Improvising Stockings: Drawing Nylon Seams with Gravy Juice, yum!

Just after nylon stockings entered an eager market, they disappeared from view.

In 1941, Britain introduced clothes rationing to conserve materials and valuable resources for World War II troops. The U.S. would follow later that year. Nylon stockings were some of the first products to go.


A woman painting the appearance of silk stockings onto another woman's legs. Very little silk was available during WWII in the U.S.

Wallace Carothers produced the first nylon fiber in 1935, but it was the 1939 World's Fair that first introduced the nylon stocking to the public. It was marketed as a fabric made from “carbon, water and air." Cheap and durable, better in appearance than silk, nylon soon became the material of choice for manufacturing women's stockings.


A woman has a seam painted onto her leg, to make it appear that she is wearing stockings.

Nearly 4 million pairs could be bought in a single day in 1939.

Then, due to the war, valuable resources and labor were redirected away from civilian production to provide equipment for the armed forces.

In the U.S., nylon manufacturer DuPont retooled factories to produce nylon parachutes, cords and rope, instead of stockings. Soon, a stockings black market flourished.

May 23, 1940

Stockings being painted onto legs

Wartime propaganda machine instructed women not abandon standards of dress (this might be bad for morale). "Make Do and Mend" became the motto. When mending old stockings failed, women actually painted dark stripes up the backs of their legs to mimic stocking seams. Gravy browning was a popular paint. This wartime look was termed "Glamor Hose."

May 1940

A representative of Max Factor paints cream stockings onto a woman's leg as a solution to the unavailability of stockings during the war.

After the war, DuPont resumed production, but could not keep up with demand. In PIttsburg 40,000 women queued for 13,000 pairs of stockings. A fight broke out. These disturbances, spanning August 1945 until March 1946, when Dupont was able to increase production, were termed the Nylon Riots.

May 1940

A Max Factor beautician paints a seam on a woman's leg to help create the illusion of stockings during a WWII shortage.

July 19, 1941

Ladderless stockings being painted onto ladies' legs in Croydon, Surrey, as part of wartime rationing initiatives.

July 1941

Customers have their legs painted at a store in Croydon, London, so they can save their ration coupons, which would otherwise be used for stockings.


A shoe store offers a unique service by painting stockings on women's legs during the clothing rationing of World War II.

July 1941

During stocking rationing, a beautician at the newly opened Bare Leg Beauty Bar at Kennard's store in Croydon, England, paints stockings onto a customer's skin.

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