A Brief History of Women’s Undies – Part 2

By the turn of the twentieth century, open-crotch knickers had fully made way for underwear that was closed at the crotch.  In the early 1900s, poorer women made their own knickers from old flour sacks, which must have rubbed and chafed, and been very uncomfortable! . In 1910, rayon was first used in the manufacture of women’s underwear (at which time it was called “artificial silk”). Later, nylon was used as well.

Up until the 1920s, many women continued to wear knickers which extended to below the knee; during the 1920s, however, they became shorter so that by 1930 they came to mid-thigh. The fashion for flapping mini-dresses saw the design of panties in pastel colours for the first time – just to be that little bit more risqué.

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In the 1930s, lastex was invented by the Dunlop Rubber Company. This combination of latex rubber and ammonia was eventually used by the brand now known as Playtex to make the women’s panty-girdle – these briefs were similar in style to today’s bicycle shorts and were considered to be supportive and hygienic.

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 By 1940, most fashionable women wore briefs. These were still items which offered full coverage: the entire buttock area was covered and the garments extended to the top of the thigh. During World War II, British rationing required that many women again made their own knickers – this time from available parachute silk.

In 1949, American tennis player Gertrude Moran created a stir when she wore frilly panties to play at Wimbledon. This was considered very daring at the time and she was henceforth referred to as “Gussie” Moran or “Gorgeous Gussie”.

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Women of the 1960s had become restrictive underwear, and panties went from being harshly shaping, purely functional, and uncomfortable, to a softer, prettier garment. These garments continued to become smaller and sexier into the 1970s. The modern thong-style of underwear was designed in the 1970s. It is now amongst the best-selling of women’s underwear styles.

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These days underwear is marketed along the lines of sex appeal rather than functionality, though it continues to serve function as it always has. While hygienic protection of outer clothing from soiling, as well as comfort, warmth, and modesty are considerations, some underwear is also worn for erotic effect. And as cyclical as things invariably are, one can still find crotchless styles – over one hundred years since their everyday use ceased being fashionable.