The Modern History of Women’s Underwear

History has brought into light how leather, wool and linen were among the first materials to be used in making of all lingerie.  Later on, other materials like cotton, mixed cotton and Lycra were used. However, in terms of fabric, the popular choices among the modern lingerie include chiffon, satin, Italian and French laces and Italian silk.

Not only the fabric, but also the colour choices have greatly changed. From the most popular black and white shades, the trend changed towards bolder colours like red, hot pink and of late the craze is for the nude colours. These suits better especially the seamless variety for daily wear.

The modern lingerie industry has finally revolutionized lingerie to such an extent that the modern bras, bodies and corselets can directly be worn under a jacket!

The French Revolution (1789) set the stage for the Industrial Revolution. Mass production of commodities became possible during the industrial age. Establishment of cotton factories paved a way to produce clothes in a large scale, thus began the age of mass production of lingerie.

During the 1800’s, modifications of the olden lingerie lead to more trendy bloomers. These were mainly invented for women who were cyclists. Bloomers are essentially loose pants with a gathered narrow end and came in different lengths. Initially they were ankle length but slowly were shortened reaching up to the thighs. The corsets were also re-modeled to be more comfortable and became a common wear.

Came the 1900’s and with it, the fashion of garters and stockings. Garters helped to hold the corset to the high thigh stockings which were used to cover the bare legs since the underwear had become quite short in length.

As ladies became more involved in outdoor activities, the 20th century brought many changes within a short period of time. The invention of first handmade bra by Mary Phelps Jacob in 1913 rocked the lingerie world allowing more freedom from the uncomfortable corsets.  The Cami-knickers (camisole with short pants as a single piece) made a brief uproar as it was easier to wear it under figure hugging clothes.

Not too far down the line, Liberty bodice gained the market rampantly in the UK and Australia. This torso covering lingerie did what a corset did but more safely.

The 50’s focused on enhancing women’s breasts and so the pointed conical (bullet) bra, narrow waist and thigh high stockings were the trend of the day. For those women who had naturally flat bosoms discovered the use of the padded and under wired bras, miraculous.  As 80’s and 90’s emphasized on women’s cleavage as an element of beauty, Wonder-bra and push-up bras made total sense while wearing plunging necklines.

Today modern woman has everything one can imagine, gel-filled bra, air-filled and pasties, teddies, bustiers to babydolls, you name it . The desire to go sexier and skimpier has led to the G- and V- strings, thongs, crotch-less panties and pantyhose.

Not to discriminate, the underwear world has something for everyone. Bigger women can also try out the Plus size and feel equally hot and sexy.

Globally, the lingerie market is worth over $30 billion and has been dominated by the Western world with America and UK holding the charge. It is no news that Victoria Secret changed the view of lingerie from a taboo to a daily necessity. This American Company is the largest lingerie retailer in the US and has seen many competitors from different countries but is yet to have a replacer and so is considered the King in the Lingerie Market.

The increased demand for lingerie has been attributed to the younger population with per capita disposable income, the media influence and changing attitude towards innerwear.

What’s your signature lingerie?

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