History of Lingerie: Explained in 3 Short Stages

November 25, 2020

We wear undergarments (almost) every day, but do you know the history of lingerie? When did people start wearing pretty little things, and why? There is no doubting that this subject matter is fascinating—how can an item conceal while reveal, or be modest and erotic at the same time? 

If you’ve ever wondered about the history of lingerie, we’re here to give you a quick and dirty rundown of this fashion must-have’s origins. Get cozy, Diva, and take notes! You never know when you might need this info in trivia. 😉

History of Lingerie

Stage 1: The Creation of Corsets

history of lingerieThere’s always an original piece that inspires more creativity, and for lingerie, that would be thecorset. These lace-up garments were first worn in Europe in the 1500s to cinch women’s waists and boost the breasts. In the pursuit of the era’s highly-coveted flat-torsoed shape, women would wear corsets beneath their dresses to train their waists to be narrower. Believe it or not, the first corsets (made in Italy) had shoulder straps!


Related:How to Lace a Corset


Many corset designs were created and adapted up through the late 1890s and beyond—often different iterations to accentuate different parts (bust, bosom, etc.)

Knowing how old the design is, it is amazing that corsets are still around. Evenwaist trainers still have popularity!

Related:Bustier Vs. Corset: What’s the Difference?

Stage 2: Moving to Modernism

history of lingerie

As lingerie moved further from body-shaping devices and more into items somewhat meant to be seen, the history of lingerie takes a turn during the 1920s in America.

More boyish figures and flowy silhouettes became the style during the Roaring ‘20s—a stark contrast to the pushed-in and pushed-up looks women had worn up to this point.

During the ‘20s, loose, shapeless dresses were worn—very similar toflapper dress costumes we wear on Halloween today. In addition to light slips and longer hemlines, this era also introduced wearing stockings that went up to the knee, teasing the kneecap for risqué moments. 

Related:Everything You Need to Know About Garters & Garter Belts

We may take more sexual liberties with ourhosiery,chemises, andbabydoll lingerie pieces today—but we wouldn’t be able to without the progress of lingerie’s past! 

Stage 3: ABC Sizes & Beyond

history of lingerie

It was in 1944 that S. H. and Company first denoted bra measurements the way we know them now—using letters for the cup sizes. This method quickly became the industry standard. After WWII when wire production picked back up, so did the popularity of push-up bras.

Related:How to Measure Your Bra Size the Right Way

In 1946, the first strapless bras (as we know them today) were introduced, giving women a better option than corsets and bustiers for revealing necklines.

After that, the iconic western lingerie looks we still illicit today began to have their heyday. Bullet bras were huge in the 1950s during the time pin-ups were the pinnacle of sexy women.

Related:Tattooed Pinup Babes to Follow Right Now

Then, women’s liberation hit hard in the ‘60s, when bras were burned and frilly lingerie looks filled the racks. From this point on, the sexy lace two-piece sets and other modern styles we still rock today continued their rise in popularity—and clearly they stuck! 

This may have been an extremely condensed version of the history of lingerie, but if you’re anything like us, the mere mention of lingerie makes you ready to shop!

Put your new history knowledge to work andshop Lingerie Diva’s deals of the week… for, uh, research.

Jennifer Tiemeyer
Jennifer Tiemeyer

Also in Lingerie Diva Blog

Sexy Valentine's Day Lingerie
The Ultimate Valentine's Day Lingerie Shopping Guide

January 26, 2024

If you’re looking to add a sensual element to your Valentine’s Day by buying Valentine’s Day lingerie for your partner or for yourself, this is the right place to start!
How to Choose Comfortable Lingerie You'll Actually Want to Wear
How to Choose Comfortable Lingerie You'll Actually Want to Wear

January 19, 2024

a bralette
A Bralette Briefer: What to Know & Where to Buy the Best Bralettes

January 12, 2024