A little history of lingerie

Girdles And Garters ruled the 1950s (Source: Pinterest)

Throughout history, the female body has always sent out signals, whether wrapped, hidden in fabrics, or uncovered. Lingerie play an important role, even if it is not usually visible. Like clothes, the style and fashion of underwear reflects the changes in society, its cultural developments and social upheaval in different eras.


The history of lingerie is incredibly old and begins more than 2,000 years before Christ! (Unfortunately no photographs on those ones…)

Since the 13th century “Lingères” (laundry and household linen merchant) produced and sold shirts and household linen. Individual pieces were provided with personal embroidery and were the forerunners of today, consisting of rich fabrics and noble lace lingerie (French: underneath). Cool fact to know: the word “lingerie” for underwear derives from “Linge de corps” (linen for the body, Lin:.French for linen).

In the 15th century European women wore the supporting and shaping bodice even over clothing. The focus was put on the belly and flattened the breasts. Just imagine today if we all would prefer plump bellies instead of plump boobies! Until recently it was believed that 16th century women were naked underneath her garments and only in 1571 Catherine de Medici wore the first underpant covering the Body from waist to knee. However, recent finds of a brasier in Austria raised questions in the scientific world concerning our ancestors’ dressing habits, underwear, hygiene and social acceptance.

In the 17th century it was necessary to narrow the waist to accentuate the hips even more and create a seductive neckline – I guess that would have been Madonna’s and Cher’s favorite era. However, the women of this time wore  the precursor of the corset under their clothes.

The jump to fashion items for the masses in underwear succeeded in the 19th century with the industrial revolution and the discovery of new textiles. Behold! The first sewing machines for corsetry production were invented (only took them a couple of hundred years). Now lingerie lay out in large department stores. Women wore corsets, which began at the hips and were extended upwards and so reinforced that the chest was supported. Since 1828 they have been held by embarked metal eyelets. At that time, women’s underwear was already decorated with ribbons, noble Chantilly or Valenciennes lace and pearls.

Late 19th century, linen became more delicate and romantic. The trend went to a two-piece with a shortened top and a closed bottom, which for practical reasons was in fact for a long time open in the crotch or non-existent. At the beginning of the 20th century the first scientific journal appeared, “Les lingerie elegants”, which inspired the imagination of the contemporary society.

The first bra was introduced at the Universal Exhibition in 1900. However, it took a few more years until to perfection before customers accepted this new pieces of undergarment.

In the 1920’s the days for heavy underwear were over. The outerwear was more body fitting and shorter and the “underneath” conformed to the new clothing style. Elastic fabrics were now able to adapt to the different body shapes and sizes and made for ease of movement. Large breasts were additionally supported by new metal underwires, which were incorporated into the bra. In addition, for the first time, colors came into play. Black, white or flesh-colored silk stockings were held up by blue, pastel green or rose-colored girdles or garters.

The 1960’s brought along the tight-fitting panty. Body shaper pants combined with a tight fitting bra has survived to the present day and is primarily functional underwear. For the first time a synthetic fiber called Lycra enabled the production of seamless tights, and in 1961 came the first push-up bra into the market.

1968 brought a change of direction with a wave of emancipation. Women no longer wanted to be hampered and even went so far as to burn their bras. This development hit the lingerie industry abruptly and forced them to act. Other materials were in demand. Tulle, nylon and cotton made underwear now easy, transparent and even smaller. In the 1980s the thong, consisting of two fabric triangles, and the string, in which the rear triangle has been replaced by a buttock line, was born.

The “wild ’80s” were replaced by more subtle, but luxurios tones in the 1990s. Women rediscovered their femininity, and accentuated this with more elegant and sexy underwear.

This trend continues to the present day. Permitted is what pleases! Lingerie can be shown off and even visualized within the outerwear styling. Corsages and bodices can be worn on top. The most diverse materials provide variety.

The woman of today is self-confident and has her own style. She has discovered the ability to use the wide range to set exciting accents.

Now questions is, what comes next? What do you think? Or what would you like to see again?

Share your thoughts with me.

Yours, Saskia

Saskia Naujok
Saskia was born and raised in Berlin. Her love for different cultures has led her to travel and move around the globe. She feels at home in many places as a citizen of the world. She loves to share her experiences and believes that leaving her comfort zone is the best thing a person can do to grow.