Archive for : July, 2013

A Brief History of Women’s Undies

A Brief History of Women’s Undies

Pantaloons, bloomers, drawers, knickers, panties, briefs: call them what you will. Women’s undies have a long and somewhat interesting story – though their use is a very new thing compared with men’s underwear…

Underwear for a woman’s nether regions was unheard of in centuries past, except for in ancient Rome: Roman women sometimes wore a garment called a subligaculum. This was either a kind of pair of shorts, or an item similar to a loincloth which wrapped around the lower body and could sometimes be tied at the hips with strings.

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After the Roman Empire fell, women did not again wear undies (for want of a better word) until the eighteenth century, wearing only a long linen shift or chemise under their dresses.

Women began wearing drawers during the French Revolution. Catherine de Medici first introduced them, so she could ride her horse with one leg folded across the horse in front of her and without displaying her nether regions to her army and the general public. These garments came to below the knee. Soon after, during the English Regency Era, women’s fashions changed dramatically, from heavy corseted dresses  to lighter Empire style dresses made of sheer fabrics such as muslin. This new fashion required the wearing of undergarments to offer warmth (as well as some modesty) as the heavier clothing of the past had done. Pantaloons were worn by women for this purpose: loose pants which almost reached the ankle.

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Women’s drawers in the early nineteenth century were actually a pair of garments: one worn over each leg and attached to each other at the waist. This open crotch style was considered to be not only convenient for toileting, but hygienic; free airflow over the genital region was deemed to keep a woman fresh – despite rare underwear changes and few, if any, baths.

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Parisian can-can dancers soon put an end to open-crotch drawers: their high kicks and lifted skirts resulted in a scandalous and pornographic show every time the dance was performed. Even in permissive Paris of the time this was a bit much. So women stitched their drawers together and shortened them to at or just above the knee – thus knickers were born.

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Early drawers and knickers were invariably white and made from linen, but by the 1860s some women began to wear coloured drawers, sometimes decorated with lace or embellishments such as embroidery. These were also soon to be made from cotton, or wool for winter. In time, knickers were made to be loose, even more like the underwear men wore,  and were referred to as bloomers.

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Stay tuned for the conclusion to this article next week…

Underwear: Fun (and Funny) Facts! #1

Almost all of us wear it on a daily basis, yet underwear is something to which we give little thought … as long as it’s clean and it fits, that’s where our consideration ends. But delve a little into this ever so important wardrobe item, and a plethora of fun and funny facts and stories emerge.

Did you know any of these fun – and sometimes very funny – truths about underwear?

  • The British Army has underwear that can be worn for three months – non-stop! Paying close attention to comfort and hygiene out in the field, British soldiers were issued in 2005 with antimicrobial undies. Made from silver-laced artificial fibres (silver helps prevent sweating – who knew?), the unisex undergarments were coated to prevent bacterial infections.

 

  •  Married men apparently change their undies twice as often as single men. Wives do the laundry, perhaps?

 

  • New Years Eve Celebrations include underwear traditions – Italians donning red, Argentineans pink, and Brazilians splash out on brand new undies for the occasion.

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  •  The G-String was invented to provide to New York burlesque dancers with some coverage. It was first worn by the masses in Brazil in the 1980s as a swimwear item, only becoming popular as underwear in the 1990s.

 

  • The average bra size in the USA in 1991 was 34B; twenty years later the average size is 36C.

 

  • Garters, used to hold up stockings, were made with pockets in the 1920s. Due to American Prohibition, flappers could carry their tipple of choice discretely under their skirt in small silver flasks – tucked into garters with pockets.

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  • What does your lingerie colour of choice say about you?
    • Black = courageous, classic, strong, practical, ambitious
    • White =  calm, confident, serious
    • Blue = creative, passive, mysterious
    • Yellow = bright, cheerful, light-hearted
    • Red = strong, passionate, lively, ambitious

 

  • The most popular lingerie colours currently sold are purple, lilac, and blue. French designers believe lilac to be a virginal colour, blue suits pale skin, and purple signifies affection.

 

  • King Tutankhamen was buried with 145 cotton loincloths to see him into the afterlife.

 

  • Underwear has been used for rebellious fashion statements for centuries. French queen Marie Antoinette wore a chemise as outerwear at court in 1780 – prior to this it was only worn under clothing.

 

  • Today referred to as “chicken fillets”, the “falsie” bra-stuffer gained popularity in the 1950s when large, pointed breasts were fashionable.

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  • Russian scientists are reportedly conducting research into bacteria that might eat the worn underwear of cosmonauts on long missions in space.

 

  • Mormons are not the first to wear spiritual undergarments. The ancient Babylonians wore undies which were fringed; the fringe symbolised the protection of God.

 

  • Until the 1800s, it was considered improper for a woman to wear anything between her legs – so no underwear!

 

  • An average woman will wear six bra sizes throughout her life.

 

Intrigued? Stay tuned for more fun underwear facts…

 

Underwear: Debunking the Myths!

Myths have always existed. Whether legendary stories of heroes and damsels in distress, urban myths about travelling quiet roads on dark nights, or silly notions about stereotypes to which some people hold on as if for dear life, myths are everywhere – and the internet is a feeding ground for their genesis, transmission and perpetuation. And, believe it or not, underwear is no exception!

So here we are to help debunk some of the most commonly believed myths about underwear. Make yourself a cuppa (or pour a drink) and settle in for our top myths busted – in no particular order:

Myth #1:      It’s unhealthy to sleep in your undies.

A rumour with no real basis. Some people like to sleep without any underwear; others just don’t feel right without it. Either way is fine – whatever makes you comfortable. We do, however, insist on one proviso: for sleeping, cotton underwear is required for health and wellbeing. High quality cotton undies will allow for body to breathe, whereas synthetic materials for slumber are less healthy.

Myth #2       You should wear white underwear under white clothing.

Au contraire! Absolutely not!! White underwear – bras and underpants – under white clothing will just pop out more and draw unwanted attention to itself. You may as well wear a white bra under a black top and stand under an ultraviolet light. This is partly because skin, even on the palest of people, is not stark white, and as such is darker than the white of underwear. White clothing requires lingerie in a nude or beige shade closer to skin colour.

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Myth #3       Mens’ undies can affect fertility

Another popular but unfounded belief, though there could be a basis in fact there in extreme cases. While it is true that very tight and restrictive underwear may be detrimental to sperm count (due to higher temperatures resulting in the scrotum), any normal briefs will not cause this to happen. A large number of scientific studies have considered all sides of this issue and no evidence of harm has been found. So guys, feel free to choose between boxers and briefs – just make sure they are comfy! If they’re too tight, they’re not right!

Myth #4      Mormons wear “magical” underwear

Mormons do, in fact, wear special underwear – as a personal choice to remind themselves of their covenants with God. These undergarments are meant to help give them spiritual strength. There is nothing “magical” about the underwear – it’s simply a clothing choice they make, like a Muslim woman covering her head or a Christian wearing a cross.

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Myth #5       Bras can block natural breast development or cause cancer

Not true. A bra is worn for support and will not impinge in any way on breast development, as long as it is comfortable and fits properly. Bras also do not cause breast cancer, but again, they must fit properly and should not interrupt healthy circulation. Proper blood and lymphatic circulation is essential for optimal breast health.

Myth #6       Bras should be worn night and day to stop sagging

The breasts have their own internal support system, called Cooper’s Ligaments, which over time and without extra support, will stretch to an extent. Wearing a bra is the easiest way to supplement this natural support. Wearing a bra at night or during sleep is unnecessary. It is actually healthier to give the breasts a break from a bra (especially those with underwires) so that the body’s natural systems for flushing toxins  works properly throughout the breasts.

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So there you have it: the top underwear myths debunked.  Stay tuned for more underwear fun facts and historical snippets next week!

Boxers or Briefs?

This week we take a little pause from our corsetry / shapewear series to ponder the age-old question: boxers or briefs?

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Essentially it all comes down to personal preference … but what are the pros and cons for each?

Traditionally, guys probably follow in the footsteps of their fathers when choosing what their underwear of choice is going to be and, as old habits do die hard, follow with the same throughout their entire lives. Today’s options, however,  for fashion, functionality and comfort, perhaps require a little more thought and consideration as to what underwear will really be best.

A tiny minority of guys will opt for the thong, and some prefer the commando sensation; the majority will choose between briefs, boxers, or trunks (tight boxers).

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Briefs are the most common choice for men of all ages, and are generally considered to be the least fashionable. Plain and no-nonsense, many consider briefs to be old-fashioned – yet they continue to be the most popular option for most guys. Many consider them to be more comfortable than boxers, and they do offer significant support to the genital area. Briefs are more comfortable for active wear and also for sitting for long periods, like for office work. A lot of men find, however, that briefs can be too tight and restrictive and even feel that circulation in the area can be impinged upon.

Loose boxer shorts have also been a mainstay of men’s underwear for many decades. They do look more aesthetically pleasing than briefs, and are great for comfort when sleeping if the guy doesn’t wish to sleep naked. Very little to no support is offered, however; not a great idea for wear during sporting activities, and they don’t offer a smooth line under clothing for long periods of seated wear. The other drawback of loose boxers is the inevitable wedgie…

Tight boxers, or trunks, are a more modern option. Stylish and very comfortable, they are the best of both worlds between briefs and loose boxers: support, comfort, style are all there. More expensive due to their current popularity, a lot of guys find the investment worth the price.

What do women prefer? There is an old saying that runs along the lines that women prefer men in boxers, and that guys who wear briefs (especially white Y-fronts!) are mama’s boys. Not at all true. Just like guys have their own preference, so do the women who love them. All that really matters to women is that the items are clean, changed regularly, and totally without stains! But there are a couple of guidelines… Briefs are a guy’s best friend if he’s wearing well-cut trousers – nobody wants to see crumpled butt or boxer-bulge through those stylish pants.

It’s a myth that boxers are better for male fertility; as long as briefs are not uncomfortably tight, all is well whatever the style of underwear he chooses.

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So what’s a guy to do? Best advice: try each and decide what works best. And perhaps go for what really is the best of all options-the boxer brief. Enjoy the experiment!

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Girdles – 1950s

The fashion industry boomed in the 1950s, and the norm was to see extremely well-groomed women. All well-dressed women of the time wore tight, controlling girdles. Fashion required a firm silhouette, particularly for the slim-fitting, streamlined sheath  dresses that were so fashionable at the time.

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Girdles were now made from nylon and latex rubber; strategic panels smoothed and flattened the tummy as well as the bottom. This decade saw the first elastic that stretched in more than one direction, so well-fitting garments did not require heavy boning as in the past. The breasts were enhanced, and the girdle helped to accentuate the contrast between a flat, slim torso and large, well-shaped breasts. A flat bottom was considered to be the feminine beauty ideal.

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 The girdle was worn regardless of a woman’s size; moral considerations were of paramount importance, even more so than fashion requirements. A woman who chose to not wear a girdle was considered, at the time, to be of loose moral nature.

As advertising became more common, girdles were designed to look attractive as well as be functional. Nylon garments with decorative front panels, embellished either with lace or embroidery, were popular, and lacing closures were abandoned for zips (step ins), hooks and eyes (wrap-arounds) or tug-on garments (roll-ons). Colours were adopted as well.

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Older women often still chose to wear the controlling, boned corsets of old – resistant to change for the sake of change. Even the newer items cannot have been comfortable, especially when sitting, and must have been very unpleasant to wear on hot, humid days or when doing heavy work.

1950s women were expected to have a wardrobe of girdles to suit every outfit and occasion: foundation garments, as girdles were called, were advertised as being “hugging”, not “squeezing”. For the first time the girdle was marketed for its sex appeal.

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The 1950s also saw a new sizing method being adopted. The “hip spring” was the term used to refer to girdle sizing: this was the difference in size (in inches) between the waist and the hip.

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The biggest advance in the 1950s as far as girdles was concerned was the invention of DuPont’s special new fabric, Fibre K. To later be renamed Spandex, then Lycra, it was lighter, more comfortable, easier to wash, and could be worn against the skin without rubbing or chafing.

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Like the eve of the 1920s, by the end of the 1950s change was again in the air…

Next Time: 1960 – Modern Shapewear

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