A TIMELINE OF WOMEN’S UNDERWEAR

By Tim Lambert

4th century BC

Greek women wear a form of bra called an apodesme

1st century AD

Roman women wear a form of bra called an strophium of mamilare. They also wear a loincloth or shorts called a subligaculum.

Late 16th century

Women wear corsets made of whalebone. They wear a frame of wire or whalebone under their dress called a farthingale.

18th Century

Women do not usually wear panties. Their only underwear is a long linen garment like a nightie worn under a dress called a chemise or shift.

c 1800

Women begin to wear drawers (so called because they are drawn on). They consist of a pair of separate legs joined at the waist. So we say a pair of knickers or panties.

1849

Amelia Bloomer advocates loose trousers for women called bloomers. Later women’s underwear are sometimes called bloomers.

Some women begin to wear colored drawers

1881

The word knickers is used to describe women’s underwear in Britain

1900

Poor women in Britain make knickers from flour bags

1908

The word panties is used to describe women’s underwear in the USA. However the word panties never catches on in Britain.

1910

Rayon (artificial silk) is used to make stockings

1913

Mary Phelps Jacob invents the modern bra

1920s

Panties become shorter, down to mid thigh rather than down to the knee

1935

Nylon is invented

1939

Nylon stockings are first sold

1940s

Panties become still shorter and briefs are fashionable. During the Second World War women in Britain use parachute silk to make knickers.

1947

Frederick Mellinger introduces the padded bra

1948

Frederick Mellinger introduces the push up bra

1948

Frederick Mellinger introduces the push up bra

1949

Gertrude Moran known as Gorgeous Gussie plays tennis at Wimbledon with frilly panties

1959

Tights (called pantyhose in the USA) are introduced by Allen Gant

1963

The wonderbra is invented in Canada by Louise Poirier

1981

The thong is introduced in the USA

1990s

Thongs become fashionable in Britain

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