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    History of Underwear

    Underwear, also called "underpants," "lingerie", or "panties" (undergarments for women), or sometimes "intimate clothing", and "pants" or "knickers" in British English, are clothes worn next to the skin, usually under other clothes.

    Ancient history

    The loincloth is the simplest form of underwear; it was probably the first undergarment worn by human beings. A loincloth may take three major forms. The first, and simplest, is simply a long strip of material which is passed between the legs and then around the waist. The ancient Hawaiian malo was of this form, as are several styles of the Japanese fundoshi. Fundoshi
    In warmer climates, the loincloth may be the only clothing worn (making it effectively not an undergarment), as was doubtlessly its origin, but in colder temperatures, the loincloth often forms the basis of a person's clothing and is covered by other garments. In most ancient civilizations, this was the only undergarment available (King Tutankhamun was buried with 145 of them).
    Men are said to have worn loincloths in ancient Greece and Rome, though it is unclear whether Greek women wore undergarments. Mosaics of the Roman period indicate Roman women (primarily in an athletic context, whilst wearing nothing else) sometimes wore wrapped breastcloths or brassieres made of soft leather, along with loincloths and possibly something like panties. Roman Female Underwear
    Any cloth used may have been wool, linen or linsey-woolsey blend. Only the upper classes could have afforded imported silk.

    Middle Ages and Renaissance

    Male undergarments
    In the Middle Ages, western men's underwear became looser fitting. The loincloth was replaced by loose, trouser-like clothing called braies, which the wearer stepped into and then laced or tied around the waist and legs at about mid-calf. Wealthier men often wore chausses as well, which only covered the legs. Medieval Braies
    By the Renaissance, the chausses became form-fitting like modern Hose, and the braies became shorter to accommodate longer styles of chausses. However, chausses and many braies designs were not intended to be covered up by other clothing, so they are not actually underwear in the strictest sense.
    Braies were usually fitted with a flap in the front that buttoned or tied closed. This codpiece allowed men to urinate without having to remove the braies completely. Henry VIII of England began padding his own codpiece, which caused a spiraling trend of larger and larger codpieces that only ended by the end of the 16th century. Codpiece
    The modern men's shirt appeared during this era, but it was originally an undergarment. Men would wear this long shirt under their other clothing and pull the long piece up from the back and then put their braies on over the shirt. In this way the shirt acted as underwear. Renaissance noblemen also adopted the doublet, a vest-like garment tied together in the front and worn under other clothing. Doublet

    Female undergarments
    Medieval women usually wore a close-fitting garment called a chemise or sometimes a shift or smock, sometimes coupled with braies-like leg wrappings. They may have worn petticoats over the shift and under the dress. Quilted petticoats could be worn during the winter. Elaborately-quilted petticoats might be displayed by a cut-away dress, in which case they became a skirt rather than an undergarment.

    During the 16th century, the farthingale was popular. This was a petticoat stiffened with reed or willow rods so that it stood out from a woman's body, like a cone extending from the waist. Farthingale
    The farthingale was later worn with a roll of stiffened material called a Bum Roll. The bum roll could be used to add more width to the body, whilst spreading skirt fullness evenly. The Bum Roll had tapes which enabled it to be tied to the waist, settling over the farthingale. Bum Roll
    Corsets also began to be worn about this time. At first they were called pair of bodies, which may refer both to a stiffened bodice designed to be seen, and a bodice stiffened with buckram, reeds, canes, whalebone etc., worn underneath another, decorative, bodice. These were not the small-waisted, curvy corsets familiar from the Victorian period, but straight-lined corsets that flattened the bust. Pair of Bodies
    Metal and Cane Corset|Cane and Linen Corset
    Left - Metal and Cane Corset
    Right - Cane and Linen Corset 1620

    Enlightenment and Industrial Age

    The inventions of the spinning jenny machines and the cotton gin in the second half of the 18th century made cotton fabrics widely available. This allowed factories to mass-produce underwear, and for the first time, people began buying undergarments in stores rather than making them at home.
    Women's stays of the 18th century were laced behind and drew the shoulders back to form a high, round bosom and erect posture. With the relaxed country styles of the end of the century, stays became shorter and were unboned or only lightly boned, and were now called corsets. Undue binding of a corset sometimes led to a woman needing to retire to the fainting room. Colored stays were fashionable.

    As tight waists became fashionable in the 1820s, the corset was again boned and laced to form the figure. By the 1860s, a tiny ('wasp') waist came to be seen as a symbol of beauty, and the corsets were stiffened with whalebone or steel to accomplish this. By the 1880s, the dress reform movement was campaigning against the pain and damage to internal organs and bones caused by tight lacing. Tight Lacing
    Inez Gaches-Sarraute invented the Health corset, with a straight-fronted bust made to help support the muscles of the wearer. The corset was usually worn over a thin shirt-like garment of cotton or muslin called a shift. Health corset
    As skirts became fuller from the 1830s, women wore a profusion of petticoats to achieve the fashionable bell shape. By the 1850s, stiffened crinolines and later hoop skirts allowed ever wider skirts to be worn. The bustle, a frame or pad worn over the buttocks to enhance their shape, had been used off and on by women for two centuries, but it reached the height of its popularity the later 1880s, and went out of fashion for good in the 1890s. Bustle
    The standard undergarment of the late 19th century for men, women and children was the union suit, which provided coverage from the wrists to the ankles (this "second skin" style is more commonly known as long johns today). The union suits of the era were usually made of knitted material and included a drop flap in the back to ease visits to the toilet. Drawers for women were not generally worn until the mid-nineteenth century when the adoption of crinolines made them necessary for reasons of modesty and warmth. Union Suit
    The jockstrap was invented in 1874 by C. F. Bennett of a Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, to provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston. In 1897 Bennett's newly-formed Bike Web Company patented and began mass-producing the Bike Jockey Strap. Jockstrap


    By the early 20th century, the mass-produced undergarment industry was booming, and competition forced producers to come up with all sorts of innovative and gimmicky designs to compete. The Hanes company emerged from this boom and quickly established itself as a top manufacturer of union suits. Textile technology continued to improve, and the time to make a single union suit dropped from days to minutes.
    Meanwhile, designers of women's undergarments relaxed the corset. The invention of new, flexible but supportive materials allowed them to remove the whalebone and steel while still providing support. The emancipation or liberty bodice offered an alternative to constricting corsets, and in Australia and the United Kingdom, the liberty bodice became a standard item, for girls as well as women.


    The increase in the number of underwear manufacturers necessitated the birth of undergarment advertising. The first underwear print advertisement in the United States ran in the Saturday Evening Post in 1911 and featured oil paintings by J.C. Leyendecker of the "Kenosha Klosed Krotch". Early underwear advertisements placed emphasis on durability and comfort; fashion was never a selling point. Underwear Advertisement
    By the end of the 1910s, Chalmers Knitting Company split the union suit into upper and lower sections, effectively inventing the modern undershirt and drawers. Women wore lacier versions of this basic duo known as the camisole and drawers.
    In 1913, a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob changed women's fashion forever when she cobbled the first brassiere together by tying two handkerchiefs together with ribbon. Jacob's original intention was to cover the whalebone sticking out of her corset, which was visible through her sheer dress. Jacob began making brassieres for her family and friends, and word of mouth soon spread about the garment. By 1914, Jacob had a patent for her design and was marketing it throughout the United States. Although women had worn brassiere-like garments years past, Jacob's was the first to be successfully marketed and widely adopted. Mary Phelps Jacob Bra
    By the end of the decade, trouser-like "bloomers" (popularized by Amelia Jenks Bloomer 1818-1894 but invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller) gained popularity with the so-called Gibson girls who enjoyed more athletic pursuits such as bicycling and tennis. This new female athleticism helped push the corset out of style, as well. Bloomers


    In the 1920s, manufacturers shifted emphasis from durability to comfort. Union suit ads raved about "patented" new designs that reduced the number of buttons and increased accessibility. Most of these experimental designs had to do with new ways to hold closed the crotch flap common on most union suits and drawers. A new woven cotton fabric called nainsook gained popularity in the 1920s for its durability. Retailers also began selling preshrunk undergarments.

    Women's bloomers became much shorter and stockings covered the legs instead. The shorter bloomers became looser and less supportive as the boyish flapper look came into fashion. By the end of the decade, they came to be known as step-ins, very much like modern panties but with wider legs, worn for the increased flexibility they afforded. Flapper
    As dancing became a favorite pastime of young flappers, the garter belt was invented to keep stockings from falling. Nevertheless, the increased sexuality of the flapper also made underwear sexier than ever before. It was the flappers who ushered in the era of lingerie. Garter Belt


    Meanwhile, other modern men's underwear was largely an invention of the 1930s. On January 19, 1935, Coopers Inc. sold the world's first briefs in Chicago. The company placed a Y-shaped front and overlapping fly on knitted drawers in both short and long styles. They dubbed the design the "jockey" since it offered a degree of support that had previously only been available from the jockstrap. Briefs
    Companies began selling buttonless drawers fitted with an elastic waistband, the first true boxer shorts (named for their resemblance to the shorts worn by professional fighters). Boxer Shorts


    During World War II, elastic waistbands and metal snaps gave way once again to button fasteners due to rubber and metal shortages. Undergarments were harder to find, as well, since soldiers abroad had priority to get them.
    Meanwhile, some women readopted the corset once again, now called the waspie for the wasp-shaped waistline it gave the wearer. Many women began wearing the strapless bra, as well, which gained popularity for its ability to push the breasts up and enhance cleavage.

    1950s and 1960s

    In the 1950s, underwear manufacturers began marketing printed and colored garments. What had once been a simple, white piece of clothing not to be shown in public suddenly became a fashion statement. The manufacturers also experimented with rayon and newer fabrics like dacron and nylon. By 1960, men's underwear was regularly printed in loud patterns or with images ranging from messages to cartoon characters.

    Women's undergarments began to emphasize the breasts instead of the waist in the 1950s. The decade saw the introduction of the bullet bra, which featured pointed cups. Bullet Bra
    Meanwhile, women's panties had become even more colorful and decorative, and by the mid-Sixties were also available in two smaller, more abbreviated styles called the hip-hugger and the bikini (after the island of that name), frequently in sheer nylon fabric. Hip Hugger
    Pantyhose, also called "tights" in British English, which combined panties and hose into one garment, made their first appearance in 1959, invented by Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina. The company later introduced seamless pantyhose in 1965, spurred by the popularity of the miniskirt. By the end of this decade, the girdle had fallen out of favor as women chose sexier and lighter alternatives. Pantyhose

    1970s till the present day

    Underwear as fashion matured in the 1970s and 1980s, and underwear advertisers forgot about comfort and durability, at least in advertising. Sex appeal became the main selling point, in swimwear as well, bringing to fruition a trend that had been building since at least the flapper era (underwear is the last barrier before nudity, and thus it acts as a sort of gatekeeper to sex).

    Tank tops, an undershirt type named after the Tank suit swimwear which dates from the 1920s, have been popular warm-weather casual wear in the United States since the 1980s and are regarded as acceptable public casual dress in most locales there. Tank Top
    Later, in the 1990s, hip hop stars would popularize a similar style, known as the Sag, which allowed loosely fitting blue jeans or shorts to droop low, exposing the underwear. Sag
    Although it was worn for decades by exotic dancers, the g-string first gained popularity in South America, particularly in Brazil. It was originally a style of swimsuit made so that the back of the suit is so thin that it disappears between the buttocks. By the 1990s, the design had made its way to most of the Western World, and thong underwear became popular. Today, thong underwear is one of the fastest selling styles available among women and is even gaining some popularity among men. G-string
    Origin of G-string
    G-string or thong is probably the earliest form of clothing known to mankind; having originated in the warmer climates of sub-Saharan Africa where clothing was first worn nearly 75,000 years ago. Many tribal peoples, such as some of the Khoisan people of southern Africa, wore thongs for many centuries. Much like the 2000-plus-year-old Japanese fundoshi, these early garments were made with the male genitalia in mind.
    Although developed for the male anatomy by primitive peoples, in the modern West thongs are more often worn by females. They first gained mainstream popularity as swimwear in South America, particularly in Brazil in the 1970s. In Brazil, where the buttocks ("bunda" in Brazilian Portuguese slang) are especially admired and emphasized; it was originally a style of thong swimsuit whose rear area became so narrow that it would disappear between the wearer's buttocks. Female strippers and erotic dancers in the west have been wearing G-strings and thongs during their routines since the mid-1920s.

    Men's underwear, 1990s to the present

    Men's underwear styles in the present day have seen a dramatic shift in style when compared to the evolution of female styles in underwear. While women's underwear continued to emphasize feminine sexuality, around the late 1980s and early 1990s; particularly in the United States, men's underwear styles began to deemphasize sexuality, in favor of baggier and looser styles. This trend also became evident in swimwear, which grew longer and looser in this period as well as all other fashions which also became consciously baggier and less form fitting. Boardshorts

    Not wearing undergarments
    Not wearing undergarments under one's outer clothing is also known in American slang as freeballing for men or freebuffing for females; the terms going commando and going bareback are also used for both sexes. This trend shows that a few consider underwear unnecessary for hygiene, especially for modern people who bathe every day.
    In situations where a certain amount of body coverage is required (legally or socially), people who prefer to go clothes free might enjoy not wearing undergarments, as that is the closest they can get to nudity. For others, there may be sexual motives; undergarments are the final physical barrier to sex, and not wearing them might be arousing.

    Underwear exposed above trousers and not wearing it

    Underwear is sometimes partly exposed above the trousers when sitting, bending over, etc., or permanently. This depends on the style of trousers (see also sagging, low-rise jeans, hip-hugger), the style of underwear, and the way they are worn. It may be accidental or deliberate. When women wearing thong underwear expose themselves in this way, it is sometimes called a "whale tail". Whale Tail
    Thanks to Wikipedia.

    Your Comments:

    1. Ebisumaru says:

      Nice Article, very educational =D

      Posted on August 31, 2007 at 10:26
    2. turbogeek421 says:

      I thought it was pants! :p

      Posted on August 31, 2007 at 13:07

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