hose, covering for the legs and feet. In the Middle Ages the leg was bound from the ankle to the knee with hides or cloth and then cross-gartered with thongs or strips of cloth; later a loose trouser, bound at the ankle, was worn. As the lower legs of the trousers became more fitted, they were called breeches, and as the breeches were shortened to the knee, fitted cloths called hose (also known by the French chausses) were worn. By the 12th cent. feet were added to the hose. As breeches grew shorter, hose became longer; by c.1450 the hose reached the hips and were attached by points (laces) to the doublet. By c.1490 the breeches and hose formed one garment; thus tights were first known. Silk and velvet were used, as was wool, and color became extravagant. The tights were multicolored and often each leg was in a contrasting color. As the upper part of the hose became more decorated and puffed out, a separation occurred (c.1500); the upper part was called trunk hose, and the leg coverings were for the first time called stockings and recognized as a separate accessory of dress. Knitted hose were first known in Scotland (1499); in France, Henry II is said to have worn (c.1559) the first knitted silk hose. Knitting thereafter became general, and machines came into use after 1589. Colored and embroidered hose were worn in the 17th cent., though white silk was the fashion. In the 17th cent. the decorative boot hose of the cavalier were of white linen and lace. Cotton came into use after 1680. Nylon, because of its strength and elasticity, became the leading hosiery fiber after World War II. In the 1960s women began to wear pantyhose, a one-piece garment that extends from waist to feet. As men's trousers grew longer their stockings grew shorter, and the word sock came into use. Women's hose, although hidden until modern times by their long skirts, have always been an important part of their costume.
See M. N. Grass, History of Hosiery (1956).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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