Roll ’em girls roll ’em girls
Go ahead and roll ’em
Roll ’em down and show your pretty knees
Roll ’em girls roll ’em ev’rybody roll ’em
Roll ’em high or low just as you please
Don’t let people tell you that it’s shocking
Paint your sweetie’s picture
On your stocking
Laugh at ma, laugh at pa
Give them all the ha-ha
(1925, Roll’em Girls by Billy Murray, hear it sung)
1920s stockings came to about mid or upper thigh and had to be held up by garter clips attached to either a corset or a girdle with clips or gilt mounts. It was also common for young women who didn’t like to wear girdles to “roll” their stockings down, using a ribbon or elastic garter band to above or below the knee – a trick that wasn’t easy to master. Young women were fixing their rolls several times a day.
Shameless flappers were known to roll their stockings to down below the knee, and just to make sure you noticed that their knees were bare, they applied a little rouge makeup to make their knees look rosy. Why? Because women were not supposed to be seen with bare legs and this little glimpse of skin was such a Jazz Age kind of thing to do! There was a brief fad for girls to paint a picture of their boyfriend on their knee, or perhaps a favorite movie star.
“Check out the getaway sticks on the flapper, bub!” (1920s slang for “she has nice legs”)
If you ever saw your grandmother or great-grandmother use a rubber band to hold her stockings up, she was using a makeshift roll garter. Authentic garter rolls were round and soft covered elastic bands that rolled up the leg and then back down a little, catching the top of the stocking. Garters were also made of a flat elastic circle with hook or a pretty ribbon covered elastic band, called a Jazz Garter (the same as bridal garters today.)
These garters were available in pink, light blue, purple, yellow, red, black or white. They didn’t need to be rolled if they fit snug enough around the thigh. Many flappers wore a garter over their clipped stockings, just for the chance someone might see it while dancing.
Wealthy flappers wore a decorated gold or silver band garter (yes, made of the actual metal) worn just above the left knee, with stockings attached to garters. The garter band was exposed whenever a skirt swung just enough – shocking the older generation yet again.
Wearing rolled stockings was popular was at the beach or public pool. Young women who entered bathing beauty contests couldn’t wear a garter belt, so they rolled their stockings down to below the knee. The gap left between the knee and the swimsuit skirt was scandalous — and on many beaches, illegal.
Wearing 1920s Stockings Today
When choosing stockings for your 1920s outfit, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose nudes and tans one shade darker than your natural skintone. Otherwise, choose a light colors for light dresses and dark colors for dark dresses.
- Matte sheen is better than shiny materials. Choose a heavier, not sheer, thickness.
- Backseams are optional.
- Wear one to two sizes up for a looser fit.
- Make garter with an elastic band. They should be tight enough to hold up but not cut off your circulation.
Read more about all style of 1920s stockings here.
Shop for 1920s style stockings and socks here
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.