Tag : history

A Historical Look at Hosiery – Part 1

Hosiery, or “hose”, refers to legwear, or apparel worn specifically on the legs or feet. Traditionally made by a “hosier”, the fabrics used for hosiery are knitted and of varying thickness and weight. This thickness is termed “denier”.

Denier is a term which defines how much light will pass through the fabric. Lower deniers, between five and fifteen, describe hosiery which is sheer. Above forty denier, the fabric is dense; at one hundred denier, no light will pass through at all.


Most women and men will wear some form of hosiery; these days  the  term broadly covers stockings, pantyhose, knee highs, socks, leggings, tights, bodystockings, and even legwarmers. But where did it all begin?

Traditionally, hosiery was worn for warmth.

  • The term “hosiery” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “hosa”, meaning “tight legged trouser”. “Stocking” originates also from Anglo-Saxon; “stoka” meaning “stump”. “Sock” comes from the Latin, “soccus”, which was a soft indoor slipper.
  • Even Neolithic man knew how to spin yarn and fibres; in time cloth was woven and hand knitted. The first examples of knitting as we know it today date from ~1000AD; thought to have originated in Arabic nations, it was introduced to Britain by the 1200s.
  • A pair of hand knitted red wool socks was found in an ancient Egyptian tomb sometime between 400 and 500 AD. They tied by a cord at the top to hold them in place at the ankle.

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  • Romans were documented by author Hesiod as having covered their legs with strips of leather or cloth tied on.
  • Charlemagne wore leg bindings in the period between 770 and 810 AD.
  • Young Venetian men in the 1300s wore silk leggings underneath short jackets. These leggings were usually brightly embroidered, and scandalised the older Venetians of the time.


  • Queen Elizabeth I received her first pair of silk stockings in 1560.


  • After the invention in 1598 of the first knitting machine by Englishman William Lee, hosiery was knitted from wool, silk, and cotton. Queen Elizabeth I was presented with a pair of black silk stockings, by which she was extremely impressed and requested more.  She deemed that the knitting machine was an English national treasure!

Stay tuned for Part 2…

The Humble Bra – Part Two

In 1889, Herminie Cadolle, a French corsetiere, invented what we think of as the first modern bra. Called the “corset-gorge”, it was a two piece garment which consisted of a corset for the bust, and a lower corset for the waist. She described it as “designed to sustain the bosom and supported by the shoulders”. Cadolle patented her invention and showed it at the Great Exhibition of 1889.

In 1893 Marie Tucek patented a breast supporter which was very similar to what we today recognise as a bra: shoulder straps, separate “cups” to support the breasts, and hook and eye closures. Initially, the design was not particularly comfortable to wear.

1907 saw Vogue magazine use the word “brassiere” for the first time. In 1915, a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob patented the “backless brassiere”, made of two handkerchiefs and a pink ribbon. It was sold under the name “Caresse”. By the end of World War I, bra sales had taken off.


 During the 1920s, the fashion was to flatten the bust as much as possible, effecting an androgynous look.


But things were soon to change after Russian immigrant Ida Rosenthal formed a company in 1922 with her husband: Maidenform. Bras had bust cups, which were attached to elastic, uplifting the breasts rather than flattening them. Thus by the 1930s, a curvier silhouette was more fashionable, and A B C D sizing charts came to be early in that decade.


World War II saw the necessity for bras to be more durable for women working in factories and on farms. In 1941, inventor and billionaire Howard Hughes used his vast engineering skills to design a bra for Hollywood actress Jane Russell: it was underwired and cantilevered, with the intention of emphasising her considerable assets. Curved steel rods under each cup were connected to the shoulder straps; it pulled the breasts upwards and allowed the straps to sit away from the neck, resulting in any amount of breast to be exposed as desired.


For the rest of this decade and into the 1950s, the busty sweater girl look was the height of style. Bras were inspired by the military, with conical and torpedo shapes very common. “Lift and separate” was the catchcry of breast fashions.

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In the 1950s, bras and girdles were designed to be as glamorous as possible…



 Stay tuned next time for Part 3 and the conclusion of the story of the humble bra.


The Humble Bra – Part One

The bra, like other garments, has a long, long history, dating back as far as at least 2700BC when the Greeks had the concept to restrain a woman’s breasts. Wall art from the time depicts women wearing outer garments which laced and seemed to partially restrain, and partially push up and expose the breasts. In Ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom, around 1570BC, women’s fashion was that they were generally bare breasted.

In Classical Greece, about 750BC, women wore a belt-like garment under the bust,  loosely draped and often with one breast exposed. A band of cloth known as an apodesmos, or mastodeton was also worn to bind down the breasts for exercise in places like Sparta, where women were allowed to participate in sports.  When the apodesmos was worn under the breasts, it highlighted them. Another word for a breast-band or belt was strophion.


Mosaics from Rome circa 300BC depict women wearing bikini-style tops while undertaking exercise.

In China during the Ming dynasty, about 1368,  a form of primitive “bra” was worn,  complete with cups and straps drawn over shoulders and tied to the seam at the lower back. Popular amongst the rich, this was called a Dudou. According to Chinese legend,  the beautiful concubine of the Emperor of Tang Dynasty (AD 618 – 907), Yang Yuhuan,  invented Dudou. Art from the time is the first depiction we have of sexy lingerie.



In the Middle Ages women did not generally restrict or support their breasts in any way; if they did, a cloth binder was used. An edict of Strasbourg in the Holy Roman Empire, dated 1370 states, “No woman will support the bust by the disposition of a blouse or by tightened dress.” In the France of Charles VII (1403-1461), a gauze drape was used over the bust. Breasts were minimised with straight bodices and full skirts; corsetry was designed for function rather than aesthetics. Contrary to this, the ideal female form of this time was large breasted and full figured.

By the mid 1500s, corsetry was used for fashion and the hourglass shape was desired. Breasts were compressed by corsets so they overflowed from the top of dresses, giving a voluptuous (and one must suspect, uncomfortable) result.

The bra’s history runs in tandem with that of the corset: the Regency fashion for empire-waisted dresses liberated women, for a time, from corsets as well as any restraint of the breasts. This was in part thanks to French Empress Josephine, who during pregnancy dressed for comfort and the trend took hold.

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The Victorian era of the 1800s saw women’s clothing designed to emphasize both the breast and hips by severely tight-lacing the waist. Victorian women wore many layers of clothing: a chemise with a drawstring neckline, drawers, corset and corset cover, the under petticoat, the hoop skirt, the over petticoat, and finally the dress. They must have felt warm!

By 1889, the bra made its first tentative appearance…

Stay Tuned!

The Weird World of Petticoat Discipline

Now for something different: Petticoat Discipline.

No, we’re not joking!

Petticoating, otherwise referred to as pinaforing, is a kind of rare, humiliating, and socially unacceptable punishment, which involves dressing a boy in girls’ clothing as a form of discipline.



Not just limited to certain subgenres of erotic fantasy and role-play, there is credible evidence in social history that this was a form of punishment actually employed and dating back at least to the Victorian era. It was even discussed openly in family magazines during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Until World War One, it was fashionable to dress small boys in the same attire as their sisters, up until age five or six: ribboned vests, lace dresses and petticoats, and even bonnets. .

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Older boys would be dressed by their mothers or nannies in pretty, girlish clothing as retribution for minor offenses. Boys were feminised by being forced to wear female clothing, and made to feel like “sissies” in the presence of strong females, such as mother, aunt, grandmother, and often in the presence of his siblings, cousins, and other girls of their own age. By humiliating and embarrassing the boy, and dressing him conspicuously in feminine clothing and fabrics, moderate behaviour which did not draw attention was encouraged.



The said boy may even have been forced to appear in public dressed thus, sometimes even in matching garments as those worn by his mother or sister. He may have been made to perform tasks which, at the time, were considered to be “girls’ work”. This was unendingly humiliating, and as such, was deemed to be a deterrent from behaving in such a way as provoked the punishment again in future. At the lighter end of the spectrum, boys were dressed in bow ties, velvet and short pants; the extreme end had boys being forced into lace, bows, and even shaved legs and female underwear. Sometimes petticoat discipline did not involve girls’ clothes; a sailor suit or Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit was enough to keep a boy in line. This was used up to age twenty in some extremes.



There are claims that petticoating had an additional, sexual context for some mothers; some women had long wished for daughters and hence gained some satisfaction from feminising their sons.

What was the impact of this childhood punishment? Some adult male transvestites in the past have reported experiencing petticoating as children. At the very least, identity crises and self esteem issues must have ensued.

This scenario is actually re-enacted today by some as a fetish. Whatever rocks one’s boat!

Chastity Belts – Part 2 – Not Unheard of Even Today!

Following on from last week’s article on “Chastity Belts – Fact or Fiction?” let’s take a look at modern-day anecdotes on the use of these truly medieval devices.

While not uncommonly seen in the BDSM community and underground kink stores, there are cases over the world, even in the twenty-first century, of the use of chastity belts to prevent women from participating in sexual activity. Read on…


 Indian Women Forced into Chastity Belts

The Asian Human Rights Commission reported in 2007 that women in the Rajasthan region of India were being forced to wear chastity belts. These devices caused severe injury and bleeding. One woman was found haemorrhaging on a bus; when she was taken to hospital, she was found to be locked into a metal chastity belt.

Women’s rights in this region, one of India’s most popular tourist areas, are appalling, and the practice of forcing women to wear these medieval devices is widespread. Women there are frequent victims of violent acts at the hands of men, and are bartered for and forced into marriages, their value to men on par with that of cattle. More highly educated women are worth less in dowry within Rajasthan’s middle class society. The forcible use of a chastity belt is yet another consequence of the abominable way in which these women are viewed.


Chinese Wooing Device

In 2012, a man aged in his 50s presented himself at the Changchun World Sculpture Park – naked except for footwear and a homemade chastity belt. Bearing signs advertising his availability for marriage, the man depicted himself as an inventor, philosopher, poet, and holder of a doctoral degree. His chastity belt represented his willingness to be faithful to his future wife.


Image: Chinanews.com


Holiday Without Hubby? Time to Lock Up!

A British woman set off security alarms on her arrival in Athens, as reported in 2006. Security staff found she was wearing a metal chastity belt; her husband had insisted she wear it for the duration of her holiday in Greece, so he need not be concerned that she may indulge in an affair during his absence. Nothing like a little trust!


Protection from Men?

The July 2000 Australian Cosmopolitan Magazine carried a story on Chinese women in Indonesia who voluntarily don plastic and metal chastity belts to protect themselves from rape and assault. In a country where rape is commonly used to terrorise Chinese women, who often enjoy a better standard of living than many local Indonesians, part of dressing to go out for many women includes wearing this protective device over their underwear. Even the belts aren’t fail-safe: some rapists threaten to kill the women if they don’t provide the combination, however the precaution is worth trying. Many of these devices are sold and their use had become quite widespread among the Chinese community.


Image: Internet Archive Wayback Machine

A Chastity Belt for Doggies?

As reported by the Huffington Post in February, 2010, a dog breeder from Louisiana had a novel idea to play his part in preventing the overpopulation of dogs in the Deep South. Believing that desexing could be detrimental to the health of canines, or that some owners may in future wish to breed from their pets, he introduced his pet Anti-Breeding System (PABS): a belt made from polypropylene with an eight-buckle locking system. A washable mesh pad completed the contraption, intended to be worn by female dogs. This chastity belt for dogs would allow for normal toileting, but deny access for male dogs sniffing around for a little fun! The only downside? The mesh pad, not surprisingly, requires regular washing. Nice…


Sourced from PABSforPets.com

Chastity Belt – Fact or Fiction?

This week we’re stepping away from the “norm” as regards lingerie, underwear, and hosiery, and taking a look at an item we’ve possibly all heard about historically, even joked about – but which we may be uncertain as to whether it ever really existed:  the chastity belt.


What is a chastity belt? Put simply, it is an item of “clothing” which locks onto the body and prevents any possibility of sexual intercourse, and may be worn to protect the wearer from either temptation or rape (or both). Made from metal, some may have had padded linings. With or without this consideration, prolonged wear would result in great discomfort, wounds, infection, and even death from blood poisoning in extreme cases.



Modern myth tells us that the chastity belt was first used during the Crusades: Crusaders (ie, men), travelling to the Holy Lands in the 1100’s to fight in the Papal Wars, would lock their female partners (left at home) up in these contraptions which would allow no access for any kind of sexual activity. Hence, the women were forced to be faithful and chaste; one can assume the men placed no similar restrictions upon themselves! Many other references have been made historically, but there is no evidence that these were more than metaphorical and perhaps wishful thinking on the part of men of the time.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that such an item existed until well after this date. The first historical reference to a chastity belt comes from Renaissance poetry in the 1500’s, when asking a woman to wear such a device was a poet’s way of embarking on a “mutual” commitment of fidelity to each other (though the man never volunteered the same courtesy from himself).



While there are certainly poetic references to chastity belts from the sixteenth century, the first real chastity belts we have evidence of today were manufactured in the 1700’s. Surprisingly, they weren’t actually designed to keep women sexually faithful: it seems they were designed as a way to prevent children from masturbating. Cruel? It seems so.

At about the same time, women started to participate in the workforce with the beginning of the Industrial revolution. Without any legal or practical protection against sexual assault, harassment and rape, some women may well have devised their own chastity belts of various designs in order to protect themselves from violation.

 zbkk1641 Chastity_Belt


What is the role of the chastity belt in today’s society? Most commonly, these devices are popular as kink-wear in the BDSM community.

Fortunately, those at the extreme end of the abstinence-as-sex-education philosophy do not at this time lock their daughters up in chastity belts – though one could argue that the “purity” rings some fathers place on the fingers of their daughters while extracting formal promises of chastity until marriage to a man of the father’s choosing are a figurative “chastity belt”. What do you think?



And, surprisingly or not, women are still forced by men to wear chastity belts today: stay tuned next week…

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.


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.


 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”.


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.

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.

 Roman undies

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.


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.


Stay tuned for the conclusion to this article next week…