Interesting History of Women's Underwear

Have you ever wondered how women's underwear came to be? Aren’t you a bit curious about what undergarments women wore centuries ago?

The history of wearing undergarments for women is quite interesting. It started from wearing nothing underneath to tying a loin-cloth (popular in Imperial Rome and ancient Egypt) under outer garments. By the Middle Ages, women underwear was mainly a long loose garment called a shift, but no pants were worn under these.

It is believed that women did not wear underpants or what we know as drawers until the late 18th century.

Not much is known about earlier bust supports. There are however finding that as early as the 14th to 15th century, 'breast bags' evolved, quite crude at the time - two cloth bags sewed into shirts and tightened with a band.

By the 16th century, some women began to wear open drawers tied to the waist with strings. Wireframes made with whalebone called a farthingale, became an item of clothing that served as an undergarment. These were worn majorly by upper-class elite women who had broken the barrier of social standards.

And for something to hold the bosom firmly in place, they wore a wide band of linen fabric around their chest called a strophium, the Roman equivalent of a brassiere.

It wasn’t until the early 18th century that women's underwear became an item of clothing with some importance attached to it. It was at this time that the shift transited into a chemise and drawers soon transited into pantaloons.

Pantaloons were ankle or knee-length drawers that covered the legs from waist to ankle and sometimes below the knee and were enhanced with frills or pleats. By the late 19th century, they were made to look pretty by adding waistbands, ribbon tapes, and lace.

It’s interesting to know that in the 19th-century women's underwear was usually open between the legs, but by the 1900’s closed ones replaced them.


Image source on Flickr by zalikopanjikidze

Long and ankle length pantaloons soon transited to shorter styles going down no further than mid-thigh and finally to short knickers. By the 1900’s, other finer pieces of underwear emerged and as they became more feminine and stylish, the name underwear soon changed to lingerie. They included first rayon then nylon stockings, the modern bra, briefs, wonder bras, and the thong (invented in the 1970s). Though many variations have evolved, thongs continue to be highly popular until this day.

Further Reading:
Vintage Inspired Lingerie for Plus Size Brides
Authentic Vintage Lingerie - Wash and Care Tips

Dress like a Princess in Quinceanera Fashion

According to Latin tradition of Quinceanera, as soon as a girl is fifteen, she is ready to get married and has indeed transited into womanhood. In other words, she has come of age.

By her fifteenth birthday (today's coming of age is celebrated at 16), a girl has been fully prepared for marriage. She would has been tutored on how to take care of a husband and a home . . . cook, clean, weave, etc., including all she needs to know about birthing and child rearing.  

With claims of its origin dating back to the Aztecs, today’s Quinceanera is a great day of celebrations for the birthday girl. She is fashionably dressed in a formal elegant gown and adorned with beautiful jewelry and a tiara, looking just like a ‘fairy-tale princess’.

There are a number of important customs that need to be observed during Quinceanera celebration, but one of the most popular ones is called the Changing of the Shoes where the celebrant’s father ceremoniously changes the young lady’s flat shoes to high heeled shoes . . . such a beautiful way to signify her transformation from a little girl to a young woman isn’t it? 

Quinceanera Fashion

Quinceanera is more than a big celebration; it is a young lady’s moment and her “passage not just into womanhood, but into a beautiful tradition of faith, independence and grace.”

Quinceanera fashion is classic. Tradition calls for elegant and opulent attires with womanly but modest bodices with full, layered and swirling skirts that practically sway and sweep the floor. 

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Most designs spare no detail, offering intricate embroidery, ornate beadwork, and other embellishments like feathers, applique, Swarovski crystals, and ruffles. The popular choice of fabrics is chiffon, organza, taffeta, lace, and tulle with colours ranging from white and soft, blushing pink, to magenta and scorching teal.

Wouldn’t that just make any girl sparkle and shine on this important day, one of the most lavish and meaningful events in her life?

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