Blue Stocking

A Blue Stocking is an expression used to describe a clever and intellectual woman, and there are two possible explanations for the term.

First, in Venice in 1400, a secret society of high-minded men and women was formed calling themselves ‘della calza’, which means ‘of the stocking’. They created a crest, which had blue stockings as its emblem, and the idea was copied in Paris in 1590 where members of the Bas Bleu ( blue stocking ) followed suit.

This proved to be so popular with the ladies of intellect that in 1750 Lady Elizabeth Montague opened her own house to like-minded scholars and leading literary figures of the day, who would while away the time sharing ideas and fantasies with each other.

With the emphasis of such discussion being on learning and the arts, the fashion sense sometimes left a little to be desired. One of the more prominent members of Lady Montague’s group was Benjamin Stillingfleet, who preferred to wear blue silk stockings with his evening suit instead of the customary black worn by the other gentlemen of his era. With London society generally a little more cynical and unforgiving than their French or Italian counterparts, the group were frequently ridiculed and quickly nicknamed ‘the blue stocking society’, thanks to Stillingfeet’s dress sense.

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