Lingerie History

Lingerie like women has had a complicated history, did you know: 1960’s lingerie was revolutionized by lycra. 1970’s as denim became popular for its functionality, lingerie design looked for the same practicality, and delicate silks were replaced by spandex and lycra. 1980’s TV soap operas such as Dallas and Dynasty presented lingerie as elegant, erotic and feminine, and influenced fashions as Movie icons from did in the 50’s.

During WW1, Troops returning from overseas, bought sheer, transparent silk gauze garments called “see-mores”, evolving to today’s “sheer lingerie”. Later during the 1920’s imitation silk replaced itchy fabrics making lingerie more affordable and pleasurable to the female populace.

1937 – Nylon was invented – strong, light, supple, woven or knitted by machine, easily washable, drip dry, no ironing required – becoming available to the general public 1938 to late 1940’s. WW2 affected the clothing industry from haute couture to lingerie. Lingerie became simplified, with limited resources and money scarce, affordable lingerie was made a necessity. Durability was considered more important than frills. Quality luxury materials used in lingerie represented affluence, where as practical and easy to maintain durable fabrics were used for the more budget restricted.

In 1942, Howard Hughes, the aircraft engineer (also noted for designing the world's largest flying boat) was the producer of the film Outlaw, starring the celebrated - and thoroughly curvaceous - Hollywood actress Jane Russell. Hughes developed a bra for her that actually adapted the principles of aircraft design to the idiosyncrasies of the female form. The legendary American magnate and film producer launched a new way of thinking that immediately appealed to all women.

1940’s-1950’s – introduced the sweater girl; wearing a close fitted light sweater needed less bulky lingerie therefore bra and panties became the norm. 1960s – Women’s lingerie designers aimed to match the women of the era sexually liberated still seductive. With the introduction of the contraceptive pill saw a change in women’s lifestyles, this also effected women’s fashion thus changing lingerie needs and designs. For example pantyhose replaced stockings and suspenders; bras were discarded even burnt because it was seen as restrictive clothing, symbolically holding back women from equality.

1950’s  introduced light elasticized fabrics to lingerie design and production, lingerie was now being made from silk, cotton, shantung, net satin, brocade, nylon, powernet, taffeta, satins, chiffon and mesh. The 1950’s teenage populace preferred wearing separate pieces of lingerie, moving away from their mother’s style to create their own. Wearing a bra with a girdle, this fashion trend was also influenced by the music of the day; Elvis, Bill Haley and the Comets. Rock’n’Roll dancing which was physically demanding and difficult wearing the older styles of lingerie.

1974 saw the invention of spandex, creating better fitting lingerie and advancing the manufacturing process further away from the era of custom made lingerie. During the 1970’s as denim became popular for its functionality, lingerie design looked for the same practicality, delicate silks were replaced by the wonderful creation of lycra. Lycra changed lingerie for the better – it is 3 times more powerful than elastic; lighter than most other stretch fabrics; and resistant to abrasion, perspiration, damage by detergent and lotions.

1980’s summed up lingerie as form, function, fun and frivolity such as French knickers edged in lace. The 80’s also introduced the era of whimsical and gag underwear, with novelty designs appearing on the market. When underwear became acceptable for outer wear, Madonna also came to the forefront of the 80’s fashions, creating a revival of vintage lingerie. Silk camisoles were seen worn under power suits or an evening top with a business skirt, women’s fashion was changing again. Combined with modern manufacturing techniques the older or vintage designs could be recreated in just about any colour, size or fabric. The 1980’s also saw the introduction of the T-shirt bra for streamlined clothes.

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