In the world of lingerie, the term "stockings" refers to a close-fitting garment that covers the foot and lower part of the leg. They should not be confused with tights, which provide coverage from the toe to the waist. Although stockings had long been worn for warmth by both men and women, women’s decorative stockings did not appear until the 1920s, when rising hemlines revealed the lower leg. Fishnet stockings, whose open, diamond-shaped knit resembles a net, appeared in the 1930s. They were worn in flesh tones and black, and were associated with dancers and entertainers of the period. Actress Jane Russell famously wore them in the early 1950s, and the mini-skirt craze of the 1960s paired fishnets with rising hemlines. In the 1980s, singer Madonna revived the popularity of fishnets, drawing on their association with glamour, sex, femininity, and power.
Fishnet stockings remain popular today, and can be worn with everything from work clothes to fancy dress costumes. When shopping for fishnet stockings, it helps to have an idea of the range of styles available, sizing systems, and how to care for fishnets to keep them looking their best.
Fishnet Stocking Style Options
Fishnet stockings have a range of style options, including mesh size, toe reinforcement, finish, support, and additional designs. The choice depends on what the shopper is looking for.
Fishnet Mesh Size
One of the first variables with fishnet stockings is mesh size. Mesh size refers to the size of the openings in the netting, and can range from very fine to wide. Fine, or small-gauge, mesh is more subtle, and appropriate for conservative occasions. Wide net makes a bolder statement; it can work for club wear, fancy dress costumes, or for punk or goth styles.
It is estimated that thirty percent of first-use hosiery runs are caused in the high-stress region of the toe. Toe reinforcement often features a heavier yarn and a different weave to strengthen the toe area, though some fishnets are simply seamed at the toe for support. Women may prefer to have a reinforced toe on their stockings to prevent holes and runs, or they may favour a sheer toe, which does not break up the design of the stocking and looks better with peep-toe shoes.
Finish refers to the amount of light the stockings reflect. Matte finish means they are not reflective at all. Stockings with a slight sheen reflect some light, for a subtle glow. Shiny stockings are highly reflective for a glassy finish.
Support: Hold-Up Stockings Vs. Suspender Belts
The most common way to hold up stockings is by using a suspender belt (also called a garter belt). Suspender belts fit around the waist with four suspenders that clip onto the tops of the stockings, keeping them in place.
Another option is to buy hold-up, or stay-up, fishnet stockings, which have a wide elasticised band at the top. While hold-ups are convenient, they have the disadvantage of not being sized to different leg shapes. In some cases the band may be too tight, leaving a red ring around the thigh, restricting circulation, and aggravating varicose veins. On the other hand, it may be too loose to hold the stocking up properly.
A final, though less common, option is to wear a garter, which is a decorative band that fits around the top of the stocking. Garters are often worn at weddings.
Additional Style Options
Fishnet stockings sometimes feature additional style elements. Seamed fishnets feature a seam along the back of the leg, for an elongated, flattering line. Sometimes the fabric has additional designs, including patterns like bows, flowers, or elaborate designs along the seams. There may be decorative elements at the top, including ribbons and lace.
Knee-high fishnet stockings look great with knee-length or mini skirts. For those who prefer footless stockings, there are a few fishnet versions available.
Materials for Fishnet Stockings
Another choice is material. Different materials are used in manufacturing fishnet stockings, and this can affect their appearance, fit, and durability. The following chart outlines the most common materials used and their basic characteristics.
Usually the main component in contemporary hosiery; number of nylon filaments in the yarn determines the way the garment looks and feels; more filaments creates softer touch and matte appearance, while fewer filaments has a shinier look and is less soft
Elastane, Spandex, Lycra
A very strong fibre that is often present in hosiery; known for its ability to stretch and recover its shape; increases fit, comfort, and durability of stockings; "elastane" is the generic UK term; "spandex" is the generic term in US; "Lycra" is a brand name
Nylon yarn of very fine filaments twisted into a single yarn; extremely soft and usually matte
Originally used in hosiery; highly durable and comfortable, though may have less stretch and fit than nylon-elastane blends
Price may be another consideration when selecting materials. Silk is durable, feels luxurious, and is considered eco-friendly in that it is a natural material; however, silk stockings tend to be much pricier than nylon blends.
How to Choose a Colour for Fishnet Stockings
Fishnet stockings are available in a broad range of colours, with some manufacturers boasting upwards of 40 different hues. Black has long been the classic choice for fishnets, but dark greys and browns are also neutral choices that can work day and night. Those looking for a more attention-grabbing style can opt for girlish, flirty white or pastel fishnets. Red is yet another popular choice, and many others are available as well.
How to Wear Fishnet Stockings
Fishnets may be more versatile than one would think. While often associated with burlesque, punk, and goth, fishnets can add a classy, feminine edge to more conservative items. For example, wearing dark or flesh-tone, fine-mesh fishnets with a knee-length skirt and a pair of dark heels could be a look that works in the office. For weekend or club wear, they can be paired with a miniskirt and knee-high or ankle boots.
How to Find Fishnet Stockings That Fit
Fishnet stockings come in wide array of sizes, from extra small to plus sizes. Manufacturers have their own sizing systems, which shoppers should consult before purchasing. Generally, sizes are determined by height and weight.
Caring for Fishnet Stockings
Fishnet stockings are very delicate, so washing them requires special care to prevent any snags or rips. It is recommended to wash them by hand, using a gentle detergent. First, fill a sink or basin with cold water. Add a small amount of the mild detergent and agitate so that the detergent dissolves. Next, place the fishnets in a mesh lingerie bag and submerge in the water. The bag should be massaged for several minutes by hand to break down dirt and other substances. Next, drain the water completely, and gently squeeze the laundry bag free of excess water, taking care not to wring it. Refill the sink or basin with cold water, submerge the bag once again, and massage out residue from the detergent. Drain the contents from the basin or sink, and knead the laundry bag once again. Repeat this rinsing process until the clean water appears soap-free. Take the fishnet stockings out of the laundry bag, and roll them into a ball to remove excess water. Do not wring them, and try not to stretch them out. Fishnets should be hung up to air dry. Coloured stockings should be kept out of direct sunlight, since they may fade.
Where to Buy Fishnet Stockings
Fishnet stockings are available at lingerie shops and department stores, as well as online, through Internet merchants and auction websites like eBay. The selection in shops may be more limited in sizes and colours, but the advantage is that shoppers can receive professional advice on issues like fitting and the durability of specific products. Buying online, one has a tremendous range from which to choose; reading product reviews and researching manufacturers’ sizing charts can help in the decision-making process.
Buyers should be certain to check whether they are purchasing hold-up stockings or those that require a suspender belt. In the latter case, they need to buy a suspender belt separately.
How to Buy Fishnet Stockings on eBay
If you’ve decided to shop for fishnet stockings online, eBay’s auction website has a wide selection of colours, sizes, and styles. To begin, go to eBay’s home page and enter keywords like "black fishnet stockings" into the search bar. You can then refine the results of your search by selecting things like material, size, seller location, and more. If you still have not found what you’re looking for, try browsing eBay Shops.
Be sure to read the product description carefully before bidding on an item. It should contain vital information about size, quantity, and the seller’s return policy. Check for shipping fees, and remember to factor those in when deciding how much to bid.
Buyers should also get to know a bit about the seller by looking at the their positive feedback rating and reading comments left by those who have previously bought fishnets or lingerie from them. This helps ensure the seller is reliable and experienced. Top-rated sellers consistently provide the highest level of customer service.
Fishnet stockings have a diamond-shaped, open knit resembling a net, and usually cover the leg from the toe to the upper thigh. Whether they conjure images of a femme fatale or the height of glamour, fishnets are a bold, feminine fashion statement that can be surprisingly versatile.
There are many style options when buying fishnet stockings. The first is mesh size: the openings in the knit may be large or small. Toe reinforcement is another option that can prevent holes. Finish refers to how shiny or matte fishnets are; commonly they are matte, but some styles may have more sheen. Another important consideration is how the stocking is supported: is it a hold-up style or does it require a suspender belt? Finally, different designs are available for a unique look.
Other considerations include materials, sizing, and what to wear with fishnets. Thinking through these different choices, women can find a pair of fishnet stockings that look and feel great.