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History of Undergarments

From petticoats to panties, bloomers to bralettes, undergarments have been transforming the way women get dressed for centuries. Here are the notable moments that have given new shape to our notables. Our way of saying thanks for all the support.

18th century – All tied up.

Corsets celebrate the idealized female form with tight waists and broad hips. Elaborate fastening defies a woman’s natural shape, damaging bodies and ribs along the way.

Short caption for drawing: “All tied up: Corsets make a case for the female form.” 

 1830s – Oh so petty.

Originally worn on the outside of clothing, the petticoat is revived in the Victorian era, giving bulk and shape to skirts, especially when worn over hoops.

Short caption for drawing: “Oh so petty: Petticoats add volume to skirts, keeping waists looking small.” 

1871 – In the hips.

A crinoline is designed to add volume beneath a woman’s skirt, made and structured of actual steel. The open volume of the crinoline was a rejection of corsets and bustles that women had been wearing for years. 

Short caption for drawing: “In the hips: Crinolines add volume beneath women’s skirts.” 

Late 19th century – Full bloom.

As women take steps into the late 19th century, skirts begin to get shorter, and pantaloons and bloomers are added as an extra layer of “protection.”

Short caption for drawing: “Full bloom: As skirts get shorter, women slip on pantaloons and bloomers.” 

1890 – At first blush.

Corsets get a whole new look as brighter hues, and more revealing designs in luxe fabrications like silk hit the market. Waists were cinched as small as 19 inches, turning the feminine form into the shape of flower on a bending stalk.

Short caption for drawing: “At first blush: Corsets get a new, more seductive, look.”

 1913 – With a bow. 

New Yorker Mary Phelps Jacob created the first modern “brassiere” when she tied two handkerchiefs together with a single ribbon to cover the whalebone sticking out of her corset. In 1914, she received a patent for the design and it became the first to be successfully marketed and widely adopted.

Short caption for drawing: “With a bow: The first brassiere debuts when two handkerchiefs are tied together.” 

1928 – In true form.

Created by Ida Rosenthal, Maidenform develops a brassiere which is the first to introduce modern cup sizing for bras.

Short caption for drawing: “In true form: Maidenform introduces modern bra cup sizing.”

 1940s – Wash and wear.

Manufacturers began to respond to women’s desire for more functional undergarments. The use of nylon transformed both the appearance and functionality of underwear – lightweight and easily washable. Modern women appreciated the new material’s labor- and time-saving qualities.

Short caption for drawing: “Wash and wear: Newer fabrics bring function to the forefront of undergarments.” 

1950s – Eye candy.

This was the decade when women’s undergarments began to emphasize the breasts, and become more colorful and decorative. The bullet bra debuted with a pointed bust and hip hugger and bikini underwear styles were introduced with more extensive coverage options.

Short caption for drawing: “Eye candy: Bras and underwear start to highlight different assets with extended coverage options.

1977 – Some Hanky Panky

While playing with handkerchiefs and rearranging them as lingerie, the iconic brand was formed. The design, later registered as the "world’s most comfortable thong,” has become so popular that it sells one per second.

Short caption for drawing: “Some Hanky Panky: The world’s most comfortable thong debuts.”                         

1994 – Sex appeal.

British lingerie brand Agent Provocateur becomes synonymous with racy, skin-baring designs. The company elevates luxury lingerie, and aims to make the designs less taboo.

Short caption for drawing: “Sex appeal: Luxury lingerie gets a whole new look, and more m-ass appeal.”  

2000 – Underneath it all.

Spanx, now one of the most ubiquitous names in undergarments, was developed. The patented technology specializes in foundational garments that are intended to be worn under clothing and make people appear thinner and slimmer.

Short caption for drawing: “Underneath it all: Spanx intends to make women look slimmer without all the work.” 

2003 – Going commando.

As a go-to for stylists, Commando’s patented designs eliminate lines and build the right foundation underneath clothes. Appealing to women’s undergarment garment woes, Commando’s seamless designs deliver seamless coverage.

Short caption for drawing: “Going commando: With seamless coverage, women find a foundation that no one knows you’re wearing.”

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