$_57 (9)

Real Silk Hosiery Mills product box, eBay.

Smooth Moves, Real Silk!

Ladies (and gentlemen, too)… imagine an item of clothing so important… so luxurious… that a personal, to-your-door representative would arrive at your home to consult with you on the latest trends, colors, weights and textures for your fitting. What was this all-important, image making-or-breaking accoutrement?

A business suit? A tux, perhaps? A ball gown?


It was socks, basically.

Or that’s what the owners of the Real Silk Hosiery Mills would have you believe, anyway.

$_57 (14)

Click to enlarge this 1929 Saturday Evening Post advertisement. eBay.

Indeed, according to Real Silk advertisements, choosing one’s hosiery should never be left to some artless hack.

Never buy a shade because it looks well on someone else. Check it on your own skin. Check each shade for its becomingness to you. It is better to choose a tone that flatters your ankle than a high-style color — better to harmonize it with skin tones than arbitrarily match a costume’s hue. Every hosiery shade is affected by the skin tone of the wearer… Real Silk’s Shop-at-Home Service brings you an actual summary of the season’s smartest clothing colors (with samples of fabrics and shoe leathers) showing which hosiery shades are correct with each color range.”

$_57 (13)

Click to enlarge this 1924 Good Housekeeping advertisement. eBay.

Company History:
According to Indiana Historical Society files, the Real Silk Company was founded in 1922 by brothers J.A. and L.L. Goodman. The company ran knitting mills which manufactured men’s and women’s silk hosiery, lingerie, and underwear. At its peak, the company’s sales volume averaged more than one million pairs of women’s hosiery a year. In fact, at one point, Real Silk Hosiery Mills in Indianapolis was the largest shipper of COD parcel post packages in the country and was considered to be the biggest manufacturing unit in the industry.

rl slk 1

Click to enlarge this 1938 advertisement. eBay. “The Real Silk representative will advise you about color and style. We suggest Real Silk’s new 251 (if you’re serious about her). Call Real Silk in your city and the representative will come to you.”

The company ran into financial difficulties in the early 1930s as a result of the Great Depression. The stock market collapse depressed Real Silk’s market — and the company suffered an additional loss due to the price of raw silk. Real Silk owed a considerable amount to its lenders. Control was eventually assumed by a bank committee. The company’s financial situation began to improve shortly thereafter and a gentleman named Gustav Efroymson (former president of H.P. Wasson Co.) assumed control in 1932.

$_57 (10)

On offer, eBay: a pair of Real Silk hosiery, deaccessioned from the Children’s Museum.

$_57 (8)

Click to enlarge 1938 magazine advertisement about Real Silk hosiery. eBay. “It will pay you to talk to a Real Silk Representative — the man who knows about hosiery.” Does it seem odd to anyone else that in days of such propriety, men sold what essentially were women’s undergarments… door to door, unchaperoned?

Difficulties soon occurred with labor over wage increases which resulted in a strike in April and May, 1934, that included the arrests of sixteen strikers in Indianapolis in what was one of the city’s most famous, and violent, strikes. Street fights, attacks on company workers, and a successful bombing of an employee’s home moved the Mayor, Reginald Sullivan, to invoke police powers. The matter was finally resolved in May leaving neither the workers not Real Silk a clear winner.

labor real silk

The kerfuffle over wages at Real Silk caused the city’s most violent strike, to date.

Company profits were jeopardized in the early 1940s as the need for silk during World War II dried up supplies. Cleverly, the company became instrumental in the manufacturing of parachutes for bombs as well as hosiery for both male and female military personnel to stem potential ruin. During the war, more than 1,500 employees were dedicated to the manufacture of silk parachutes in the Indianapolis plant. After the war though, the company once again struggled as nylon, an inexpensive material, replaced costly silk in garments.


In the days of silk hosiery, ladies  actually repaired their stockings. Repair kit, eBay.

$_57 (12)

Inside of Real Silk stocking repair kit.


Real Silk advertising premium. eBay.

Gustav Efroymson died in 1946, and control of the company passed to his son, Robert who chose to close manufacturing operations. All the machinery was sold except that which was related to direct-to-consumer selling, and the plant, which was located at 611 N. Park was leased to a printing company. In 1957 Real Silk Inc. became registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as an investment company, although they continued the door to door selling of hosiery, lingerie, and other clothing products on a national scale.

$_57 (6)

Click to enlarge this 1938 women’s “shop at home” advertisement. eBay.


Click to enlarge this 1937 Real Silk advertisement, eBay. The descriptions are most humorous by today’s standards.

Certainly, the Real Silk Hosiery Mill left its indelible imprint upon Hoosier history. It remains with us today in the form of Real Silk Lofts (The former plant converted into apartments in the late 1980s) and in a wide array of vintage print advertising and promotional items.


Click to enlarge this 1926 advertisement for the at-home hosiery and lingerie service, touting the “safety and convenience” of having a (usually male) representative come to your home for the fitting. eBay.

Check those old drawers and cupboards! You might just find some… Real Silk Hoosiery!

Tell us in the comment box below:
What are your memories of Real Silk?
Did any of your relatives work there?