They began as a tight, dark weave – chains of threads locked in an embrace that stretched over hidden landscapes of shameful skin. They took shape under the fingers of a factory girl, in a room of steel and needles, born in sweat during the final generation of the Industrial Age.
The black wave of cotton and elastic washed past white shores and ended in a froth of silk ribbon. The factory girls themselves wore them, biting into their lower-class flesh, in a tight pattern of respectability. Dyed the color of funereal secrets, of widow's weeds, they were the symbols of inescapable responsibility. They promised their wearers a bleak morality in shuddered houses and short, unadorned lives.
But the exchange of a few extra pennies from a more ambitious direction will make all the difference. The black stockings were no longer in the closets of worthless girls, but in the wardrobes of expensive women. They will not be hidden under primitive cloth, its heaviness a sacrifice to duty. Instead, they will cling to longer, smoother limbs, partnered with the languid disarrangement of a dressing gown, its pastel breaths dissolving into a silken skin. Their common, black-knitted exposure created an unexpected desire.
They were ugly and uncomfortable. They were ordinary, unimaginative – made by thousands, worn by millions. Yet, by virtue of a cheap revelation, they became the center of a photographer's attention for the shoddy notoriety of a postcard. The daily chore of an over-worked, scorned girl became an alluring image, and that image would become a furtive buyer's object of guilty longing.