A Brief History of Lingerie

The history of lingerie is a fascinating journey that has revealed the evolution of intimate apparel, reflecting changes from one generation to another. Lingerie today has played a crucial role in shaping perceptions of beauty, modesty, and eroticism with varieties of options for women to explore. From just ordinary undergarments for women in the 1900’s to a piece that increases body positivity and is also visually appealing. 

Lady Duff-Gordon of Lucile was a pioneer in developing lingerie that freed women from more restrictive undergarments. During the 19th century, the women’s undergarments were usually bulky which does not put into consideration women that are of larger busts.

Middle Ages and Renaissance

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, undergarments formed the foundational layers of clothing for both women and men for the purpose of covering the intimate part of their body. During this period, the women’s figure was known to be slim though with a defined waist, it is important to be  slender. The chemise became a slightly flared, knee-length tunic, with mid-length sleeves sewn on with straight stitching, and a gusset. There were draw-strings to puff up the sleeves and to vary the width of the neckline, which were particularly helpful when putting it on. Corsets began to make an appearance during this period although in simpler forms compared to the recent ones during the 20th century.

Romantic women had many undergarments. Under their costumes, they wore a high corset with cups to hold the breasts that were long enough to flare over the hips. At shoulder level the corset had large shoulder pads and there was a rigid busk at the waist.

18th and 19th century 

Women during the 19th century were known as “ femmes-sirenes’ (mermaids) because they put more attention in their clothing attires which makes them look flawless. They put on surcoats under their dresses which were modified to accentuate their waist. This is worn so tight that it is difficult for women to bend over. Lingerie during this period featured elaborate embellishments and decorative elements. Lace, ribbons, and intricate embroidery adorned chemises, drawers, and petticoats. The Victorian era left an indelible mark on lingerie aesthetics, emphasizing elaborate designs and the pursuit of an idealized fashion sense which was embraced in their time. 

Early 20th Century

During the 20th century, women began to prioritize comfort particularly in their mode of  dressing. The heavily layered corsets were replaced with a more comfortable and lighter material. The tumultuous period of World Wars I and II played a role in reshaping fashion. With women taking on more active roles in society, the need for practical and comfortable undergarments became even more pronounced. It is less comfortable going about with an elaborate girdle around the waist as of the time of the 18th and 19th century. 

This period facilitated the act of wearing brassiere as a  separate garment, allowing for a more flexible and dynamic range of motion. As the decades progressed, bra underwent various stylistic evolutions. From the flapper era of the 1920s, where a more boyish silhouette was en vogue, to the glamorous Hollywood-inspired bras of the 1930s and 1940s, each era brought its own flair to this essential undergarment.

Mid-20th Century

The mid-20th century saw a surge in the use of versatile fabrics like nylon and satin. These materials offered a luxurious feel while maintaining practicality. Lingerie became softer, more breathable, and adaptable to various styles. The iconic bullet bra, with its pointed cups, gained popularity in the 1940s. Worn by Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, it became a symbol of both glamor and allure, influencing lingerie trends for years to come.

This period witnessed the rise of different types of lingerie and their individual preference from the extraordinary corset we all love to lingerie robes, bra and underwear. 

Late 20th Century

The late 20th century witnessed a revolution in lingerie fabrics. Synthetics like spandex and microfiber provided stretch, comfort, and a seamless look under clothing. Natural fabrics like silk and cotton continued to appeal to those who sought a touch of luxury and breathability. Lingerie brands recognized the diversity of body shapes and sizes, breaking away from conventional beauty standards. This shift was a monumental step towards making intimate apparel accessible and empowering for all.

As we have watched lingerie from an ordinary piece back in the days to a delicate and fashionable piece in the present times, we definitely should expect more innovation and creativity in this industry.  

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