We’re sure you’re not sitting there putting too much thought into the evolution of your underwear, but Westernized undergarments have an interesting history. Luckily for us, our resident expert and Perfect Panty designer, Dr. Deb Christel, knows all about the history of underwear. She walked us through a timeline beginning in ancient Rome to the modern-day focus on comfort briefs.
The earliest recorded form of underwear stems from 100 AD in ancient Rome where women wore a subligaculum, which was basically a glorified diaper. They also wore a strophium over their chest to bind large breasts, which were considered unattractive. Talk about a shift in beauty standards.
In the Middle Ages, undergarments consisted of a chemise that draped to the floor. This was a long-sleeved, loose-fitting nightie with a round neck. Women wore nothing underneath it.
During this time corsets and bustles, which were sown into the back of skirts, were becoming popular. The bustle created a fuller look and accentuated the peach. Glad to see the obsession with the butt dates back to then. It also had a practical purpose: keeping dresses from dragging on the ground.
Any idea what the first bustles were made of? Time’s up (you’ll never guess). Fox tails. That’s right, fox tails. Women attached fox tails to their butt to make the budonkadonk look larger and rounder.
Moving on from that disturbing thought, let’s focus again on chemises. In the 1400s and 1500s, they became more embellished and decorative. As clothing became more fitted so did chemises, which also started to peek through clothing. This was a first, but women still were going commando.
Also at this time, the hoop skirt came on the scene. Known as a farthingale (say that five times fast, we dare you), the hoop skirt was basically a hooped petticoat. Ballers on a budget could opt for a croissant-shaped bum roll, which is the equivalent of today’s underwear with built-in butt pads.
Women started to wear separate undergarments in the 1600s in Italy. The chemise was still worn, but women also wore a short style underneath that was very similar to men’s underwear. In fact, rumor had it that women were stealing men’s underwear. How very scandalous!
By the 1800s, all of Europe had adopted the short style and hoop skirts were at the height of popularity. The obsession with the butt apparently had not gone anywhere. Plus, the hoop skirt served two purposes: keeping unwanted suitors away and making your behind look great.
The chemise began to decline in popularity in the 20th century as separates became more popular. Until the 1920s, women wore a chemise, knicker and corset all underneath their clothing (that sounds very warm). But by the 1930s, drawers were shortened and were being referred to as panties. The 1940s saw the end of corset popularity as the two ingredients needed to make them – steel and nylon – were now needed for the war effort.
In the 1950s, loose baggy shorts turned into the modern brief while pin-up girls popularized the idea of sexy underwear. Further strides in style came about in the 1950s with the introduction of the bikini and hip hugger as well as more playful colors. If you’re a thong lover, you have the 1970s to thank.
High-cut styles and g-strings were popularized thanks to ‘80s aerobic culture and the popularization of the leotard. The defining style of the ‘90s was Calvin Klein waistbands poking up out of jeans. Displaying your expensive taste in underwear became a thing.
By the 21st century, shapewear was introduced and so was the whale tail. If you don’t know about this phenomenon, it’s when your thong proudly rises above your low-rise jeans. Can we all agree to never allow this trend to make a comeback?
That brings us to today where comfort seems to have taken center stage. Shapewear is still popular, but more so for special occasions and not for everyday wear. We’re also seeing a decline in the popularity of thongs and g-strings in favor of more comfortable full briefs.
What is your favorite underwear trend? Are you grateful corsets are no longer a thing? Or do you long for a good hoop skirt and butt pad? Comment below, reach us on Instagram at @pantydropme or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.