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Historical development of Lingerie Industry

Ataullah Al Farhan

Associate Editor, Textile Focus

The Lingerie industry has become a billion dollar enterprise and is expected to only become larger.  Women’s Lingerie has changed dramatically over the centuries, conforming to each generation and its styles.  It should be no surprise that lingerie has a lovemaking charm for both men and women that will outlast the test of time. At the turn of the 21st Century lingerie has evolved due to modern technology and fabrics that have helped manufacture seamless bras, spandex panties, microfiber molded contour bras with breathable, comfortable materials and daring romantic colors have taken the industry up a notch.  Computers have helped designers to create intricate artwork that would be otherwise impossible by hand. Absolutely fashion world are now realizing that innerwear changes the way their outer clothing looks. From year to year how lingerie products have become change its taste are to be cited here.


The word Lingerie originated from the French word “linge” meaning “linen” and was not frequently used until the late 1850’s.  The soft linen’s during the Middle Ages were worn by nobility for the sheer purpose of modesty, hygiene and warmth.  At that time they were bulky, uncomfortable and designed to flatten breasts while contouring the body in a female silhouette.  While in the 16th Century a chemise, petticoats and corsets were designed to accentuate the female form, mainly to tease and entice men. It was considered scandalous in those days to even mention the word undergarments.

Ancient Greeceancient-greeceThe earliest form of lingerie comes from ancient Greece, where women would wear a band of cloth to support their breasts. Minoan art depicting women living in ancient Crete more than 4,000 years ago shows women wearing such clothes.

Called an ‘apodesmos,’ the typically wool undergarment bore a basic resemblance to modern bra designs, in that these pieces were made of cloth that wrapped around the front of the chest and were secured with pins in the back.

Ancient Romeancient-romeIn ancient Rome, women with larger breasts were considered unattractive, so women wore tight support garments, known as a ‘mamillare’ or a ‘fascia,’ that would confine and reduce the appearance of the size of their busts. The primary purpose of the undergarments were functional, as opposed to aesthetic. As shown in this mosaic, from the Villa Romana del Casale and made in the 4th century, women would wear a mamillare for upper body support during athletic and dance events.

Middle Age

First developed during the Roman era and growing in popularity during the Middle Ages, ‘the chemise’ was a loose undergarment worn to protect outwear from sweat and body oils. Chemises were worn by both women and men alike.

Fig- The Chemise

Modern Age

In the 18th century the design became carefree and feminine.  It was tailored with artwork, embroidery and various fabrics like, silk, lace, and sheer linens all designed for elegance with intricate details.  As the years went by, gone was the stiff boned corset and however the new corset still manipulated the shape of the female body to enhance the breast, bottom, and tiny waist.modern-age


This century starts with the Corset design. The column dresses of early 1800s made long-line corsets a popular choice among women.1820


By the mid 19th century, shapes had shifted to become more hourglass, with extreme cinching of the waist made possible by steel or whale-bone corsets.1850


In the late 18th century hoop skirts became less common. Corsets were designed with skirt supporters to create a more delicate lift around the hips.1880


Frilly bloomers were standard for the end of the 19th century. A battery-powered corset to strengthen internal organs, cure a weak back, and develop the chest, which looks so gorgeous.1890


The first decade of the century saw the debut of more revealing and provocative lingerie (slightly deeper necklines, shorter bloomers). Although, at first, such garments tended to be associated with courtesans1910.1920s:

Momentous historical events such as the First World War affected everything — including fashion. This decade is marked by the growing demand for more practical, easy-to-wear clothes. The appearance of dresses that could be worn without corsets paved the way for the introduction of brassieres and combinations.1920


A typical lingerie ‘Full Fashion Double Support’ bra was settled in the 1940s consisted of a brassiere, panties, and an underskirt. Fashion has to take a backseat in wartime.1940


Christian Dior introduces his New Look style, getting back to the classical elements: tiny waist, ample bosom, and rounded hips. This decade is characterized by cone-shaped bras which form was considered the most attractive.1950


Gradually, the shape of the bra becomes less pointy. Among those setting the new trend is Brigitte Bardot — an undisputed style icon of the decade.The first prototypes of today’s push-up bras are invented — small inflatable ’pockets’ that help visibly increase breast size.1960


There is a reappearance in the demand for luxury lingerie. Fashion houses compete with each other, trying to appeal to the most sophisticated tastes. This decade is characterized by feminine, refined, and varied designs. Intricate creations of silk and lace — now not just in the classical black color.1980 Present day

Today lingerie is obviously more accessible than ever in a variety of forms, but more importantly it has contributed a modern version of sexy completely unique from past eras. This new version is not about what’s covered up or not, but about the woman underneath it all. A woman of confidence. A woman of strength. A woman who encapsulates whatever sort of sexy she wants.


With low-rise jeans and micro-mini skirts dominating the fashion scene, thongs were both a blessing and a curse.2000


Recent years have seen a movement towards diversity and body positive thinking in the lingerie world. Brands like Nubian Skin are filling the need for a wider ranger of nude lingerie that accommodates women of colour.2015

The Lingerie industry is dramatically changing day by day. Recently years value added products are including. Fashion designers are working or rapid design changing and also comfort is also giving high priority. Online shopping is becoming popular and making the world easy. Anyone can order any brand products from anywhere in the world. So, we can see more value added items in upcoming days!




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