There is just something intriguing about lingerie. When draped over mannequins, these artifacts come to life as one flips through the pages and watches the long flowing petticoats of the late eighteenth century give way to the tight black nylon bodysuit of the s.
The written history here is confined to a short preface penned by Valerie Steele, a fashion historian, who describes the development of trends and styles in a concise eighteen pages. Tracing underwear designs across several centuries, she reveals a cyclical pattern where attitudes about propriety and fashion have appeared, faded and then reappeared. The story of lingerie really could be one of liberation and gender control, if perhaps the author made room for this in her own analysis. As Steele explains it, in the beginning there was only the t-shaped undergarment which later became the t-shirt which both sexes donned to refrain from having to bathe too often or rendering their clothing too malodorous.
Underwear existed as a practical and salubrious sheath of fabric. That is until royalty took to having these undergarments embroidered. Following this lead, courtesans allegedly began to employ more elaborate and tailored articles as seductive garments. The brassiere in particular provides an example for how the relationship between function and fashion played out. By , the bra became an essential undergarment for women — meant to cover the chest and also emphasize whatever silhouette was most chic at the moment.
The creation of the bandeau bra provided a delicate covering for the breasts without necessarily supporting or shaping them. This simple design also meant they could be mass-produced and made widely accessible. In , Marie Rose Lebigot of France ditched the simple bandeau design to create her famed lace corset, with its emphasis more on feminine lines sans body angles as underwired cups supported and emphasized the bosom.
Then the s reintroduced classic lingerie styles, as the bustier again came back in vogue. Missing from these pages of high-definition photographs is any context in which to consider these artifacts. Likewise, while the photographs are compelling, most of the outfits shown here are draped on stiff mannequins.
Most obviously absent is an analysis of the relationship between what a woman puts on beneath her clothes in private and her place in the public realm throughout the 20 th century. There is probably no definitive answer to the question of whether or not one form of undergarment becomes more or less empowering for women; as it also relates to the matter of taste and style that can change at any moment. This book is a lovely coffee-table accessory and a graphic history in its own right, but in the end, the sexy appearance of these outfits is obvious, but the sexy history is lost.
Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Stanton Foundation. Skip to main content. The Ohio State University. Department of History.
Home Topics Africa. Middle East. North America. International Relations Religion Education Sports. Search form Search. Connecting History. Hot off the Press. History Talk. Review Printer Friendly Version.
Review by Leticia R. On the right is a corset sketch from which shows again how the center waist is made to appear as if it is the smallest point of the body. This ladies underwear advertisement from highlights a fairly modest and simplistic lingerie design.
Nightgowns are another form of lingerie which shifted from the alluring to the simple and comfortable. Here, three sisters lounge in their simplistically crafted nightgowns in the mids.