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Women`s Lingerie - A brief history of lingerie

Present Day

Today’s lingerie is all about shape and comfort. The modern woman is very much in control of her feelings, she wants to feel great and knows that one of the keys to this, is being in great shape. Shape though, is only half the story. Today’s woman demands comfort as well. Gone are the days when she would wear underwear for the sake of achieving a certain shape or look and suffer the consequences for it. Today’s woman needs her underwear to achieve her desired look in maximum comfort.

Modern shapewear is designed to create that perfect hourglass silhouette but to do so, in a way that is extremely comfortable. A wide range of panties including thongs, briefs and deep briefs are available, together with bras for every occasion. These include wired bras, non wired bras, enhancing bras, minimising bras, soft bras, mastectomy bras and sports bras, in a wide range of fashionable designs and colours, all of which, have been created with one thing in mind, to make the wearer feel supremely confident, comfortable and relaxed with her shape.

Of course, it was not always like this, women’s lingerie like fashion, has been the subject of many changes throughout the decades. The hourglass has given way to the athlete and the athlete to the pear and apple. One thing however, of which we can be pretty certain, is that now that women have experienced the true comfort of quality underwear, they will continue to demand it, whatever their figure or the fashion of the day.

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A brief history of lingerie through the 20th Century


During World War I, whilst the majority of their men folk were away at war, more and more women found themselves in the workplace, in munitions factories or in healthcare. With the new status as breadwinner came a need for practical undergarments. Brassieres were needed that were light enough to be worn in stifling work conditions, yet still capable of providing the necessary support and comfort. There was little time or money to worry about embellishments and frills, these items were, in the main at least, highly utilitarian.


The 1920s brought about a change in attitudes, it revered beauty and reaffirmed women’s sexuality. The Flapper Girls of the roaring 20’s made for the party circuit sporting their lithe and athletic figures. The days of the corset had gone and along with short bobs and flapper dresses, the Flapper Girls popularized that slim boyish look for which the era is now famed. The female silhouette had to be smooth and curve-free and the lingerie they wore helped to achieve that. Light-weight clothing like the chemise, bloomers and bodice were introduced and for the first time in the history of lingerie, panties and bras were made available in assorted colours.


The 1930`s was the age of the hourglass. After the boyish straight lines of the 20s, the 1930s took us full-circle and the full-figured, slim hipped, hour glass figure was born. Breasts were glorified and accentuated, as were hips, the lingerie of the day focusing on these now ultra feminine proportions. Breast-enhancing bras were worn in conjunction with girdles to create the look. The 1930s brought about a true lingerie revolution in the form of Latex, an elastic fibre, invented by Dunlop Rubber that allowed lingerie makers to offer undergarments designed to fit a range of sizes.


The Second World War years, right through to 1947, were another time of austerity and rationing. As with WWI, undergarments again became strictly functional. The people’s attention turned to more pressing issues and every attempt was made to help with the war effort. Watchwords for the underwear of the day were, simple, classic designs made from easy to care for materials with the emphasis moving away from the sexuality of the 30’s, to more formal, less provocative and more functional designs.


The 1950`s saw glamour return to the world of the undergarment in much the same way as it did in the 20’s after WWI. There was a difference this time though. The accentuated busts of the 30’s were revisited, this time taking on a slightly more uniform, even military feel. The conical or bullet bra was born and this was often worn with corsets or combined in a corselette. The corselette covered the abdomen and torso, lifting and shaping as it went, accentuating the fuller figure and the conical bra gave women that glamorous sweater girl look popularised by many screen actresses of the time.


By the 1960`s, women`s underwear was beginning to feature as a prominent part of their wardrobe. The mini skirt was born and it was perhaps this that gave rise to the invention of tights. Bra slips were another product of the radical 60’s, worn with short dresses they gave women a freedom they’d never felt before. The bra-slip was an under wired cleavage bra with a mini nylon slip. This allowed women to wear a minimalist combination of tights, panties, bra slip and top dress, a highly fashionable and liberating experience.


The 1970`s gave rise to seamless underwear, an essential to be worn under T-shirts giving the impression of no bra at all. Natural flesh tone bras also became popular for much the same reason. The late 70’s saw the rise and rise of the smaller, more luxurious lace bra and French knicker combinations which brought a certain erotic and exotic style to lingerie. The 70’s were an exciting time for lingerie, fashion and pop culture. Performers of the time were experimenting and cross dressing. Caberet the musical was released and Glam rock was en vogue, all of which did wonders both for fashion and lingerie.


The 1980`s became known as the power dressing decade. Women wore suits with oversized shoulder pads, carried briefcases and went along to power lunches. Their power dressing though, was not reserved for the boardroom; remove the suit, shirt and tie and you’d uncover some of the prettiest underwear ever seen. With the influence of the media, television and glossy magazines, erotic and sensual lingerie was portrayed as the power addition to a woman’s wardrobe and this love of lingerie was not confined to those women with toned bodies and small breasts, these pretty styles were made available for women of all shapes and sizes.


The 90`s is remembered for its return to cleavage, we remember the slim waists and big busts of the 50’s and 60’s and celebrate this with styles and designs that hark back to this era. The late eighties and more so the nineties, became the era of unshockability. The risqué styles of previous decades, the bullet bra, the cone bra, the shelf bra, stockings, suspenders, basques and teddies etc, have all found their way back into lingerie shops, back into the public consciousness and back onto women’s bodies.

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