One of the difficulties of collecting sportswear and accessories is that often these items get worn completely and are discarded rather than saved. I’ve said it before, it’s easier to find a 1930s ballgown than a pair of shorts from that era. It’s easier to find a pair of fine kid gloves from the 1940s than a pair of colorful knitted mittens for playing in the snow. And it is much easier to find fine nylon stockings than it is to find a pair of utilitarian tights.
I was pretty happy to run across this pair in a nearby antique store. They are made from finely knit wool, have an older Best & Co. label, and best of all, there is a US patent number on the label. Having a patent number is like a gift of knowledge. From it you can search for the original paperwork and gain valuable insights into what makes the item special – at least to the designer.
An easy way to look up a patent is to use Google Patents. You just type in the number and it goes either directly to the patent or to a page of search results. My tights came up first on the list of search results. As you can see, my tights were patented by Florence C. Barnard. She filed the patent in 1937, but the design was not approved until 1940. Because my tights have the patent number printed on them, they have to date after the patent was approved.
The paperwork consists of the drawings and diagrams I’m showing, but there are also two pages of written description. It is in those pages that I was able to gain some insight into this design.
Ms. Barnard was living in St. Paul, Minnesota, and as a resident of that city she was concerned with a garment that would keep the legs warm while retaining the appearance of full-fashioned stockings. That would explain why the seam is located on the backs of the legs rather than on the sides. The lack of a foot is interesting. Presumably, the wearer would wear socks over the feet, with would be covered by her skates or boots.
From the patent, written by Florence C. Barnard:
This invention relates to a novel garment… as an added protection against cold weather, and which is more particularly designed for outdoor use.