1. Women In Ancient Greece Wore Garments Called “Peplos”
The origins of lingerie can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece, where the female form was only important when it came to childbearing. As a result, women wore something called a peplos, which was a sleeveless floor-length gown that was completely open on the right side. But that wasn’t too big of a deal because the respectable women did not leave their homes.
2. Women In The Roman Republic Wore “Mamillare”
While sex was a lot freer in Rome than it was in Greece, Roman ladies still had to downplay their bodies (unless they were courtesans). Many of them wore bands of leather across their breasts and hips to minimize their curves and avoid distracting the men from their “duties.”
3. Then Came The Elizabethan Corset
In Elizabethan times, the corset was important because most clothing required women to have cylindrical torsos and flat chests. Stomachs also had to be flat, but since contrary to popular belief, most women found this kind of corset to be comfortable because it did not drastically alter the body.
4. However, Lingerie Became Less Popular During The French Revolution
It’s no surprise that while men were angered by hierarchy, women were outraged over restrictive underwear. As a means of expressing themselves, they quickly discarded the corsets and embraced their natural figures by dressing in high waisted gowns that rounded their bodies.
5. But The Victorian Corsets Were A Lot Sexier
Women in Victorian England were considered incredibly fragile and weak, so corsets were redesigned to be a tool that would keep them upright. They were also supposed to put an end to the high-waisted and loose-fitting clothes of the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars (which were synonymous with societal discord and promiscuity).
6. But Mary Phelps Jacob Brought It Back When She Invented The “Backless Brassiere”
But one day in 1913, socialite Mary Phelps Jacob realized she couldn’t wear a corset under a slinky dress because the whalebones poked up past the plunging neckline and were visible through the sheer cloth. Her solution was to tie two silk handkerchiefs around herself with a ribbon and just like that, the corset’s days were numbered.
7. The Warner Brothers Began Accentuating Curves When They Invented The ABC Sizes
Once the flapper trend of the 20s had come and gone, curves made a comeback and in 1937, prompted the Warnaco Brothers Company to begin using letters to differentiate between bra sizes.
8. Things Went Back To Being More Androgynous In The 60s and 70s
The hippies of the 60s and 70s weren’t too keen on lifting and separating, though. In fact, they were much more interested in burning their bras rather than wearing them, and so the undergarment industry shifted once again — this time, towards panties that looked like men’s briefs and bras that allowed for a more natural shape.
Photo credit: Peter Knapp for Vogue UK, 1971
9. But Subtlety Ended With The Wonderbra
But the lingerie climate changed once again when the Wonderbra made it into U.S. stores in 1994 (and it’s not hard to see why).
10. But There’s A Lot More Going On Today
But lingerie is pretty complicated these days, and sometimes it’s hard to pick something that will work for our body type (most of us are, apparently, wearing the wrong size). Your best bet is to get professionally fitted — hopefully, by Molly Hopkins and Cynthia Richards It’s their job to make sure every woman who walks into their store finds a bra to match their body and their attitude, and to create a bond between women and their bodies. To see the magic that happens when a woman puts on the right bra for the first time, watch the premiere of “Double Divas,” January 10th at 10/9c on Lifetime.