These stockings startled me.
With 1870s photos it is easy to emphasize “Victorian” decorum and forget color. All those ladies with heads held stiffly in vises to ensure a clear photograph were not wearing charcoal-grey gowns. And — apparently — they might not have been wearing modest black stockings on their “limbs.”
Imagine the flash of color when a woman lifted her heavy, restraining skirts to climb into a carriage. A pair of these flirty French stockings must have ruined – or confirmed – the reputation of many a “lady.”
My western novel is set in 1877 California, and when I revise it, I will give Faye Shelburne, my wealthy young widow, a pair of these wonderful stockings. She and her husband spent a few years in Europe. Of course she would have bought these in France. Fancying herself a rebel, Faye would risk them being seen.
This particular pair of “cherry-brights” is still tagged, which indicates to me that they were never sold, but put away as something too special to discard when their era of fashion was over. If they had been worn and still looked this good, I would guess a careful maid slipped a wooden “shaper” into them when they were wet so they would shrink to the right size.
The amount of work that clothes once required is unimaginable nowadays. I used to iron my blouses – no more! But if I had a chance to wear beautiful stockings such as these I might start hunting antique stores for some stocking shapers ….