A brief history of lingerie


Corsets at Calvin Klein.

In the realm of sartorial expression, lingerie can seem a bit oxymoronic. On the one hand, it is generally designed to live under your clothes… which seems contradictory with the whole fashion project (fashions without exhibitionism ??!). Moreover, in practice, it is often put on specifically to… take off. Sure, technically you also take off a number of clothes throughout the day, but it is safe to say that the only “outfit” you wear More precisely for the abduction is, well, lingerie.

That said, underwear hasn’t always been a free-spirited alcove of the sartorial world. When we think of our first “intimates” they often come in the form of stiff waist-shaping corsets (torture devices, if you will). So how did we go from strapping ourselves in cloth prisons to enjoying the breeze that comes with a good ol ‘pair of crotchless panties? Here is a brief overview of the history of lingerie.

The 1700s and 1800s: corsets

For much of the 18th century, your classic corset reigned supreme. And the first version, often called “stay”, was designed not with a stiff fabric, but with whalebonewhich meant that breathing was simply out of the question. And while these clothes did some due diligence to streamline the size, they were hardly sexy. They looked more like armor than today’s corsets.

Back in the 1800s, we still put on women unnecessarily in these pseudo straight jackets, but they had become marginally sexier. In addition to a generally leaner figure, these were too designed to straighten the back and lift the breasts, and they came in a number of luxury ornate fabrics.

The 1910s: drawers and nightgowns

It’s hard not read “drawers” like the end of a joke (ha!). But the ancestors of fairly round underwear were indeed at the heart of the lingerie scene in the early 20th century. In fact, before the appearance of drawers – which were closed crotch – many women wore open crotch panties. Not for salacious purposes, however, just because tight underwear was only for men. That said, these were among the first garment stockings designed to be seen.

From a more delicate point of view, however, it was too back when the bridal nightgown came into play. And these items were something to see: sheer, stunning, draped silhouettes designed to showcase (while hiding) the female body.

The 1920s: the slides

While we are all more than familiar with the contemporary babydoll dress, the introduction of babydolls as underwear in the 1920s certainly meant a movement towards sexual liberation. When the fashion of the time gave way to flapper dresses rather than ball gowns, a more childish natural silhouette entered the style, which meant we could forgo the whole corset in favor of a much more comfortable silhouette.

The 50s: Pin-up & La Perla

The 1950s saw the emergence of pin-up advertisements: suggestive models in sultry poses dressed in beautifully rendered underwear that were supposed being seen. These advertisements, which appealed to both men and women, marked the first time that underwear could be properly celebrated and bought openly.

Fortunately, 1954 too marked the arrival of La Perla, a luxury lingerie brand long known for mixing the sophisticated and the salacious. As a premium brand that treated underwear like jewelry, it added a new level of class to the lingerie market.

The 1970s: Victoria’s Secret

In the wake of La Perla, 1977 saw the arrival of Victoria’s Secret, a more affordable and accessible lingerie option. Roy Raymond, the founder of the company, claimed he hated the process of buying lingerie in department stores. He wanted an option that wasn’t dull or reserved for special occasions like, say, your wedding night. Call it popular lingerie.

The 80s: Brights & Boas

As with everything in the 80s, this particular decade has given way to a new maximalism in the lingerie department. In keeping with the fashion of the time, we started to see bright colors, stronger textiles and, most importantly, lots of feathers.

The 90s: underwear, but make it fashionable

While lingerie for the show had certainly been standardized in the ’90s, this was the first time we saw underwear slipped on like correct fashion. Starting with the iconic Madonna Conical top Jean-Paul Gautier, we started to see babydolls on catwalks and at movie premieres that were intentionally sheer to reveal underwear (think: Kate Moss).

It was too the decade in which the famous “wonderbra” became fashionable, among the first widely popularized push-up bras, giving way to a whole new fashion era that valued uplifted and cheerful breasts more than ever . Oh, and unsurprisingly, it was too when our first class of Victoria’s Secret Angels were crowned, both editorially and on the podium.

The 2000s: G-Strings, Baby

It’s not that thongs don’t have to exist before the beginning of the years, but it was rather the first time that the “old thong” had been made decidedly glamorous. That is, with the emergence of low rise jeans, you have certainly seen a lot of whale tail thong action above the hips.

The 2010s: Bodycon

Welcome to Kardashian territory! By the time Kim K. rose to fame, her iconic shapewear-style clothing had followed suit. Synchronized sizes with bodycon and revealing dresses were simply the see-whether or not you put other clothes on.

2020-Present: Sports ensembles

Even before their forties, a more comfortable iteration of lingerie was all the rage. And yes, we are thinking specifically of those Calvin Klein matching sets. But here’s the exciting thing: in the great history of lingerie, this is arguably the first time that we have praised comfort and ease in the “intimate” realm without neglecting sex appeal. It turns out that the whole sporty spice look is still very exciting.


damn and Latina work together to inform and educate Latinx communities about sexual health and wellness. Founded by Eva Goicochea, maude is a modern sexual wellness company founded on quality, simplicity and inclusiveness, with a mission to improve privacy for all.


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