Vintage Lingerie: A Primer into the History of Women's Undergarments

"You've come a long way, baby," is most definitely a phrase that can be applied to the evolution of the women's undergarments. If you are interested in studying vintage lingerie, you can begin at the entrance of the twentieth century, when women began to say goodbye to corsets in favor of more comfortable, less restricting choices. From the beginning of the 1900's, the course of vintage lingerie seemed to ebb and flow with the changes in culture and fashion.

Corset to Brassiere

In the early 1900's many women threw out their tight, restrictive corsets in favor of the more comfortable brassiere. These original bras were made from comfy fabrics like silk and cotton, and were adorned with delicate embroidery and feminine lace. However, the farewell to the tighter undergarments of this style of vintage lingerie was short-lived, since the girdle became a mainstay in the 1920's to accentuate the long, lean flapper look of the times. Still, vintage lingerie of this generation was softer and more indulgent in style to reflect the fun-loving culture of the time.

In the 1930's, Hollywood glamour became the vogue look of this age, and vintage lingerie was created to wear under the beautiful, clinging gowns that became popular during this time. As attention shifted to the bust line, bra manufacturers developed the first fitted cup for bras that was more flattering under the sensual styles of clothing. Silk and cotton gave way to easier care, man-made fibers like rayon. Adornments were kept to a minimum, so that the smooth lines of the clothing were not interrupted by the vintage lingerie.

Names come to the Forefront

By the 1950's, bras became more elaborate in design, and were crafted to enhance the bust line for any shape or size. Women wanted to look great and feel good, so underwear was designed to be worn and forgotten. This was the era that names like Warner became familiar in the marketplace, and vintage lingerie of this time was made by companies that are still recognized today. As the next decade surfaced, comfortable underwear was replaced by no underwear at all, as bra burning became a symbol of women's liberation. Vintage lingerie at this time was designed for comfort, like the cotton panties that were worn under the still popular blue jeans.

If you are interested in finding pieces of this vintage lingerie that was the rage during many of these decades, there are collectors and retailers that still offer many of these garments for sale. You can also find reproductions that will give you a blast from the past with the comfort and craftsmanship of today.