The Ancient History of Modern Bras: Fashionable and Functional Female Underwear for Over 600 Years!

The Ancient History of Modern Bras: Fashionable and Functional Female Underwear for Over 600 Years!


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Until recently it was thought the bra as we know it evolved in the 1900s as a garment known as a bust improver. In the 1910s the first official brassiere was patented by Mary Phelps Jacob. Since then, bras have been through countless incarnations. From the pointed bullet bras of the 1950s to the risqué push up bras worn by many women today, they have evolved as frequently as the rest of women’s fashion and love them or hate them, they are here to stay.

Exhibiting the History of Bras

They are an item of clothing that many people don’t give a second thought to, but bras have had their own exhibits at major museums like the V&A in London and the Queensland museum, and now there is even a museum called The Underpinnings Museum which is dedicated entirely to underwear.

They support the bust, assist in creating a flattering and fashionable silhouette, and before the advent of both deodorant and the washing machine they helped to delay the need to wash outer garments. But these are all issues women have dealt with for thousands of years. While corsets and stays had been worn for about 300 years prior to the advent of the bra, supporting the bust by pushing it up from below rather than holding it up with straps, it has always been a mystery what women were wearing underneath their garments in the Medieval era.

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Bust improver from 1900 worn over a corset.

Pushing Back the Date of the Push-up Bra

Although the bust improver was first popularized in the 1900s, there are some examples of home sewn bust improvers from earlier than that. At that point in time, it was still common practice to make your own clothes or have them made by a professional seamstress. For this reason, it is unsurprising that although some women had been putting padding in their corsets to fill out the bust for decades, others had the idea of enhancing their assets with some extra padding held securely in place with straps and a band. In 2004, the Science Museum in London found one such homemade proto-bra dating from the 1880s which had been hidden in their archives unnoticed for years.

A lacey bra-like undergarment from December 1902 edition of ‘La Mode Illustree’, a women’s fashion magazine. (Public Domain)

To lingerie historians (yes, that is a real job) this was a fascinating discovery and one which pushed back the invention of the bra by two decades. But in 2012 archaeologists announced they had found evidence in a castle in Vienna that indicates women were wearing garments we would recognize as bras as far back as 600 years ago.

Medieval Lingerie?

The set of four bras were found in 2008, at Lenberg Castle, Austria, but they were so similar in style to modern bras that the archaeologists who found them needed to find hard evidence they were genuine and not an elaborate hoax or prank .

It was eventually confirmed that the bras were indeed from between 1390 and 1485, and they are now evidence that our ancestors were thinking logically about the same issues we face with clothing, and in some cases, they came up with similar solutions.

Lengberg Castle, East-Tyrol: 15th century linen “bra” (large image) in comparison to a longline-bra from the 1950´s (small image below left) ( Institute for Archaeologies )

But it is not only the fact they are shaped like modern bras that makes them interesting – they were not just plain and functional, but lacey and alluring. We tend to think of lingerie as a modern concept, and of people in the past being prudish and uptight. Discoveries such as this help to dispel that notion, and let us remember that our great, great, great (great, great…) grandmother would have wanted to feel sultry, too.

A Missing Link in the History of Women’s Underwear

Surviving examples of underwear from this period have proved elusive, and there are no known depictions in artwork of the era. As a result, fashion and lingerie historians have described the bras as a ‘missing link’ in the history of women’s underwear. It is so unusual for undergarments as old as this to be preserved that they have totally rewritten the history of women’s underwear in this era, and it is hoped that more evidence of underwear from the Medieval period will be found to confirm whether bras such as these were common at the time.

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Bikini Girls Mosaic, Villa del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Sicily, Italy. The history of ‘bras’ goes way back.

Are the First Bras Lost to Time?

It is funny to think that women in the 1900s were donning their bras and feeling thoroughly modern when they were wearing something which had been in use hundreds of years ago. It is also interesting to consider when the bra may first have made an appearance in women’s wardrobes, as utilitarian clothing like this which was worn day in and day out would usually have ended up being discarded when it wore out rather than being preserved for future generations to find and admire. Due to the perishable nature of materials used, we may never find evidence of bras from earlier periods, even if similar garments were worn. But some images like the ‘Bikini Girls’ mosaic seem to indicate the presence of a similar garment way back in ancient Rome.

In an age where ideas are easily shared and preserved online, it is particularly hard to imagine such a simple idea being lost to time. There are countless websites dedicated to making faithful replicas of clothing and underwear from past eras. There is even a movement dedicated to reinterpreting garments like corsets and girdles to suit a modern aesthetic and lifestyle - but perhaps one lesson that can be learned from these Medieval bras is that when it comes to fashion, everything has been done before.

A modern corset inspired by medieval architecture. ( Threnody in Velvet / Sarah P Young)


From loincloths to corsets: a brief history of underwear with Horrible Histories’ Greg Jenner

Underwear is a curious form of clothing: it can be entirely practical – there to maintain body heat, cover our modesty, and support the soft tissues of the body – or it can be a flirtatious symbol of sexual suggestiveness. While most of us trudge around in our comfy cotton briefs bought in a bargain multipack at M&S, we might soon be donning our sexiest pulling pants for Valentine’s Day, or even that hideous novelty posing pouch given to us at Christmas as a joke. Strangely, underwear is not meant to be seen unless that’s exactly what it’s meant for. But when did the custom of wearing undies first begin?

Well, the mummified body of Ötzi the Iceman, who died in the Tyrolean Alps more than 5,000 years ago, reveals that he sported a goatskin loincloth under his furry leggings and, if we skip forward 1,500 years to Bronze Age Egypt, you might be surprised to learn that Pharaoh Tutankhamun was entombed with 145 spare loincloths, presumably intended for use in the afterlife. This type of linen underwear (shenti) was a triangular nappy that fastened at the hips. For some Egyptian peasants these weren’t merely underwear – they constituted the entire outfit. King Tut, however, wore a manly skirt over his.

In ancient Rome, pants were known as subligaculum – a unisex garment made of leather and sometimes linen, available as shorts or loincloth, worn by gladiators, actors, and soldiers. Female performers, however, are known to have also worn an additional ‘boob tube’ – a flat bit of stretched-cloth – to protect their modesty. It’s not clear whether this garment found its way into an ordinary woman’s laundry basket.

Given the balmy climate, few Romans required socks, and indeed they were considered a sign of northern barbarism – though archaeological excavations at Vindolanda Fort, the Roman military camp just south of Hadrian’s Wall, show that the bitter Scottish wind required a bit of a rethink on that. Tablet 346 of the famous Vindolanda tablets states: “I have you … pairs of socks from Sattua, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of underpants.” Well, at least it wasn’t 145 pairs.

It’s no surprise that in the chilly north, Celtic, Saxon, and Viking chaps were all keen to slide long socks over their tootsies, and insulate their private parts with baggy linen breeches (braies), though these weren’t technically underwear because nothing was worn over them.

Ladies, on the other hand, seem to have donned the long smock beneath their heavier dresses, but possibly didn’t bother with knickers at all. However, in 2012 building work at a medieval Austrian castle revealed a hidden vault beneath the 15th-century floorboards, and in this ‘time capsule’ were found four medieval bras with shoulder-straps. This discovery astonished costume historians, who had always declared the bra to be a 20th-century invention.

In Tudor times, stockings were the must-have accessory for European aristocracy, and silk was exalted for its cost and softness. Queen Elizabeth I of England was gifted her first pair of silkies in the 1560s, and – after comparing them to woollen ones – immediately declared: “I like silk stockings so well, because they are pleasant, fine and delicate, that henceforth I will wear no more cloth stockings.”

Silk was far beyond the budget of most people, and knitted woollen stockings were much more common. For male aristocracy, nether-stockings reached all the way up to the waist, and were sewn into padded trunks decorated with the infamous codpiece – that projecting pouch of stiffened cloth that perched over a chap’s package like a cricketer’s protective box.

By contrast, ladies’ legwear stopped around the knee, and she was unlikely to wear knickers either only wealthy Italian women of the 16th century were known to wear ‘drawers’. Instead, women wore ankle-length linen slips, while men tucked their shirt under their genitals. This was particularly the case during the 1600s, when it was feared that washing the body with water was liable to cause diseases to enter through the skin, so it was much safer to regularly change and launder one’s underwear instead.

Relying on layers of petticoats, then, most Western women only slipped into their drawers in the early 1800s, and by the 1840s these then evolved into the risqué pantalettes that frilled decoratively around the calves. Some men continued tucking their shirt under their naughty bits well into the 1800s, but as early as the late 1600s, King Charles II wore 13 inch-long silk boxers, tightened around his regal waist with ribbons, while the diminutive King William III and II – who booted Charles’s Catholic brother, James II and VI, off the throne – was said to go to bed in rough woollen drawers, green socks and a red vest, making him presumably resemble one of Santa’s Christmas elves. It was also recently discovered that the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who was mummified after his death in 1832, was wearing boxer shorts at his funeral. In any case, we can summarise that drawers were often worn by men from the 1700s onwards.

Bentham had lived through the fashion-crazed 18th century, when a new element of high status underwear entered the fray. Corsetry was commonly seen on the preening male Macaroni, but it was only their credibility and bank balance that suffered. Women, on the other hand, could – in the most extreme cases – be physically damaged by the trend for ‘tight-lacing’, which reached its height of popularity in the 19th century when the idealised female form was for tiny waists but broad hips. Most fashionable ladies strived for a circumference of just 21 inches, but the French-Algerian actress Émilie Marie Bouchaud, who performed under the stage-name of Polaire, was famed for her pneumatic 38inch bust and minuscule 16inch waist.

Recent research has challenged the ‘corset myth’ that such garments were dangerous, and it now seems many women wore them without obvious health complications. Historians have traditionally decried corsetry by citing complaints made about the fashion by Victorian writers and doctors, who feared that the crushing of the ribs with whalebone stays inevitably could cause irreparable damage to the body, not least because adapted models were even worn during pregnancy. The critics’ list of potential ailments included: bruising, shallow breathing – so that just climbing the stairs was enough to bring on dizzy spells – muscular atrophy in the abdomen and back, reduced natural fertility, and, in the rarest and most severe cases, organ failure. These alarming consequences were probably from over-tightened and ill-fitting corsets, and were likely rare in occurrence.

By the early 20th century the fashion for boned-corseting dwindled, leaving in its wake just the supportive fabric girdle that connected the brassiere to the hold-up stockings and knickerbockers. This corselette, popular in the 1950s, was also then abandoned by young women in the 1960s, who elected instead to expose their belly buttons and embrace the simplicity of just bras and knickers.

But fashions are cyclical, and the retro look is now back in style. Stockings, girdles, brassieres and suspenders have remained as intimate lingerie for bedroom seduction, or saucy glamour modelling, and the return of the belly-squishing corset, in the form of the flattering Spanx, shows we’re not over the historical obsession with flat tummies…

Greg Jenner is the historical consultant on CBBC’s multi-award winning Horrible Histories. He is also the author of A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life (W&N, January 2015). You can follow him on Twitter @greg_jenner.

This feature was published as part of our Love & Romance Week 2015, celebrating Valentine’s Day, and was updated in January 2017. To read all our romance coverage, click here.


The Evolution of Lingerie Through the Ages

The holiday season puts everyone in a festive mood, which is likely why Victoria's Secret holds its annual fashion show right before Christmas.

Sure, it's a valuable marketing opportunity for the retailer ahead of a busy shopping season, but it's also a time to celebrate the history of women's lingerie. The models on stage certainly are young, but the garments they were wearing have a lineage that traces back thousands of years.

Ancient Greece

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The earliest form of undergarments specific to woman comes from ancient Greece, where women would wear a band of cloth to support their breasts. Minoan art depicting women living in ancient Crete more than 4,000 years ago shows women wearing such clothes.

Called an "apodesmos," the typically wool undergarment bore a basic resemblance to modern bra designs, in that these pieces were made of cloth that wrapped around the front of the chest and were secured with pins in the back.

Ancient Rome

Patrik Tschudin

In ancient Rome, custom dictated that women with larger breasts were considered unattractive, so women wore tight support garments, known as a "mamillare" or a "fascia," that would constrain and reduce the appearance of the size of their busts.

The primary purpose of the undergarments were functional, as opposed to aesthetic. As shown in this mosaic, from the Villa Romana del Casale and made in the 4th century, women would wear a mamillare for upper body support during athletic and dance events.

The Chemise

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

First developed during the Roman era and growing in popularity during the Middle Ages, the chemise was a loose undergarment worn to protect outwear from sweat and body oils. Chemises were worn by both women and men alike.

Du Dou

China Photos/Getty Images

While not the oldest form of lingerie, the Chinese du dou may be among the most enduring.

First fashionable among the upper classes during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the du dou is shaped almost like a bib with straps that tie around the neck and back. Like the undergarments of ancient Rome, it was designed to minimize the appearance of the size of the bust.

These garments are still available today and often worn not underneath clothes but as outerwear.

The Corset

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Unlike during ancient Rome, larger busts weren't quite as unpopular in the late Middle Ages and onward, as evidenced by the popularity of corset, which aimed to give women the appearance of having large busts and narrow waistlines.

Emerging in its earliest form some 4,000 years ago, the corset, a term coined in the 14th century, is the first undergarment designed primarily for aesthetic rather than practical purposes. Rather than being a garment that fits the shape of the user, a corset is designed to create a shape out of the woman.

Over the centuries, corset designs would incorporate different materials, from wood to metal rods to animal bones, and different designs, incorporating hooks, clips, straps and even pulleys.

The Modern Bra

Vecchio/Three Lions/Getty Images

Corsets reached the height of their popularity during the Victorian era, worn by both men and women, only to be displaced in the 20th century by the mass production of a different kind of support garment and a world war.

Although the brassiere has its origins in the ancient world, it wasn't until 1914 that a design created and patented by Mary Phelps Jacob would gain widespread usage and acceptance. Lightweight and comfortable, Jacob's "Backless Brassiere" separated each breast rather than pushing them together as with a corset. In the 1920s, individual cup sizes would follow, allowing for a more comfortable garment.

World War I wasn't just fought on the battlefield every day. It was also a struggle in the underwear drawers of women across America. The U.S. War Department asked women to stop buying corsets, in order to use those materials for the war effort. The campaign proved successful, saving enough steel to build two battleships.

Push-Up

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Swarovsk

Invented in 1947 by Frederick Mellinger, the push-up bra gave women what they had been missing since the decline of the corset: a little aesthetic edge. In the 1980s, Mellinger would make another form of lingerie, the thong, famous by mass-marketing the garments in his stores, Frederick's of Hollywood.

Back to Basics

John Sciulli/Getty Images for Victoria's Secret

Although bras were originally designed as support garments to help women with physical activity, remarkably it wasn't until 1977 that the first sports bra, known as the Jogbra, was created by a female duo who created their original design using two jock straps.

That same year, the first Victoria's Secret opened its doors in San Francisco, Calif.

The Future Is Here

Spencer Platt/Newsmakers

No longer are undergarments made from wool and whale bones. Now women can have the support of cloths, foams, gels, pads, straps, air pockets and more.

And with Victoria's Secret introducing a new fantasy bra every show, they can also have a multi-millionaire lingerie set covered in precious gemstones. At $15 million, the Red Hot Fantasy Bra worn by supermodel Gisele Bundchen in 2000 is the most expensive lingerie in the world.


Contents

Undergarments are known by a number of terms. Underclothes, underclothing and underwear are formal terms, while undergarments may be more casually called, in Australia, Reg Grundys (rhyming slang for undies) and Reginalds, and, in the United Kingdom, smalls (from the earlier smallclothes) and (historically) unmentionables. In the United States, women's underwear may be known as delicates due to the recommended washing machine cycle or because they are, simply put, delicate. [ citation needed ]

Women's undergarments collectively are also called lingerie. They also are called intimate clothing and intimates.

An undershirt (vest in the United Kingdom) is a piece of underwear covering the torso, while underpants (pants in the United Kingdom), drawers, and undershorts cover the genitals and buttocks. Terms for specific undergarments are shown in the table below.

Not wearing underpants under outer clothing is known in American slang as going commando, [1] free-balling for males, or free-buffing for females. The act of a woman not wearing a bra is sometimes referred to as freeboobing. [2]

Underwear is worn for a variety of reasons. They keep outer garments from being soiled by perspiration, urine, [3] semen, pre-seminal fluid, feces, vaginal discharge, and menstrual blood. [4] Women's brassieres provide support for the breasts, and men's briefs serve the same function for the male genitalia. A corset may be worn as a foundation garment to provide support for the breasts and torso, as well as to alter a woman's body shape. For additional support and protection when playing sports, men often wear more tightly fitting underwear, including jockstraps and jockstraps with cup pocket and protective cup. Women may wear sports bras which provide greater support, thus increasing comfort and reducing the chance of damage to the ligaments of the chest during high-impact exercises such as jogging. [ citation needed ]

In cold climates, underwear may constitute an additional layer of clothing helping to keep the wearer warm. Underwear may also be used to preserve the wearer's modesty – for instance, some women wear camisoles and slips (petticoats) under clothes that are sheer. Conversely, some types of underwear can be worn for sexual titillation, such as edible underwear or crotchless panties. [ citation needed ]

Undergarments are worn for insulation under space suits and dry suits. In the case of dry suits, the insulation value of the undergarments is selected to match the expected water temperature and the level of activity for the planned dive or water activity. [5]

Some items of clothing are designed exclusively as underwear, while others such as T-shirts and certain types of shorts are suitable both as underwear and as outer clothing. The suitability of underwear as outer clothing is, apart from the indoor or outdoor climate, largely dependent on societal norms, fashion, and the requirements of the law. If made of suitable material, some underwear can serve as nightwear or swimsuits. [ citation needed ]

Religious functions Edit

Undergarments can also have religious significance:

  • Judaism. To conform with societal dress codes, the tallit katan is often worn beneath the shirt. [citation needed]
  • Mormonism. Following their endowment in a temple, Mormons wear special temple garments which help them to remember the teachings of the temple. [6]
  • Sikhism. One of the five articles of faith (panj kakaar) worn by Sikh men and women is a certain style of underpants similar to boxer shorts and known as the kacchera. [citation needed]
  • Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrians wear an undershirt called a Sedreh that is fastened with a sacred girdle around the waist known as a Kushti. [citation needed]

Ancient history Edit

The loincloth is the simplest form of underwear it was probably the first undergarment worn by human beings. In warmer climates the loincloth was often the only clothing worn (effectively making it an outer garment rather than an undergarment), as was doubtless its origin, but in colder regions the loincloth often formed the basis of a person's clothing and was covered by other garments. In most ancient civilizations, this was the only undergarment available.

A loincloth may take three major forms. The first, and simplest, is simply a long strip of material which is passed between the legs and then around the waist. Archaeologists have found the remains of such loincloths made of leather dating back 7,000 years. [7] The ancient Hawaiian malo was of this form, as are several styles of the Japanese fundoshi. Another form is usually called a cache-sexe: a triangle of cloth is provided with strings or loops, which are used to fasten the triangle between the legs and over the genitals. Egyptian king Tutankhamun (1341 BC – 1323 BC) was found buried with numerous linen loincloths of this style. [7] An alternate form is more skirt-like: a cloth is wrapped around the hips several times and then fastened with a girdle.

Men are said to have worn loincloths in ancient Greece and Rome, though it is unclear whether Greek women wore undergarments. There is some speculation that only slaves wore loincloths and that citizens did not wear undergarments beneath their chitons. Mosaics of the Roman period indicate that women (primarily in an athletic context, whilst wearing nothing else) sometimes wore strophiae (breastcloths) or brassieres made of soft leather, along with subligacula which were either in the form of shorts or loincloths. Subligacula were also worn by men. [7]

The fabric used for loincloths may have been wool, linen or a linsey-woolsey blend. Only the upper classes could have afforded imported silk.

The loincloth continues to be worn by people around the world – it is the traditional form of undergarment in many Asian societies, for example. In various, mainly tropical, cultures, the traditional male dress may still consist of only a single garment below the waist or even none at all, with underwear as optional, including the Indian dhoti and lungi, or the Scottish kilt.

Middle Ages and Renaissance Edit

In the Middle Ages, western men's underwear became looser fitting. The loincloth was replaced by loose, trouser-like clothing called braies, which the wearer stepped into and then laced or tied around the waist and legs at about mid-calf. Wealthier men often wore chausses as well, which only covered the legs. [7] Braies (or rather braccae) were a type of trouser worn by Celtic and Germanic tribes in antiquity and by Europeans subsequently into the Middle Ages. In the later Middle Ages they were used exclusively as undergarments. [ citation needed ]

By the time of the Renaissance, braies had become shorter to accommodate longer styles of chausses. Chausses were also giving way to form-fitting hose, [7] which covered the legs and feet. Fifteenth-century hose were often particolored, with each leg in a different-colored fabric or even more than one color on a leg. However, many types of braies, chausses and hose were not intended to be covered up by other clothing, so they were not actually underwear in the strict sense.

Braies were usually fitted with a front flap that was buttoned or tied closed. This codpiece allowed men to urinate without having to remove the braies completely. [7] Codpieces were also worn with hose when very short doublets – vest- (UK: waistcoat-) like garments tied together in the front and worn under other clothing – were in fashion, as early forms of hose were open at the crotch. Henry VIII of England began padding his codpiece, which caused a spiralling trend of larger and larger codpieces that only ended by the end of the 16th century. It has been speculated that the King may have had the sexually transmitted disease syphilis, and his large codpiece may have included a bandage soaked in medication to relieve its symptoms. [7] Henry VIII also wanted a healthy son and may have thought that projecting himself in this way would portray fertility. Codpieces were sometimes used as a pocket for holding small items. [7]

Over the upper part of their bodies, both medieval men and women usually wore a close-fitting shirt-like garment called a chemize in France, or a smock or shift in England. The forerunner of the modern-day shirt, the chemize was tucked into a man's braies, under his outer clothing. Women wore a chemize underneath their gowns or robes, sometimes with petticoats over the chemize. Elaborately quilted petticoats might be displayed by a cut-away dress, in which case they served a skirt rather than an undergarment. During the 16th century, the farthingale was popular. This was a petticoat stiffened with reed or willow rods so that it stood out from a woman's body like a cone extending from the waist.

Corsets also began to be worn about this time. At first they were called pairs of bodies, which refers to a stiffened decorative bodice worn on top of another bodice stiffened with buckram, reeds, canes, whalebone or other materials. These were not the small-waisted, curved corsets familiar from the Victorian era, but straight-lined stays that flattened the bust.

Men's braies and hose were eventually replaced by simple cotton, silk, or linen drawers, which were usually knee-length trousers with a button flap in the front. [7]

In 2012, findings in Lengberg Castle, in Austria, showed that lace and linen brassiere-like garments, one of which greatly resembled the modern bra, date back to hundreds of years before it was thought to exist. [8] [9]

Enlightenment and Industrial Age Edit

The invention of the spinning jenny machines and the cotton gin in the second half of the 18th century made cotton fabrics widely available. This allowed factories to mass-produce underwear, and for the first time, large numbers of people began buying undergarments in stores rather than making them at home.

Women's stays of the 18th century were laced behind and drew the shoulders back to form a high, round bosom and erect posture. Coloured stays were popular. With the relaxed country styles of the end of the century, stays became shorter and were unboned or only lightly boned, and were now called corsets. As tight waists became fashionable in the 1820s, the corset was again boned and laced to form the figure. By the 1860s, a tiny ("wasp") waist came to be seen as a symbol of beauty, and the corsets were stiffened with whalebone or steel to accomplish this. While "tight lacing" of corsets was not a common practice except among a minority of women, which sometimes led to a woman needing to retire to the fainting room, the primary use of a corset was to create a smooth line for the garments to effect the fashionable shape of the day, using the optical illusion created by the corset and garments together to achieve the look of a smaller waist. [10] By the 1880s, the dress reform movement was campaigning against the alleged pain and damage to internal organs and bones caused by tight lacing. Inez Gaches-Sarraute invented the "health corset", with a straight-fronted bust made to help support the wearer's muscles.

The corset was usually worn over a thin shirt-like shift of linen or cotton or muslin. [11] Skirt styles became shorter and long drawers called pantalettes or pantaloons kept the legs covered. Pantalettes originated in France in the early 19th century, and quickly spread to Britain and America. Pantalettes were a form of leggings or long drawers. They could be one-piece or two separate garments, one for each leg, attached at the waist with buttons or laces. The crotch was left open for hygiene reasons.

As skirts became fuller from the 1830s, women wore many petticoats to achieve a fashionable bell shape. By the 1850s, stiffened crinolines and later hoop skirts allowed ever wider skirts to be worn. The bustle, a frame or pad worn over the buttocks to enhance their shape, had been used off and on by women for two centuries, but reached the height of its popularity in the later 1880s, and went out of fashion for good in the 1890s. Women dressed in crinolines often wore drawers under them for modesty and warmth.

Another common undergarment of the late 19th century for men, women, and children was the union suit. Invented in Utica, New York and patented in 1868, this was a one-piece front-buttoning garment usually made of knitted material with sleeves extending to the wrists and legs down to the ankles. It had a buttoned flap (known colloquially as the "access hatch", "drop seat", or "fireman's flap") in the back to ease visits to the toilet. The union suit was the precursor of long johns, a two-piece garment consisting of a long-sleeved top and long pants possibly named after American boxer John L. Sullivan who wore a similar garment in the ring. [7]

The jockstrap was invented in 1874, by C.F. Bennett of a Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, to provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston, Massachusetts. [7] In 1897 Bennett's newly formed Bike Web Company patented and began mass-producing the Bike Jockey Strap. [12]

1900s to 1920s Edit

By the early 20th century, the mass-produced undergarment industry was booming, and competition forced producers to come up with all sorts of innovative and gimmicky designs to compete. The Hanes company emerged from this boom and quickly established itself as a top manufacturer of union suits, which were common until the 1930s. [7] Textile technology continued to improve, and the time to make a single union suit dropped from days to minutes.

Meanwhile, designers of women's undergarments relaxed the corset. The invention of new, flexible but supportive materials allowed whalebone and steel bones to be removed. The emancipation or liberty bodice offered an alternative to constricting corsets, and in Australia and the UK the liberty bodice became a standard item for girls as well as women.

Men's underwear was also on the rise. Benjamin Joseph Clark, a migrant to Louisiana from New Jersey, opened a venture capitalist firm named Bossier in Bossier Parish. One product manufactured by his firm was tightly fitting boxer shorts that resembled modern underwear. Though the company was bankrupt by the early 20th century, it had some impact on men's underwear design.

Underwear advertising first made an appearance in the 1910s. The first underwear print advertisement in the US appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1911 and featured oil paintings by J. C. Leyendecker of the "Kenosha Klosed Krotch". Early underwear advertisements emphasised durability and comfort, and fashion was not regarded as a selling point.

By the end of the 1910s, Chalmers Knitting Company split the union suit into upper and lower sections, effectively inventing the modern undershirt and drawers. Women wore lacier versions of this basic duo known as the camisole and tap pants.

In 1912, the US had its first professional underwear designer. Lindsay "Layneau" Boudreaux, a French immigrant, established the short-lived panty company Layneau. Though her company closed within one year, it had a significant impact on many levels. Boudreaux showed the world that an American woman could establish and run a company, and she also caused a revolution in the underwear industry.

In 1913, a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob created the first modern brassiere by tying two handkerchiefs together with ribbon. Jacob's original intention was to cover the whalebone sticking out of her corset, which was visible through her sheer dress. Jacob began making brassieres for her family and friends, and news of the garment soon spread by word of mouth. By 1914, Jacob had a patent for her design and was marketing it throughout the US. Although women had worn brassiere-like garments in years past, Jacob's was the first to be successfully marketed and widely adopted.

By the end of the decade, trouser-like "bloomers", which were popularized by Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818–1894) but invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller, gained popularity with the so-called Gibson Girls who enjoyed pursuits such as cycling and tennis. This new female athleticism helped push the corset out of style. The other major factor in the corset's demise was the fact that metal was globally in short supply during the First World War. Steel-laced corsets were dropped in favor of the brassiere.

Meanwhile, World War I soldiers were issued button-front shorts as underwear. The buttons attached to a separate piece of cloth, or "yoke", sewn to the front of the garment, and tightness of fit was adjusted by means of ties on the sides. This design proved so popular that it began to supplant the union suit in popularity by the end of the war. Rayon garments also became widely available in the post-war period.

In the 1920s, manufacturers shifted emphasis from durability to comfort. Union suit advertisements raved about patented new designs that reduced the number of buttons and increased accessibility. Most of these experimental designs had to do with new ways to hold closed the crotch flap common on most union suits and drawers. A new woven cotton fabric called nainsook gained popularity in the 1920s for its durability. Retailers also began selling preshrunk undergarments.

Also in the 1920s, as hemlines of women's dresses rose, women began to wear stockings to cover the exposed legs. Women's bloomers also became much shorter. The shorter bloomers became looser and less supportive as the boyish flapper look came into fashion. By the end of the decade, they came to be known as "step-ins", very much like modern panties but with wider legs. They were worn for the increased flexibility they afforded.

The garter belt was invented to keep stockings from falling.

In 1928, Maidenform, a company operated by Ida Rosenthal, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, developed the brassiere and introduced modern cup sizes for bras.

1930s and 1940s Edit

Modern men's underwear was largely an invention of the 1930s. On 19 January 1935, Coopers Inc. sold the world's first briefs in Chicago. Designed by an "apparel engineer" named Arthur Kneibler, briefs dispensed with leg sections and had a Y-shaped overlapping fly. [7] The company dubbed the design the "Jockey" since it offered a degree of support that had previously only been available from the jockstrap. Jockey briefs proved so popular that over 30,000 pairs were sold within three months of their introduction. Coopers, renaming their company Jockey decades later, sent its "Mascul-line" plane to make special deliveries of "masculine support" briefs to retailers across the US. In 1938, when Jockeys were introduced in the UK, they sold at the rate of 3,000 a week. [7]

In this decade, companies also began selling buttonless drawers fitted with an elastic waistband. These were the first true boxer shorts, which were named for their resemblance to the shorts worn by professional fighters. Scovil Manufacturing introduced the snap fastener at this time, which became a popular addition to various kinds of undergarments.

Women of the 1930s brought the corset back, now called the "girdle". The garment lacked the whalebone and metal supports and usually came with a brassiere (now usually called a "bra") and attached garters.

During World War II, elastic waistbands and metal snaps gave way once again to button fasteners due to rubber and metal shortages. Undergarments were harder to find as well, since soldiers abroad had priority to obtain them. By the end of the war, Jockey and Hanes remained the industry leaders in the US, but Cluett, Peabody and Company made a name for itself when it introduced a preshrinking process called "Sanforization", invented by Sanford Cluett in 1933, which came to be licensed by most major manufacturers.

Meanwhile, some women adopted the corset once again, now called the "waspie" for the wasp-shaped waistline it gave the wearer. Many women began wearing the strapless bra as well, which gained popularity for its ability to push the breasts up and enhance cleavage.

1950s and '60s Edit

Before the 1950s, underwear consisted of simple, white pieces of clothing which were not to be shown in public. In the 1950s, underwear came to be promoted as a fashion item in its own right, and came to be made in prints and colors. Manufacturers also experimented with rayon and newer fabrics like Dacron, nylon, and Spandex. [7] By the 1960, men's underwear was regularly printed in loud patterns, or with messages or images such as cartoon characters. By the 1960s, department stores began offering men's double-seat briefs, an optional feature that would double the wear and add greater comfort. Stores advertising the double thickness seat as well as the manufacturing brands such as Hanes and BVD during this time period can be viewed [13] using Newspapers.com.

Women's undergarments began to emphasize the breasts instead of the waist. The decade saw the introduction of the bullet bra pointed bust, inspired by Christian Dior's "New Look", which featured pointed cups. The original Wonderbra and push-up bra by Frederick's of Hollywood finally hit it big. Women's panties became more colorful and decorative, and by the mid-1960s were available in two abbreviated styles called the hip-hugger and the bikini (named after the Pacific Ocean island of that name), frequently in sheer nylon fabric.

Pantyhose, also called tights in British English, which combined panties and hose into one garment, made their first appearance in 1959, [14] invented by Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina. The company later introduced seamless pantyhose in 1965, spurred by the popularity of the miniskirt. By the end of the decade, the girdle had fallen out of favor as women chose sexier, lighter, and more comfortable alternatives. [15]

With the emergence of the woman's movement in the United States sales for pantyhose dropped off during the later half of the 1960s having soared initially. [14]


The True History of the Ultimate Wardrobe Essential—Your Bra

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Few clothing items are as entwined with the evolution of fashion and the cultural status of women as the bra. From its functional past to its fashionable present, the bra has shifted from a piece that is meant to remain hidden to one that women now layer more openly and purposefully into their looks. The needs of women have evolved and they have always needed their bras to keep up. Today, new innovations from long-standing intimate apparel brands, like Vanity Fair Lingerie, allow women to take on their days without ever being overshadowed by their undergarments.

Though the bra may seem decidedly modern, there are records of its existence—or versions of it—in ancient times. In India, the first mention of the bra dates back to literature from the reign of King Harshavardhana, who ruled from 606 to 647 C.E. During the Ming dynasty in China, from the 14th through 17th centuries, women wore a loose silk bodice tied at the neck and waist. Some of the first evidence of bras can even be found in wall paintings, including a Roman mosaic in the Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily, dating back to the 4th century A.D., as well as in Crete, from the 1300s, of women wearing bandeau bras.

Starting in the early 1500s, the corset was introduced, forever changing women’s silhouettes. In 1869, the first bra, the “corselet gorge,” was born in France when Herminie Cadolle cut a corset into two separate pieces. In 1893, Marie Tucek arguably invented the first underwire bra when she received a U.S. patent for her version that had separate pockets for each breast, with a metal plate and shoulder straps offering support.

American Vogue used the word "brassiere" for the first time in 1907, and it’s clear it had truly entered the vernacular when it was introduced to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1911. Shortly after, Vanity Fair became one of the first intimate-apparel brands in the U.S. when John Barbey founded Schuylkill Silk Mills in 1913. The company made its first silk underwear in 1914, and Barbey changed the name to Vanity Fair Silk Mills in 1919, focusing on manufacturing women's undergarments such as knickers, petticoats, bloomers, bodice vests, camisoles, bandeaux and chemises.

You’d think it would be the corset’s lack of comfort—and the health ailments it was known to cause—that led to its decline in America, but it was actually World War I. As women entered the workforce en masse for the first time, it wasn’t practical to wear them. Instead of long Victorian skirts, women started wearing more practical bloomers, which were pants-like garments meant to be worn under their clothes.

In the 1920s, Vanity Fair blended silk and rayon, responding to the continued silk embargo, dubbing it Silkenese—and in the 1930's debuted another industry first by adding in latex elastic to make lighter lingerie with a better fit.

It took until 1932 for most lingerie designers to realize that proper fit could go a long way—that’s when cup sizes, bands, and eye hooks were introduced. The 1940 introduction of nylon revolutionized the garment industry, and women flocked to purchase intimates created with the new synthetic material. Vanity Fair was also one of the largest purveyors in wartime needs for the United States during WWII, when they temporarily abandoned its lines of brasseries and girdles to manufacture silk parachutes, life boat sails and underwear for females in the military.

Around mid-century, bras started to evolve into true style staples. Vanity Fair brought leopard print to bras in 1953—thanks to the utilization of nylon tricot fabric that enabled color and prints to be added to its lingerie. It was an instant best seller and transformed bras from underwear to fashion statements, forever changing the way we think about lingerie to this day. The year 1977 welcomed the first sports bras, when childhood friends Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith put two jock straps together and dubbed it the Jogbra. (By 2014, sports bras had grown to a $7.1 billion businesses.)

The American bra industry continued to grow and evolve in the 2000s with everything from the creation of “fantasy” bras worth millions of dollars to anti-wrinkle solutions to the expansion of band and cup sizes. Today, there's a bra to complement every outfit, from plunging necklines to backless dresses. The latest bra innovation has been the introduction of no-show line products. Vanity Fair’s take on that innovation is front and center in their newest collection—Nearly Invisible— which features Flawless Edge design and silky-smooth fabric that blends into the skin for an invisible look under clothes.

This year, Vanity Fair celebrates 100 years of designing elegant and always-innovative lingerie. As the modern woman has evolved over the last one hundred years, the metamorphosis of the bra is a reflection of that transformation.


The Evolution of The Bra: A Timeline

The over-100-year modern history of the bra is full of twists and turns. Here’s a look at how the bra (or brassiere) as we know it came to be.

16th Century: The Rise of the Corset

The early 1500s marked the arrival of the corset among women in France. It grew in popularity as an undergarment that helped give women what was considered to be the perfect figure: the inverted cone shape. At this time, most corsets had a long piece of wood or whalebone sewn into the casing.

The early corset pushed the breasts up and together, causing the tops of the breasts to spill out of the tops of dresses for a shelf-like bust effect. The corset would live on as a popular woman’s undergarment for nearly four centuries.

1889: The Split Corset is Created

French designer Herminie Cadolle cut a corset in two, creating two separate undergarments. The top section supported the breasts by means of straps, while the lower piece cinched and shaped the waist.

1907: The Name “Brassiere” is Coined

The word “brassiere” is first coined by American Vogue, referring to the top section of Herminie Cadolle’s split corset. By 1911, the word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

1914: The First Modern Bra is Invented

New York City socialite Mary Phelps Jacob invented and patented the first modern bra using two silk handkerchiefs and a pink ribbon. Also called the “backless bra,” her invention was lightweight, soft, comfortable, and naturally separated the breasts. She eventually sold the patent to the Warner Brothers Corset Company.


The Ancient History of Modern Bras: Fashionable and Functional Female Underwear for Over 600 Years! - History

It’s amusing to think that in her youth, lingerie queen Chantal Thomass was anti-bra. It’s an undergarment that over the decades has fallen in and out of favour in line with changing social contexts, fashions and views on the female body. “With the advent of feminism in the 1960s we removed our bras. It was the hippie period and we’d wear T-shirts with nothing underneath, and go topless on the beach. Nobody goes topless on the beach anymore!” says the iconic red-lipped, black-bobbed French designer who in the ‘70s pioneered the concept of lingerie as a fashion accessory. “I put it on the catwalk during fashion week and that’s how it took off.”

At the time, the only place one could find sexy lingerie like garters and balcony bras was in Pigalle, Paris’s red light district, “in tacky fabrics”. Lingerie was considered functional, says Thomass, whose archive features designs from more feminine periods, such as delicate, flat styles from the 1920s and ‘30s in “exquisite colour mixes, fabrics and embroideries”. “Back then you could do beautiful handmade designs, today it’s too expensive,” laments the designer who regards the tradition of “breast support” and dressing or showcasing the breasts as “part of our patrimony”. “In Europe the tradition stretches back to the Middle Ages, though to varying degrees – supporting the breasts, for sure, has always been part of our culture,” Thomass tells BBC Culture. “It only really hits me when I travel to Asia where they have no bra culture, and see how fascinated they are by the undergarment. In the 19th Century in Asia women still [wrapped fabric around] their breasts they have never worn bras, it’s completely new over there.”

Among the most revolutionary bras, was fashion designer Rudi Gernreich’s 'no-bra' bra, launched in 1964 (Wikipedia)

The bra – short for the French word brassiere, literally 'bodice, child's vest' – is complex in fabrication. Early designs – often bulky, elaborate contraptions, or “boulder holders”, to borrow a phrase from Bette Midler’s satirical song Otto Titsling – were worlds away from today’s sophisticated, high-tech, high-stretch bras. An excerpt from the book Uplift: The Bra in America describes the scene back in the 1930s, the decade in which the large-scale production of bras began. “Mature customers and women of all ages with large pendulous breasts were offered long-line brassieres, built-up backs, firm bands under the cup, wedge-shaped inserts of cloth between the cups, wide straps, power Lastex and light boning.” According to the tome, it was SH Camp and Company that pioneered the chart relating the “size and pendulousness” of breasts to letters of the alphabet, A to D (a scale that today stretches to infinity). Prior to that, “companies had relied on stretchable cups to accommodate different depths of breast”.

“It’s a highly technical garment, made of lots of tiny pieces of fabric, with so many sizes to consider for the different cups, etc. It’s a garment you wash every day, so the seams and structure need to be extremely robust. It’s very different from a piece of clothing it’s in direct contact with the skin, it needs to be super solid,” Thomass explains, who recalls the impact Lycra had on the industry when it became big in the 1980s. “It brought new comfort and design possibilities. I had always loved Vargas’s paintings of pin-ups in underwear as the pieces looked like second skin and we were only able to do that when Lycra came along.”

It’s impossible to pinpoint when the bra was first invented, with early depictions of bra-like garments going back all the way to ancient Greece. The modern-day bra has often been presented as a successor to the corset, though the theory is sometimes challenged. During a dig at an Austrian castle in 2008, archaeologists unearthed four tattered bras remarkably similar to the undergarment’s modern form. A chicken-or-the-egg-style debate ensued.

The biggest bra in the world, designed by Laurence Billon, shown in 1989 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the bra (Pierre Boussel/AFP/Getty Images)

“Evolution sometimes takes a break,” argued Beatrix Nutz, an archaeologist and researcher at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, in smithsonianmag.com. “The Greek mathematician and geographer Eratosthenes (276 BC–195 BC) knew our planet was a globe and even calculated its circumference, but throughout the Middle Ages people believed it to be a flat disc. Bras are certainly not even remotely as important as the actual shape of the earth, but they were obviously invented, went out of fashion, were forgotten, and supposed to be invented (again) in the late 19th Century.” Nutz also cited two earlier written sources referencing what could be perceived as early versions of the bra. “The French surgeon Henri de Mondeville (1260-1320) reported what women whose breasts were too large did. They ‘insert two bags in their dresses, adjusted to the breasts, fitting tight, and put them into them every morning and fasten them when possible with a matching band,’” she said, adding: “An unknown German poet of the 15th Century wrote in his satirical poem, ‘Many make two breastbags, with them she roams the streets, so that all the young men that look at her, can see her beautiful breasts.”

Storm in a D-cup

According to Colleen Hill, associate curator, accessories, at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and organiser of the recent exhibition Exposed: A History of Lingerie, Cadolle, one of France’s oldest lingerie houses, was “certainly incredibly influential in introducing the bra as we know it today”. Indeed on its website the brand lays claim to the bra’s invention, attributing it to house founder Herminie Cadolle, “a feminist and revolutionary”. “At the end of the 19th Century, during the Belle Epoque, she chose to liberate women by liberating their bodies of the corset… She came up with this ever so small, tiny thing that today goes by the name of the bra.”

It’s impossible to pinpoint when the bra was first invented, with early depictions of bra-like garments going back all the way to ancient Greece (Underwood Archives/UIG/REX)

The bra in question, launched in 1889, was essentially a two-piece corset “which would have allowed for a little more freedom,” explains Hill. “As we move into the early 20th Century the bra very much corresponds to the idea of women leading more functional lives if you’re abandoning your corset for perhaps a more flexible girdle and a separate bra, that’s something that’s not only giving you a more modern silhouette, it’s also certainly allowing you a lot more flexibility and movement and corresponds to a more modern lifestyle.”

Among the most revolutionary bras, Hill points to fashion designer Rudi Gernreich’s “no-bra” bra, launched in 1964. Billed as the first sheer bra, the minimalist, unstructured design was a radical departure from the heavy, torpedo-shaped brassieres of the 1950s. While researching her show however, Hill unearthed evidence of an earlier example. “I was going through a trade magazine from the late 1940s that was focused on corsets, bras and lingerie and I found a kind of early version of a bra made from see-through fabric,” she recalls. “And the reason it stood out from the text and all of the illustrations in this fairly dense magazine was that the original owner of the magazine had circled the illustration and drawn a line up to the top of the page and written ‘Disgusting!’.”

On her Blonde Ambition World Tour, Madonna sported corsets with exaggerated in-built conical bras by Jean Paul Gaultier (Eugene Adebari/REX)

“I had researched previously Rudi Gernreich’s ‘no-bra’ bra, and how it was a success and sales for that bra were good, it made quite a big impact and you can see that very well into the 1970s, even today, so obviously people were ready for that style in the 1960s but not so much in the 1940s… It really was about making a statement about the acceptance of women’s bodies.”

Game of cones

Thirty years later, Madonna famously re-appropriated the bra – once rejected by feminists as a symbol of repression – to express her own statement on female sexuality and empowerment. On her Blonde Ambition World Tour, the singer sported corsets with exaggerated in-built conical bras by Jean Paul Gaultier who throughout his career has played on the concept of underwear as outerwear. “It’s provocative but it’s also really sexy and playful,” says Hill. “I loved reading about Gaultier’s interest in corsets and girdles and how that relates back to his childhood when women weren’t really wearing foundation garments like that and when he saw these pieces in his grandmother’s closet, he thought they looked so antiquated and strange. The idea of changing that into an item of fashion is really quite fun.”

The famous 1990s advert featuring Eva Herzigova (Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy)

Similarly, Wonderbra’s controversial 1994 Hello Boys advertising campaign, photographed by Ellen von Unwerth and starring Eva Herzigova, her cleavage thrust into view with aid from the bra’s padding and underwire construction, played on the idea of women embracing their sexuality. The Czech-born model insisted the campaign was “empowering”, according to a report in the Evening Standard.

Whether anti- or pro-bra, the popular association between feminism and the act of burning bras is a myth, according to Hill. “It relates back to the Miss America protest in 1968. The women who were protesting the Miss America Pageant had what they called a freedom trash can in which they threw a number of things it wasn’t exclusively bras and girdles – though those made their way in – it was also high heeled shoes and cosmetics and women’s magazines. However there was no actual burning. I think there was one person in all of history who claimed, yes, they burned them but most people say it was more of a symbolic burning it was throwing all these things into the trash can but, because of fire codes, nothing was actually burned.” Like Thomass, who started out celebrating the freedom of going braless and ended up embracing the undergarment as the symbol of absolute femininity, perceptions continue to shift about this ever-evolving design with multiple personalities and expressions.

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Drawers 1840-76

Drawers Merge Into Knickers

Combinations Arrive in 1877

From 1877 onwards the popular Victorian drawers had new competition from combinations.

Just as today women wear panties, knickers, thongs, briefs, g-strings, boy-shorts, bodies etc., so women sought the perfect underwear for their sense of self in Victorian times. The undergarment competition came in the form of a new underwear item called combinations.Combinations were first developed as a Victorian undergarment in 1877. They were initially made from linen, silk, merino, calico, cambric or nainsook in flesh pink tones or cream colours. The combinations were made more popular as a style in the late 1880s by Dr Jaeger and his underwear versions were made of fine wool.Right - Combinations 1893.

All-in-one Combination

Knickers

By 1895 knicker legs became very wide and decorated with frills at the knee. In general the width of the knicker leg was about 20 inches around the knee with a 10 inch lace frill. The knickers were easily accommodated under the wide petticoats and equally full wide skirts of the 1890s era.

Edwardian Cami- Knickers

In the early Edwardian era the frilled fancy knickers were often worn over the combinations. Left - Early Cami-Knickers.By 1905 the majority of fashions for using other fabrics been replaced by undergarments made solely from the finest lawn or cambric.

Directoire Knickers

Skirt Knickers - French Knickers

In the flapper era the latest knicker fashion was to wear either the new skirt knickers also known to us as French knickers (but then often open legged) or the closer body skimming fitting Directoire knickers.Right - French Skirt Knickers Image from a 1920 Copy of Everywoman's.The volume of undergarment types available in this transitional era of dress is positively baffling as new forms of underwear were devised to accommodate the shorter and more fitted lines of clothing.

A button and loop or tie fastening added here and there to hold the hem of a chemise underskirt together soon created the chemi-knickers in 1917 and these evolved into new style cami-knickers. Women passionate about equality in this era were just as passionate about abandoning old fashioned underwear styles for new innovative lines and with even newer sounding names.Right - Flapper's Cami-Knickers 1928.Closed Directoire knickers with flap poppers were attached to a camisole and then called cami-bockers. How undergarments fastened usually helped define their retail selling name, but the leg volume of the knickers often made the descriptive differences.

Combinations Combination Vests and Chemise Panty

100 Years of Combinations

By 1958 combinations looked like the blue slip garment far right.

If Rayon had been the fabric for underwear in the nineteen twenties and thirties, then for the fifties, sixties and seventies nylon (polyamide) gained a new grip on lingerie After that natural and luxury man made fabrics gained a following again.

This chemise combination was in a modern easy care nylon and described as a soft nylon tricot (knit jersey) which was basically a long chemise with panty legs attached, but in a briefer form than pieces of previous decades.

Left - Combination Chemise - Sears Catalogue 1958. One could also suggest that the 1980s teddy right is also in this combination category and was indeed an updated version, but exceptionally brief compared to the combinations of a 100 years earlier in 1877.

A Modern Combination 1980s Lingerie Teddy - 1982

From Layers and Layers to a Single Layer

Female undergarments began to contract. By 1917 the brassiere gained mass popularity and thinner lighter weight fabrics used for knickers and a simple camisole top that could button to the knickers meant that often this was all a woman wore beneath a lined garment. This was all in complete contrast to the body of heavy underclothes worn only 50 years previously.

Top clothing changed to the extent that the skin itself became fabric. Previously much of the body had been covered, but nude limbs now acted almost like a fabric, even more so once it became fashionable to enhance skin with a suntan thus bringing the ability to change even the hue of flesh as climatic conditions allowed. As the top outer garments were by then little more than a single layer dress or suit, the underwear needed to feel smoother for comfort. A scratchy wool top garment was more likely to irritate and chafe the skin beneath with fewer layers of undergarments.Left - The ultimate in chic undies - smoother underwear for smoother top clothes. Catalogue Underwear of 1949. Knit Rayon Briefs (D), Knit Rayon Bloomers (Elasticated Leg Directoire Knickers - E) and Knit Rayon Panties (C).The smoother fabric that proved ideal at this point was artificial silk made from rayon. It was known then as art silk.Simply put, artificial silk was made from a complex process of putting wood cellulose chips into chemicals for several days until that created a viscous solution. The solution then called viscose was thick enough to be extruded into a wet bath of more chemicals and it solidified on contact with the chemical bath. It left behind an artificially regenerated man made fibre that set on contact with the chemicals. Further treatments helped create a whole range of fibre variations as the century progressed. Artificial silk was affordable and available to all classes. A similar, but improved product called Cupro is available to us today.

Knickers to Panties

1940s Pants

Art silk remained popular, but in the 1940s and 1950s many pants were either made of cotton which could be boiled, or made of silk and kept to be worn for special occasions.Nylon (polyamide) was also a major player in the development of modern underwear. It was heavily promoted as easy launder since it dried far faster than rayon or cotton products. Ironing was often unnecessary or minimal with a cool iron. Cotton items, broderie anglaise lace products for example were scratchy by comparison and need heavy ironing after lots of dampening down.Cotton items like knit jersey aertex interlock white cotton knickers or silk and merino mix knickers were comfortable in a Bridget Jones manner, but by the sixties considered rather old fashioned. However often they were the only natural fabric alternatives. New pants were in Charmtrique (left) and Charmode (right).Above Right & Left - Catalogue Underwear of 1949. Knit Rayon Briefs, Knit Rayon Bloomers and Knit Rayon Panties.Sears Catalogue made a great case for their specially made panties made to new Charmode specifications. The advert went to great length to explain that only fine knit fabrics were used and that both the nylon and rayon construction they used was run proof and strong. The pants were wear-tested to prove the finer fit, and manufacturers claimed sizes were as accurate as dress sizes. This makes one wonder if the pants fit before this era was a fulsome as a Shalwar Kameez.

The advert above went on to explain that the Charmode pants were designed to fit smoothly with or without a girdle and that the new cut of what was then a short leg gave a pair of pants with less bulk and easy fit.The advertisement for panties made from 100% du Pont Nylon and available by catalogue heavily promoted the better characteristics of the fibre. One of the characteristics of nylon is that its fibres are hydrophobic, this has the undesirable effect of repelling perspiration, make the wearer feel uncomfortable in warm conditions. Perspiration that cannot be wicked away by the fabric oxidises and causes odours. This underwear really did need daily washing. But manufacturers were quick to point out of the benefits too, as the catalogue promotion advertisement above shows, panty garments could be made very close fitting to the body and help create smoother lines beneath clothes.

1950s & 1960s

1960s Pants

The blue lace panties left were called briefs when they reached the waist and when cut lower they were mostly referred to as hip huggers. Later as they became cut even lower they were often called bikini panties.

Winter Warmer Bloomers Long Johns, Pettipants or Demi-Johns

1965-1970s Hipster Briefs

Hipster styles of panties became fashionable in floral printed fabrics, bold colours and flesh toned knickers were the new must have.

By the 1980s, eco conscious superfine cotton jersey knickers were back in fashion, but so were slinky silk or polyester satin or crepe de chine French knickers dripping in lace. Below Winter 1982 J C Penney Catalogue - Basic Panty Briefs.

1980s Lingerie Camisoles and French Knickers

Designer Knickers

Briefer and Briefer Panties

Left - Typical Late 20 th Century Pant Styles.

Tangas

The brief was no longer a brief, it was a patch of fabric.Skimpy bits of fabric called tangas, thongs and strings merely covered private parts or sometimes barely covered the area and so made it necessary for extreme techniques of hair removal.The world today is only too familiar with waxing and G strings, once totally the province of strippers. Now it became a norm for many consumers in the 1990s particularly younger females who favoured low rise trousers and aped the starlets of erotic films. Previous to that, such styles were often kept for the privacy of the bedroom rather than everyday wear.Right - A Red Thong for 2010 by Matalan.

G-String Underwear

Famous Lingerie Brands

Famous makers of attractive underwear still include Janet Reger, Agent Provocateur, Rigby and Peller, La Senza, La Perla, Marks and Spencer, Gossard, Charnos, Lejaby, Victoria's Secret, Playtex, Warners, Triumph and Berlei.

Pants can be pretty and are then thought of as lingerie, but they are also designed to be functional. This pair of white briefs are knickers with a difference - the fabric has no hems and has no hemmed fabric edge but one that does not unravel nor show a ridge or visible panty line (VPL) beneath slinky fitting top garments.Right - White Perfect No Visible Panty Line Low Rise Shorts Marks & Spencer.

Knickers Can be Naughty

Right - Marks & Spencer Boy Shorts - Underwear for the Twentens. Pink vintage style lingerie £18/£8 Available From September 2010 Marks & Spencer.Knickers and their styles have always been a subject for fun and amusement in seaside postcards, cartoons and the butt of jokes about women who have let themselves go or lost interest in sex.

This has been emphasised even more in the past 20 years as some styles of knickers have moved through stages that have reduced the amount of fabric needed to make an item so small it can appear to consist of nothing more than a bit of strapping reminiscent of a 1950's sanitary belt.

Some Noughties Knicker Fashion Statistics

In the UK in 2003 Marks and Spencer the clothing store had coverage on one third of the British lingerie market. This made it then the first stop in Britain when a consumer sought underwear, with the average woman buying 8 pairs of knickers a year and the store selling 60 pairs a minute. In the UK Marks and Spencer then was selling 25 million pairs of knickers every year, with 4.8 million women confessing to owning a pair of large Bridget Jones style pants or full briefs as Marks describes them.

Apparently Marks and Spencer's underwear (pants) is one of the things UK ex-pats miss most when living abroad. No doubt they will be relieved that Marks & Spencer now ship goods internationally as well as within UK. Their top purchasing countries abroad include The United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand and Spain. The knicker elastic M&S use has to survive 1000 washes. The admiring glances they get - well that's up to you. maybe not so many glances after 1000 washes.


1837-1913

The Victorian era lasts 64 years so in fashion history terms has to be subdivided beyond the length of reign.

Early Victorian Era

When Queen Victoria was crowned in 1837 the Romantic Era drew to a close. Dress styles between 1837 and 1856 are known as Early Victorian. Sometimes it is also called the Crinoline Era which came about at the time when Charles Worth was making a name for himself as the first modern Couturier.

Mid Victorian Dress – First Bustle Era

Mid Victorian dress lasts from 1860 to 1882. Sometimes it is called the First Bustle Era.

Late Victorian Dress – Second Bustle Era

Late Victorian Dress spans the period 1883 to 1901 and covers the Second Bustle Era, Gibson Girls and tailor made suits.

Naughty Nineties

Within the late Victorian time frame are secondary periods such as the Naughty Nineties, the final decade of the 19 th Century. See Late Victorian dress.

Fin de Siècle

The last decades of the 19 th century from 1870 to 1914 the French called Fin de Siècle. It culminated in Art Nouveau linear curves in dress, decorative arts and design. It should not be taken literally as the end of the century. It heralded the mood of change from an old world to a modern era. Art Nouveau embraced new ideas in changing technology, cultural, social and political changes, urbanization and a lingering nostalgia for the old and valued. Metaphysical thought implies that the last 25 years of a century heralds a new energy. See The Aesthetics and Jewellery.

La Belle Époque Era

This period from the mid 1890s to 1914 was the era the French called La Belle Époque and J. B. Priestley called the ‘Lost Golden Age’. Although mainly covering the Edwardian Era it puts La Belle Époque into a time capsule. La Belle Époque captures the mood in that indefinable time of beautiful dress and luxury living for the few in the two decades immediately before the outbreak and devastation created by World War One.

The 20 th Century

The 20 th century has rarely had the name of the monarch or the name of a royal house lent to any era. There was an attempt in 1953 at the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II and later in 1977 after 25 years reign to use the term New Elizabethans. Also the global nature of communication means that eras are more likely to be named after a war or technological era than a British queen or king as happened when Britain ruled the waves. So in the 20 th Century we heard the terms space age, antibiotic age, technological society, computer age, age of Aquarius, new age and the communications era. We began the year 2000 by calling the new era the millennium era, but since the the repercussions of Sept 11 th 2001 have caused waves across the world various phrases have been applied such as the freedom age, carpe diem age, or simply after nine eleven. Now we are more happily referring to it as the double meaning term the noughties.

Art Nouveau Era

Art Nouveau was a decorative art form which followed on from the Arts and Crafts Movement. It spread throughout Europe and was a dominant art form in 1900 at the Paris Exhibition. It primarily covered interiors, architecture, jewellery and furniture design. But its importance filtered through into fashion and fabrics. The long stylised flowers and flowing embroidered borders with trails of organic forms of Art Nouveau are all reflected in the clothes of the Edwardian Hostess. Their skirts belled out and flowed like blossoming opening floral forms. The embellishment captured the graceful Art Nouveau forms. These fashions in textiles were revived in the 1960s by the House of Liberty.


Contents

Undergarments are known by a number of terms. Underclothes, underclothing and underwear are formal terms, while undergarments may be more casually called, in Australia, Reg Grundys (rhyming slang for undies) and Reginalds, and, in the United Kingdom, smalls (from the earlier smallclothes) and (historically) unmentionables. In the United States, women's underwear may be known as delicates due to the recommended washing machine cycle or because they are, simply put, delicate. [ citation needed ]

Women's undergarments collectively are also called lingerie. They also are called intimate clothing and intimates.

An undershirt (vest in the United Kingdom) is a piece of underwear covering the torso, while underpants (pants in the United Kingdom), drawers, and undershorts cover the genitals and buttocks. Terms for specific undergarments are shown in the table below.

Not wearing underpants under outer clothing is known in American slang as going commando, [1] free-balling for males, or free-buffing for females. The act of a woman not wearing a bra is sometimes referred to as freeboobing. [2]

Underwear is worn for a variety of reasons. They keep outer garments from being soiled by perspiration, urine, [3] semen, pre-seminal fluid, feces, vaginal discharge, and menstrual blood. [4] Women's brassieres provide support for the breasts, and men's briefs serve the same function for the male genitalia. A corset may be worn as a foundation garment to provide support for the breasts and torso, as well as to alter a woman's body shape. For additional support and protection when playing sports, men often wear more tightly fitting underwear, including jockstraps and jockstraps with cup pocket and protective cup. Women may wear sports bras which provide greater support, thus increasing comfort and reducing the chance of damage to the ligaments of the chest during high-impact exercises such as jogging. [ citation needed ]

In cold climates, underwear may constitute an additional layer of clothing helping to keep the wearer warm. Underwear may also be used to preserve the wearer's modesty – for instance, some women wear camisoles and slips (petticoats) under clothes that are sheer. Conversely, some types of underwear can be worn for sexual titillation, such as edible underwear or crotchless panties. [ citation needed ]

Undergarments are worn for insulation under space suits and dry suits. In the case of dry suits, the insulation value of the undergarments is selected to match the expected water temperature and the level of activity for the planned dive or water activity. [5]

Some items of clothing are designed exclusively as underwear, while others such as T-shirts and certain types of shorts are suitable both as underwear and as outer clothing. The suitability of underwear as outer clothing is, apart from the indoor or outdoor climate, largely dependent on societal norms, fashion, and the requirements of the law. If made of suitable material, some underwear can serve as nightwear or swimsuits. [ citation needed ]

Religious functions Edit

Undergarments can also have religious significance:

  • Judaism. To conform with societal dress codes, the tallit katan is often worn beneath the shirt. [citation needed]
  • Mormonism. Following their endowment in a temple, Mormons wear special temple garments which help them to remember the teachings of the temple. [6]
  • Sikhism. One of the five articles of faith (panj kakaar) worn by Sikh men and women is a certain style of underpants similar to boxer shorts and known as the kacchera. [citation needed]
  • Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrians wear an undershirt called a Sedreh that is fastened with a sacred girdle around the waist known as a Kushti. [citation needed]

Ancient history Edit

The loincloth is the simplest form of underwear it was probably the first undergarment worn by human beings. In warmer climates the loincloth was often the only clothing worn (effectively making it an outer garment rather than an undergarment), as was doubtless its origin, but in colder regions the loincloth often formed the basis of a person's clothing and was covered by other garments. In most ancient civilizations, this was the only undergarment available.

A loincloth may take three major forms. The first, and simplest, is simply a long strip of material which is passed between the legs and then around the waist. Archaeologists have found the remains of such loincloths made of leather dating back 7,000 years. [7] The ancient Hawaiian malo was of this form, as are several styles of the Japanese fundoshi. Another form is usually called a cache-sexe: a triangle of cloth is provided with strings or loops, which are used to fasten the triangle between the legs and over the genitals. Egyptian king Tutankhamun (1341 BC – 1323 BC) was found buried with numerous linen loincloths of this style. [7] An alternate form is more skirt-like: a cloth is wrapped around the hips several times and then fastened with a girdle.

Men are said to have worn loincloths in ancient Greece and Rome, though it is unclear whether Greek women wore undergarments. There is some speculation that only slaves wore loincloths and that citizens did not wear undergarments beneath their chitons. Mosaics of the Roman period indicate that women (primarily in an athletic context, whilst wearing nothing else) sometimes wore strophiae (breastcloths) or brassieres made of soft leather, along with subligacula which were either in the form of shorts or loincloths. Subligacula were also worn by men. [7]

The fabric used for loincloths may have been wool, linen or a linsey-woolsey blend. Only the upper classes could have afforded imported silk.

The loincloth continues to be worn by people around the world – it is the traditional form of undergarment in many Asian societies, for example. In various, mainly tropical, cultures, the traditional male dress may still consist of only a single garment below the waist or even none at all, with underwear as optional, including the Indian dhoti and lungi, or the Scottish kilt.

Middle Ages and Renaissance Edit

In the Middle Ages, western men's underwear became looser fitting. The loincloth was replaced by loose, trouser-like clothing called braies, which the wearer stepped into and then laced or tied around the waist and legs at about mid-calf. Wealthier men often wore chausses as well, which only covered the legs. [7] Braies (or rather braccae) were a type of trouser worn by Celtic and Germanic tribes in antiquity and by Europeans subsequently into the Middle Ages. In the later Middle Ages they were used exclusively as undergarments. [ citation needed ]

By the time of the Renaissance, braies had become shorter to accommodate longer styles of chausses. Chausses were also giving way to form-fitting hose, [7] which covered the legs and feet. Fifteenth-century hose were often particolored, with each leg in a different-colored fabric or even more than one color on a leg. However, many types of braies, chausses and hose were not intended to be covered up by other clothing, so they were not actually underwear in the strict sense.

Braies were usually fitted with a front flap that was buttoned or tied closed. This codpiece allowed men to urinate without having to remove the braies completely. [7] Codpieces were also worn with hose when very short doublets – vest- (UK: waistcoat-) like garments tied together in the front and worn under other clothing – were in fashion, as early forms of hose were open at the crotch. Henry VIII of England began padding his codpiece, which caused a spiralling trend of larger and larger codpieces that only ended by the end of the 16th century. It has been speculated that the King may have had the sexually transmitted disease syphilis, and his large codpiece may have included a bandage soaked in medication to relieve its symptoms. [7] Henry VIII also wanted a healthy son and may have thought that projecting himself in this way would portray fertility. Codpieces were sometimes used as a pocket for holding small items. [7]

Over the upper part of their bodies, both medieval men and women usually wore a close-fitting shirt-like garment called a chemize in France, or a smock or shift in England. The forerunner of the modern-day shirt, the chemize was tucked into a man's braies, under his outer clothing. Women wore a chemize underneath their gowns or robes, sometimes with petticoats over the chemize. Elaborately quilted petticoats might be displayed by a cut-away dress, in which case they served a skirt rather than an undergarment. During the 16th century, the farthingale was popular. This was a petticoat stiffened with reed or willow rods so that it stood out from a woman's body like a cone extending from the waist.

Corsets also began to be worn about this time. At first they were called pairs of bodies, which refers to a stiffened decorative bodice worn on top of another bodice stiffened with buckram, reeds, canes, whalebone or other materials. These were not the small-waisted, curved corsets familiar from the Victorian era, but straight-lined stays that flattened the bust.

Men's braies and hose were eventually replaced by simple cotton, silk, or linen drawers, which were usually knee-length trousers with a button flap in the front. [7]

In 2012, findings in Lengberg Castle, in Austria, showed that lace and linen brassiere-like garments, one of which greatly resembled the modern bra, date back to hundreds of years before it was thought to exist. [8] [9]

Enlightenment and Industrial Age Edit

The invention of the spinning jenny machines and the cotton gin in the second half of the 18th century made cotton fabrics widely available. This allowed factories to mass-produce underwear, and for the first time, large numbers of people began buying undergarments in stores rather than making them at home.

Women's stays of the 18th century were laced behind and drew the shoulders back to form a high, round bosom and erect posture. Coloured stays were popular. With the relaxed country styles of the end of the century, stays became shorter and were unboned or only lightly boned, and were now called corsets. As tight waists became fashionable in the 1820s, the corset was again boned and laced to form the figure. By the 1860s, a tiny ("wasp") waist came to be seen as a symbol of beauty, and the corsets were stiffened with whalebone or steel to accomplish this. While "tight lacing" of corsets was not a common practice except among a minority of women, which sometimes led to a woman needing to retire to the fainting room, the primary use of a corset was to create a smooth line for the garments to effect the fashionable shape of the day, using the optical illusion created by the corset and garments together to achieve the look of a smaller waist. [10] By the 1880s, the dress reform movement was campaigning against the alleged pain and damage to internal organs and bones caused by tight lacing. Inez Gaches-Sarraute invented the "health corset", with a straight-fronted bust made to help support the wearer's muscles.

The corset was usually worn over a thin shirt-like shift of linen or cotton or muslin. [11] Skirt styles became shorter and long drawers called pantalettes or pantaloons kept the legs covered. Pantalettes originated in France in the early 19th century, and quickly spread to Britain and America. Pantalettes were a form of leggings or long drawers. They could be one-piece or two separate garments, one for each leg, attached at the waist with buttons or laces. The crotch was left open for hygiene reasons.

As skirts became fuller from the 1830s, women wore many petticoats to achieve a fashionable bell shape. By the 1850s, stiffened crinolines and later hoop skirts allowed ever wider skirts to be worn. The bustle, a frame or pad worn over the buttocks to enhance their shape, had been used off and on by women for two centuries, but reached the height of its popularity in the later 1880s, and went out of fashion for good in the 1890s. Women dressed in crinolines often wore drawers under them for modesty and warmth.

Another common undergarment of the late 19th century for men, women, and children was the union suit. Invented in Utica, New York and patented in 1868, this was a one-piece front-buttoning garment usually made of knitted material with sleeves extending to the wrists and legs down to the ankles. It had a buttoned flap (known colloquially as the "access hatch", "drop seat", or "fireman's flap") in the back to ease visits to the toilet. The union suit was the precursor of long johns, a two-piece garment consisting of a long-sleeved top and long pants possibly named after American boxer John L. Sullivan who wore a similar garment in the ring. [7]

The jockstrap was invented in 1874, by C.F. Bennett of a Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, to provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston, Massachusetts. [7] In 1897 Bennett's newly formed Bike Web Company patented and began mass-producing the Bike Jockey Strap. [12]

1900s to 1920s Edit

By the early 20th century, the mass-produced undergarment industry was booming, and competition forced producers to come up with all sorts of innovative and gimmicky designs to compete. The Hanes company emerged from this boom and quickly established itself as a top manufacturer of union suits, which were common until the 1930s. [7] Textile technology continued to improve, and the time to make a single union suit dropped from days to minutes.

Meanwhile, designers of women's undergarments relaxed the corset. The invention of new, flexible but supportive materials allowed whalebone and steel bones to be removed. The emancipation or liberty bodice offered an alternative to constricting corsets, and in Australia and the UK the liberty bodice became a standard item for girls as well as women.

Men's underwear was also on the rise. Benjamin Joseph Clark, a migrant to Louisiana from New Jersey, opened a venture capitalist firm named Bossier in Bossier Parish. One product manufactured by his firm was tightly fitting boxer shorts that resembled modern underwear. Though the company was bankrupt by the early 20th century, it had some impact on men's underwear design.

Underwear advertising first made an appearance in the 1910s. The first underwear print advertisement in the US appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1911 and featured oil paintings by J. C. Leyendecker of the "Kenosha Klosed Krotch". Early underwear advertisements emphasised durability and comfort, and fashion was not regarded as a selling point.

By the end of the 1910s, Chalmers Knitting Company split the union suit into upper and lower sections, effectively inventing the modern undershirt and drawers. Women wore lacier versions of this basic duo known as the camisole and tap pants.

In 1912, the US had its first professional underwear designer. Lindsay "Layneau" Boudreaux, a French immigrant, established the short-lived panty company Layneau. Though her company closed within one year, it had a significant impact on many levels. Boudreaux showed the world that an American woman could establish and run a company, and she also caused a revolution in the underwear industry.

In 1913, a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob created the first modern brassiere by tying two handkerchiefs together with ribbon. Jacob's original intention was to cover the whalebone sticking out of her corset, which was visible through her sheer dress. Jacob began making brassieres for her family and friends, and news of the garment soon spread by word of mouth. By 1914, Jacob had a patent for her design and was marketing it throughout the US. Although women had worn brassiere-like garments in years past, Jacob's was the first to be successfully marketed and widely adopted.

By the end of the decade, trouser-like "bloomers", which were popularized by Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818–1894) but invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller, gained popularity with the so-called Gibson Girls who enjoyed pursuits such as cycling and tennis. This new female athleticism helped push the corset out of style. The other major factor in the corset's demise was the fact that metal was globally in short supply during the First World War. Steel-laced corsets were dropped in favor of the brassiere.

Meanwhile, World War I soldiers were issued button-front shorts as underwear. The buttons attached to a separate piece of cloth, or "yoke", sewn to the front of the garment, and tightness of fit was adjusted by means of ties on the sides. This design proved so popular that it began to supplant the union suit in popularity by the end of the war. Rayon garments also became widely available in the post-war period.

In the 1920s, manufacturers shifted emphasis from durability to comfort. Union suit advertisements raved about patented new designs that reduced the number of buttons and increased accessibility. Most of these experimental designs had to do with new ways to hold closed the crotch flap common on most union suits and drawers. A new woven cotton fabric called nainsook gained popularity in the 1920s for its durability. Retailers also began selling preshrunk undergarments.

Also in the 1920s, as hemlines of women's dresses rose, women began to wear stockings to cover the exposed legs. Women's bloomers also became much shorter. The shorter bloomers became looser and less supportive as the boyish flapper look came into fashion. By the end of the decade, they came to be known as "step-ins", very much like modern panties but with wider legs. They were worn for the increased flexibility they afforded.

The garter belt was invented to keep stockings from falling.

In 1928, Maidenform, a company operated by Ida Rosenthal, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, developed the brassiere and introduced modern cup sizes for bras.

1930s and 1940s Edit

Modern men's underwear was largely an invention of the 1930s. On 19 January 1935, Coopers Inc. sold the world's first briefs in Chicago. Designed by an "apparel engineer" named Arthur Kneibler, briefs dispensed with leg sections and had a Y-shaped overlapping fly. [7] The company dubbed the design the "Jockey" since it offered a degree of support that had previously only been available from the jockstrap. Jockey briefs proved so popular that over 30,000 pairs were sold within three months of their introduction. Coopers, renaming their company Jockey decades later, sent its "Mascul-line" plane to make special deliveries of "masculine support" briefs to retailers across the US. In 1938, when Jockeys were introduced in the UK, they sold at the rate of 3,000 a week. [7]

In this decade, companies also began selling buttonless drawers fitted with an elastic waistband. These were the first true boxer shorts, which were named for their resemblance to the shorts worn by professional fighters. Scovil Manufacturing introduced the snap fastener at this time, which became a popular addition to various kinds of undergarments.

Women of the 1930s brought the corset back, now called the "girdle". The garment lacked the whalebone and metal supports and usually came with a brassiere (now usually called a "bra") and attached garters.

During World War II, elastic waistbands and metal snaps gave way once again to button fasteners due to rubber and metal shortages. Undergarments were harder to find as well, since soldiers abroad had priority to obtain them. By the end of the war, Jockey and Hanes remained the industry leaders in the US, but Cluett, Peabody and Company made a name for itself when it introduced a preshrinking process called "Sanforization", invented by Sanford Cluett in 1933, which came to be licensed by most major manufacturers.

Meanwhile, some women adopted the corset once again, now called the "waspie" for the wasp-shaped waistline it gave the wearer. Many women began wearing the strapless bra as well, which gained popularity for its ability to push the breasts up and enhance cleavage.

1950s and '60s Edit

Before the 1950s, underwear consisted of simple, white pieces of clothing which were not to be shown in public. In the 1950s, underwear came to be promoted as a fashion item in its own right, and came to be made in prints and colors. Manufacturers also experimented with rayon and newer fabrics like Dacron, nylon, and Spandex. [7] By the 1960, men's underwear was regularly printed in loud patterns, or with messages or images such as cartoon characters. By the 1960s, department stores began offering men's double-seat briefs, an optional feature that would double the wear and add greater comfort. Stores advertising the double thickness seat as well as the manufacturing brands such as Hanes and BVD during this time period can be viewed [13] using Newspapers.com.

Women's undergarments began to emphasize the breasts instead of the waist. The decade saw the introduction of the bullet bra pointed bust, inspired by Christian Dior's "New Look", which featured pointed cups. The original Wonderbra and push-up bra by Frederick's of Hollywood finally hit it big. Women's panties became more colorful and decorative, and by the mid-1960s were available in two abbreviated styles called the hip-hugger and the bikini (named after the Pacific Ocean island of that name), frequently in sheer nylon fabric.

Pantyhose, also called tights in British English, which combined panties and hose into one garment, made their first appearance in 1959, [14] invented by Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina. The company later introduced seamless pantyhose in 1965, spurred by the popularity of the miniskirt. By the end of the decade, the girdle had fallen out of favor as women chose sexier, lighter, and more comfortable alternatives. [15]

With the emergence of the woman's movement in the United States sales for pantyhose dropped off during the later half of the 1960s having soared initially. [14]


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