6/2/2010