The comfort level of lingerie in this era certainly still has plenty of room for improvement. However, looking back, undergarments have come a long way!
Let’s take a look at the history and evolution of lingerie.
The earliest mention of undergarments dates back to Ancient Greece. Even then, the pieces of woolen cloth called an apodesmos was only wrapped around a woman’s chest to support their breasts, and secured at the back with pins.
In ancient Rome, tight support garments known as mamillare or fascia were worn for functional rather than aesthetic purposes, mainly to make women’s busts appear smaller.
Come middle age, loose undergarments such as a chemise were worn by both genders to absorb any sweat and body oils, preventing their outerwear from getting stained.
Its Chinese counterpart with the same purpose, a du dou, was first fashionable among the upper classes in the Ming Dynasty. Towards the end of 1500’s, petticoats were worn under a dress to enhance the appearance of a tiny waist.
Corsets did not start out as most of us remember. In the 1820s, long-line corsets were popular due to how they complemented their column dresses.
Long-line corsets did not only give the women an appearance of a tiny waist – they extended to their hips and upper thighs as well!
In this era, corsets were worn to help women create an hourglass figure, with the appearance of a tiny waist obtained by wearing steel corsets or whale-bone corsets. It sure doesn’t sound comfortable!
By the 1890s, frilly bloomers became a comfortable clothing option - a baggy pair of pants worn mostly by radical women.
Pantalets with lace hems were also featured in this era, with an
appearance similar to bloomers. These pants, however, served to cover up a lady’s ankles.
The first bra was invented by Caresse Crosby, otherwise known as Mary Phelps Jacobs, merely by sewing two handkerchiefs together with a ribbon tie. Underwired bras were introduced in early 1930s, but did not gain popularity due to WWII’s aftermath which included some metal shortage.
By 1946, underwired bras started becoming more popular for the support they provided. Barely a year later, push-up bras were invented to give women the appearance of bigger busts.
Around the same time, more comfortable undergarments such as slips - similar to the modern era nightgowns, gained popularity as did girdles.
The first girdles were made from rubber, which was not exactly a breathable material.
By the 1950’s, undergarments’ had evolved to include garter belts and stockings. Typically, the stockings were about knee-high and connected to the hose all the way at the waist with an embroidered ribbon.
Soon, bikini briefs came along as women became more open to their sexuality and wanted
more comfortable undergarment options.
Brazil released thongs in the 1980’s to help women hide their panty lines when wearing tight clothes. These undergarments came in various colours and fabrics.
Today, some of the historical undergarment pieces are still worn as fashion statements, or
adapted to a modern, more comfortable fit with different materials and cuttings.
The changes in these lingerie styles also brought upon the world a positive difference - an open mindset to
how a woman’s body shape may vary.
For example, lingerie is made to fit plus-sized models with additional support and straps. There’s no telling how the world of undergarments might evolve next.