1940’s Stocking Shortage Causes Women To Improvise By Painting Their Legs

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1944 –  woman painting the appearance of silk stockings onto another woman’s legs. Very little silk was available during WWII in the U.S. IMAGE: CONSTANCE BANNISTER CORP/GETTY IMAGES

Shortly after nylon stockings entered a vigorous 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.

The first nylon fiber was produced in 1935 by Wallace Carothers. But it was the famous 1939 World’s Fair that introduced nylon stockings to the world. They new leg coverings were a hit and nearly 4 million pairs were sold during that year.

Then, due to the war, valuable materials and laborers were taken away as they were needed elsewhere. War propaganda demanded that women not stray from their normal way of dress during the war and ‘make do and mend’ because a popular motto during that period.

So, that is just what women did, they made do and mended. Many women painted their legs to appear as though they were wearing nylon stockings, many using gravy juice as their main cover all product. Shoe stores and beauty salons even began offering the service of painting legs during the 1940’s.

After the war, production of nylon’s resumed and the fad of painting your legs washed away just as fast as the gravy juice would in a downpour.

All in all, a neat and interesting point in American history!


A woman has a seam painted onto her leg, to make it appear that she is wearing stockings. IMAGE: FOX PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES


May 23, 1940 – Stockings being painted onto legs. IMAGE: FOX PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES


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. IMAGE: FOX PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES


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. IMAGE: A R TANNER/GETTY IMAGES


July 19, 1941 – Ladderless stockings being painted onto ladies’ legs in Croydon, Surrey, as part of wartime rationing initiatives. IMAGE: KEYSTONE/GETTY IMAGES


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. IMAGE: G W HALES/GETTY IMAGES


1940 – A shoe store offers a unique service by painting stockings on women’s legs during the clothing rationing of World War II. IMAGE: FOX PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES


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. IMAGE: KEYSTONE/GETTY IMAGES


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