Stocking and Sock Fashions for Antique or Reproduction Dolls

by Donna Birkey

Have you ever said to yourself when finishing a costume, “I wonder what color socks are appropriate for this era? Just to be safe, I’ll stick with either black or white!” What a shame! There are so many possibilities to make the costume more interesting, but you do need to know when the various fashions were in vogue.

So that I would have a quick and easy “look-it-up” list, I decided to compile stocking information from several sources. The sources are Collector’s Book of Doll Clothes, by Colemans, Copyright 1975; Doll Costuming, How to Costume French and German Bisque Dolls, by Mildred and Colleen Seeley, Copyright 1984, Revised 1989; and The Doll Artisan, Vol 17, No.6 Articles of Adornment, by Erickson. Now when the question of stockings comes up, I look down my list for the appropriate year and see what the options are.

Perhaps you will be helped by this compilation. As you find other information from written material, museum research, or just viewing friends’ dolls, add it to the list.

NOTE: For the purposes of this particular listing, stockings are described as long and end above the knee. Socks are short, ending between the knee and ankle.
1856 Violet dye was discovered–it soon became the favorite color for stockings and petticoats among “real people”.
Early
1860’s
Baby dolls wore combination crocheted or knitted booties, very often the uppers (“socks” part) in white and lower (“slipper” part) in blue.
1862 New patent for stocking design–seam and stocking woven simultaneously
1863-1864 Circular striped stockings became a special item.
1865-1878 Striped stockings, assorted colors, made of cotton or silk. Open work, white cotton. For girl dolls, plain white stockings predominated, but circular stripes were also used.
1870’s A china head doll had stockings of pale blue with floral design embroidered in gray thread down the front. Girl dolls of the 1870’s wore white knit cotton ribbed stockings to above the knee with pink band around the top. Another stocking was of tan knit cotton with two wide red and black circular bands, extending above and under drawers knee bands.
1870 Colorful horizontally striped hosiery became popular for “real people”.
1870’s Stockings matched evening gowns, and for day wear, petticoats. Purple and red were the colors in vogue.
1870-1880 On the other hand, one source says stockings were mostly white. For lady dolls stockings were mostly white.
1878-1889 Colored stockings were more prevalent than plain white. For girl dolls, circular striped stockings were more common than white or solid color ones. Red and tan were often used.
1878-1889 Dollies wore colored stockings, and horizontal stripes for French child dolls were more prevalent than white.
1880’s Real people wore mostly cotton knit stockings, but the ultimate was silk.
1881 The Delineator showed doll stockings of almost any color to be fashionable. Sometimes they had clocking on the sides.
French dolls also wore stockings in lace designs. Lady dolls of the 80’s often had white or unbleached stockings.
1880-1890 Silk stockings came in horizontal or vertical stripes, and in pink, turquoise and blue. They could be plain or elaborately embroidered and often had designs up the ankle, called clocks, in contrasting colors. Little boys often wore bright colored stockings–red was a favorite color. For everyday use, black or brown stockings were used. At the end of the decade, knit socks appeared on dolls. (Mildred Seeley says clocking was only for lady dolls, but it doesn’t seem quite that limited to me.)
1881 Dolls were seen with blue and white striped woolen stockings. Blue and pink very desirable colors, some with embroidered clocking up the sides.
1885-1886 A Jumeau had lace stockings and velveteen slippers with bright buckles.
1889 Steiner had knee-length crocheted red wool stockings with scalloped tops.
1889-1890 Socks were low, mostly plaid (on white background).
1890-1900 Stockings in the 1890’s were often black and made of cotton, silk or lisle. For dressy occasions, stockings matched a dress or shoes. Fancy striped stockings, decorated with clocks, were used for dress. Some were embroidered. Shear stockings were popular with ladies by the late 1890’s.
1890’s With real people color disappeared and black cotton or silk stockings were in vogue. Black net was popular.
1890’s For dollies, striped stockings went out, black came in. Lady dolls
wore black, white, or unbleached stockings. French children dolls wore stockings or socks in colors, white, ivory, or black.
Children dolls most often wore shoes or one-strap slippers with socks. Usually black stockings were worn with black or bronze shoes or dark boots. But as always, all sorts of colors were worn.
1890 An E.J. had white filet socks. Another E.J. had many stockings: white and maroon circular stripe cotton; magenta silk with lacy uppers; pink wool; white wool with circular lavender stripes; white wool with pink and blue circular stripes. A Jumeau had socks of cream mesh and a Bru doll had one pair of lacy pink while another pair was knitted. An F.G. dressed as girl of 1890’s wore blue knit cotton filet socks. (Worn with blue kid slippers with single strap, tied with blue cord. The slippers had two slits cut from toe area.) A doll had white lace stockings with seven blue circular stripes on white woven ground on the upper part. They extended to the knees. Another had black lace stockings. Stockings were in pink, blue and cardinal.
1890-1900 Girl dolls: As many black stockings were worn (many machine knit of cotton) as white and colored combined. Circular stripes had almost vanished.
1891 For lady dolls, black silk stockings became the rage.
1893 Blue hose with bronzed shoes was popular. A Kestner had black stockings while a Jumeau wore tan stockings with vertical stripes.
1900-1920 All through this period children wore black, white and tan stockings. Socks, both short and mid-calf, were more colorful.
1901
A French catalog shows several bébés with dark filet stockings and dark shoes.
1900-1908 Stockings with circular stripes and patterns were again showing up.
1908-1915 Scotch plaid is seen. On German dolls, machine knit stockings in assorted colors and black were popular.
1910 Red and white circular stripes with black feet were shown.
1912 Black circular stripes on white cotton are seen again (Jumeau dolls were still being produced). Black stockings and slippers were used as well as silk stockings in white or champagne. The Little Rosebud doll had dark stockings. Girl dolls used mostly white or pastel socks, but some had stockings with circular stripes.

OTHER TIPS AND HELPS FOR CHOOSING OR MAKING STOCKINGS OR SOCKS
When making socks, 1/16″ stripes are optimal, however it is very difficult to find this small a stripe.
Mildred Seeley says above knee stockings should go to the hip joint in order to fasten securely, but why not make them mid-thigh length, properly hemmed, and secure with garters or supporter.

Appropriate Fabrics

  • Cotton baby undershirts
  • Cotton men’s mesh/ribbed undershirts
  • Leotards
  • Cotton knit yardage (ribbed, cable, etc.)
  • Silk knit

Thread for Crochet/Knitting

  • DMC Perle Coton #8 or #12
  • Froehlich Swiss Wool