When a woman takes all her clothes off, she can be depicted as a pure, Classical nude. If, however, she keeps her stockings on, she suddenly becomes naked, an erotic creation capable of arousing the viewer s libido. This curious paradox has been observed and used by artists since the Middle Ages. Stockings range from extremely elaborate confections: multicoloured, embroidered, applied with sequins or precious stones, painted, striped or otherwise made into objects to be coveted, enabling the wearer to be desired. Ranging from the shapeless utilitarian woollen stocking suddenly transformed by being black or allowed to droop erotically down the leg, to the breathtaking sheen of silk stockings drawn tight over the leg, held in place by an elaborate garter or garter-belt, silk being replaced in recent years by nylon or rayon, enlivened in certain decades by a central seam in the back of the leg (giving rise to the arousing gesture of straightening the seam), a tiny monogram or a variety of colours in the sheer quality of the transparent material, listed in deniers. The Stocking Book explores the astonishing variety of stockings from the eighteenth century to the present, the way great painters made use of them, the way illustrators and cartoonists made use of them, the way advertisements depicted them, and the way the shape has developed, from the wind-sock in an airfield to the geography of Italy, to the stocking hung from the mantlepiece waiting for Santa Claus.