"type of manufactured fiber made from regenerated cellulose," 1924, chosen by National Retail Dry Goods Association of America, probably from French rayon "beam of light, ray," from rai (see ray (n.1)), which also was used in Middle English as a name for a type of cloth. So called because it is shiny. A more marketable alternative than the original patented name, artificial silk (1884), or the intervening attempt, Glos, which was "killed by ridicule" ["Draper's Record," June 14, 1924].
[T]he production of rayon in American plants, which in 1920 had been only eight million pounds, had by 1925 reached fifty-three million pounds. The flesh-colored stocking became as standard as the short skirt. ... No longer were silk stockings the mark of the rich; as the wife of a workingman with a total family income of $1,638 a year told the authors of Middletown, "No girl can wear cotton stockings to high school. Even in winter my children wear silk stockings with lisle or imitations underneath." [Frederick Lewis Allen, "Only Yesterday," 1931]