A History of Lingerie
Want to know how and where lingerie originated? Then look no further, as we have compiled a concise, yet detailed, history for you of how lingerie has developed through the ages into what it is today. My how it has changed.
In one form or another, women have worn garments to support, suppress or accentuate their breasts as far back as 3000BC. Therefore, the modern day bra has developed from Cretan women who wore a hip corset beneath their ceremonial dress, the surcoate worn over the clothes in the middle ages. Depending on the fashions of the time the corset has aided to give shape and definition to the woman’s figure, such as the boyish shape of the Elizabethan & 1920’s.
By the 1500’s the corset elongated the body, flattened and raised the bust while hiding the stomach and hips. When worn with the ‘farthingale’ the wearer had to walk in a sedate gliding fashion. This is also the era of the iron corset - some say worn by Catherine D’Medici’s court as there were strict regulations which correlated a woman’s position in court by her waist size, others say it was for correcting bone deformities.
The corset, commonly known as a ‘stay’, was made of linen with boning and stiffened with paste. Women were then ‘straight-laced’ into them, and the term became synonymous with the pious Puritan women of the 17th century. By the latter part of this century the corsets were more elaborate and it was fashionable to wear them on the outside as in medieval times.
The flamboyant dresses of the 18th century gave way to the simple empire line frock after the French Revolution of 1789. The look did not require heavy corsetry as it kept a more natural shape. The stay was lengthened to shape the hips and thighs, although it is said some ladies wore no corset at all.
By 1825 the high waistline of the Regency style had dropped to a more natural level and corsets became essential to show off an hourglass figure with a desired waist of 18 inches (or less). The Victorian era was the heyday of the corset and advances in design were made through out the century. New metallic eyelets ensured that the tight lacing required to achieve the hourglass figure need not damage the corset. The invention of the sewing machine meant the corset could be produced more quickly than with hand stitching and corsets could be sold ready made. A huge variety of fashion corsets were made and also corsets for maternity, safari, sports, golfing and riding, even for these activities lacing and boning was still used. As corsets were in such demand whalebone became scarce, leading to the use of buffalo-bone, cane, steel, and steam moulding in corsetry.
By the beginning of the 20th century a bust bodices could be worn as an alternative to the corset and this supported the entire bosom as a whole. It was in 1914 when American Mary Phelps-Jacobs, patented her design in the name of Caresse-Crosby. It consisted of two silk handkerchiefs tied together with ribbon to make straps and a seam in the centre front, due to lack of interest, a few years later she sold her idea to Warner’s for $1500-. In 1935 Warner’s introduced the first cup sizing with only A, B &C. Britain continued to use the junior and medium sizing until the 50’s. In 1939 the word bra was added to the English dictionary, it is worth noting the brassiere in French means an infant’s bodice or harness, therefore soutien-gorge is the correct French term for bra.
Throughout the twentieth century the bra has been developed by advancements of man made fabrics such as, nylon, Du ponts’s Lycra, polyester, Elastane microfibres etc. These new fabrics have enabled garments to be lightweight, supportive, flexible and seamless, to have colourful prints and to be easier to wash.
The bra has taken many shapes through out the century. From the conical looks of the 1950’s sweater girls, maximum cleavage bras, sexy lace bras and of course the ‘burn your bra’ ethos of the Women’s Liberation Movement. It is estimated that the lingerie market was worth half a billion pounds at the end of the 1990’s.
The new millennium has seen further advancements in design and fabrics, with many innovative designs now in the market. There are also a number of celebrities who have their own lingerie range. Our own styles have developed and now offer a variety of styles for all occasions from 28-52 back B-K cup sizes.
A Brief History of Sleepwear
Sleepwear is the attire that is often worn before going to bed. Women usually wear a maxi or a long gown while resting. The other popular kind of sleepwear is the nighty, which is tighter than a gown. The sleepwear is usually made of cotton, silk, hosiery or some other soft textured cloth such as satin which render a comfortable feeling while you rest.
Sleepwear has evolved through ages and has assumed many diverse forms. Nightgowns and pajamas are not the only forms that are in vogue today. We sleep wearing just about everything ranging from boxers, tee shirts to camisoles. A babydoll or a shortie with a pair of thongs is also a popular choice.
Now let us get to know a brief history of a few of the popular sleepwear.
Negligees and Nightgowns
This is of French origin and the word negligee in French means neglected or careless. They evolved here in the beginning of the 18th century. They were originally designed to provide enough warmth in the cold European nights. Nightgown is an informal gown made of soft and sheer fabric. It is usually a loose-fitting dress that gives you more comfort while resting. This can run in length up to thigh or up to your ankles. They could have a slit cut to thigh length or hip length or even have no slit at all. They are usually made up of softer materials such as silk, cotton or satin.
Nightgowns became popular by the beginning of the 20th century in the US. American women were wearing them made of light weight cottons during summer and of heavier flannels during winter. Nightgowns without any buttons and a shape gradually evolved to become women’s night shirts, dorm sleeping shirts and sleeping tee shirts.
Chemise is probably the earliest nightwear used by women since the middle ages. Nightgowns have evolved from chemise to their present form. This was a medium length tunic and it served the dual purpose of a nightgown and also as underwear to offer padding for outer garments. Today, chemise has evolved as a short A-line nightgown usually made of lace or silk. Nightgowns are normally longer in length and are modest in character. You can match your chemise or the nightgown with a dressing gown or a robe.
Pajamas originated in the oriental lands. These silk shirt and pants were loose and light and light weight. These attires soon became popular with the western missionaries. Until the early 20th century pajamas were popular in the west with men wearing them to bed instead of a night shirt.
Women were not wearing pajamas until early 1950s. Only children of both sexes were wearing pajamas to bed. During the late 1960s women began wearing pajamas and their sale exceeded the traditional flannel and cotton night gowns. More recently sleeping shorts have evolved and we wear them all the yearlong due to improvements in the heating systems. Teenagers use flannel pants even as daywear.
Babydoll has its origin in the bed jackets of the 1930s and 1940s. This attire was made popular during 1956 by the movie release “Baby Doll”. This is a piece of lingerie that is quite popular with the younger generation. They are basically made of chiffon, nylon or silk; they are normally sheer and sometimes see-through. This is very similar to mini-dress and the hemline comes to about six inches above the knees.
Apart from the regular sized sleepwear, plus-size sleepwear has also hit the market but quite lately now. Men and women who are full figured may not worry too much about the availability of their sizes nowadays. It’s time now to get out of your oversized tee shirts and sweat suits and pick a sleepwear that suits you the best. It’s time to look more appealing and sexy!