May 15, nylon stockings day. Nice gravy on those gams!

During WWII, women drew on nylon stockings with gravy juice!

The girl with the steadiest hand was well-prized.

Stockings back then were extremely important.

Women wouldn’t venture outside with naked legs.

In 1941, you were a hussy if you didn’t wear stockings.

By 1942, you were a hussy if you didn’t pretend you were!

Due to WWII nylon rationing, some nylon stockings were tea leaves or soot mixed with a bit of water.

Other stuff-in-your-kitchen innovations were chicory (WWII coffee substitute), OXO cubes or Kitchen essence.

If you had a steady hand – or friend – you penciled in seams, using eyeliner or eyebrow pencil to draw the lines.

Trouble drawing the seam straight?  This device was made from a screwdriver handle, bicycle leg clip, and an eyebrow pencil, 1942. Bettman/Corbis

Below is a very impressive nylon stockings paint job.

This joke suddenly makes more sense:

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

A: Leg paint on his back.

Nylon Riots

Marilyn poses inside an excess of nylon stocking

Eight days after Japan’s surrender, Du Pont announced that it would resume producing stockings.

Newspaper headlines cheered:  “Peace, It’s Here! Nylons on Sale!”

The motto “Nylons by Christmas” was sung everywhere.

Du Pont originally forecast that it would be able to produce 360 million pairs per year.

This estimate turned out to be over-aggressive.

The resulting production delays led to riots.

In one of the worst snags, 40,000 women queued up for a mile for 13,000 pairs of stockings.

A headline in Augusta, Georgia, read “Women Risk Life and Limb in Bitter Battle for Nylons”.

Crowds clamored into the store, knocking down shelves and displays along the way.

These riots, which lasted until Dupont increased production in 1946, were called the Nylon Riots.

Perhaps nothing else has ever received as much free advertising in the history of newspapers!


Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.