There are two types of lingerie, hard and soft, and Baby Boomers have lived through both. Hard lingerie includes corsets, bustles and structured bras, while soft lingerie are unstructured garments, such as slips, nightgowns, and panties. Women have worn rib-crushing corsets, pointy brassieres, push-up bras, bloomers, thongs and then even underwear as outwear in the 1980s. Do you remember these trends?
Let’s take a look back at how lingerie styles have evolved. Here are some of the famous lingerie trends of the past.
The 1920s lingerie was characterised by lightweight, breathable fabrics, which worked well under the ’20s and ’30s dress shapes. Women were moving away from their buxom look and had started to wear looser undergarments. Clothing became less ‘covered up’ and lingerie trends adjusted accordingly. The camiknickers were popular (camisole and knickers sewn together) — perfect under short dresses of the ’20s.
Lingerie made somewhat of a U-turn in the 1930s, returning to a more feminine aesthetic. Girdles became shorter and bras, though not particularly supportive of a woman’s breasts, were less constraining. If you happened to have a fuller bust, you’d probably have delighted in the ‘full fashion double support’ bra that came out in the ’30s.
World War II had a significant impact on lingerie in the ’40s, with women having to resort to painting the seams of their stockings along the backs of their legs (a small price to pay, really). There were also special corsets designed for those ladies working in auxiliary roles. It was actually during the 1940s that the ‘ABC Alphabet Bra’ was introduced, thus becoming the industry standard for measuring women are now familiary with. Other lingerie developments included the strapless bra, underwire bras, the push-up bra, something called the ‘New Look’, front-hook bras, and stick-on bras.
The bullet bra was introduced in the 19late-’40s, but really took off in the 1950s — a time when it was perfectly acceptable to walk around with giant triangle-shaped breasts. At the time this trend was the hottest around. A woman’s breasts were given that sexy missile look thanks to a newly introduced circular sewing technique (we think it was called the ‘whirlpool’). Matched with a skin-tight sweater, the whole look was perfectly pert. No wonder Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot took to it.
Image source: Atomicredhead.com
Jayne Mansfield achieved the famously ‘pointy’ silhouette.
If you were interested in ‘enhancing’ your breasts, the ‘Bra Bag’ was for you. Who remembers creating a push-up effect by wearing an inflatable insert in your bra cup? You’d blow into a connected tube (like some sort of busty life jacket) until you’d achieved your desired level of pump, and off you’d go!
It was also during the ’50s that seamless nylon stocking made their mark, and were a sign of a ‘well-dressed’ woman of the day. Pin-ups popularised sexy lingerie in the ’50s, making it more socially acceptable and more freely available to buy.
Youthful style emerged in lingerie in the 1960s, with playful babydoll nighties and frilly knickers. In actual fact, American lingerie designer Sylvia Pedlar produced these items in the early-40s in response to the fabric shortages associated with the war, but it wasn’t until the movie Baby Doll starring Carroll Baker as a teen nymphet was released in 1956 that the name was popularised. (Rumour has it that Pedlar was strongly opposed to the name.)
In the ’60s, babydoll pyjamas consisted of a top and loose fitting short bloomers. Today however, they are considered a somewhat erotic item for adults.
Lingerie grew up and got sophisticated in the 1970s. The styles were more streamlined; silk and lace featured most. Of course, while there was all this talk of ‘women’s liberation’, lingerie still needed to offer a bit of constraint. Say hello to the ‘no bra’
The Nipple Bra was so provocative no one would actually believe a woman was wearing a bra. Women had a sensual ‘no bra’ look, but were still able to get the support they desired. This particular model had its own built-in nipples, so women could look cold all the time. Sexy!
It wasn’t just up top that gained a lot of attention. Zodiac Panties were introduced in the ’70s for both women and men. Not only did you get a sweet pair of knickers, but you also got a personalised ‘love sign’. You were encouraged to collect all 12 designs and surprise the ‘special someone’ in your life with the style that best suited your mood. Whoa! Towards the end of the ’70s lingerie became more sultry, more provocative and super-sexual.
The 1980s made boas and feathers a part of lingerie trends, but it was also the decade where it became common to wear your lingerie as outerwear.
In the early-1990s, Madonna’s epic cone bra designed by Jean Paul Gaultier thankfully never took off as a widespread trend, but it deal ensure she became an icon of the era.
The ’80s was definitely a period of brash lingerie items and while that went missing (good thing, maybe?) in the ’90s there was still a high level of sex appeal. It’s possible this is as a result of the models who were tasked with wearing such items — Cindy Crawford, we are looking at you.
The Wonderbra brand came about in the mid-20th century, but the push-up bra, as it’s now commonly known, became quite popular in the ’90s. It was the first bra to lift and push the bust line together. Eva Herzigova certainly turned some heads in the advertisement for Wonderbra below…
Victoria’s Secret launched its infamous fashion show in 1995. It really shone the spotlight on lingerie and how we thought about it. Supermodels like Helena Christensen, Tyra Banks, Karen Mulder, Daniela Pestova and Stephanie Seymour (pictured below) were the first ‘Angels’.
It all got a bit cringeworthy in the ‘noughties’. From low-rise jeans and micro-minis, it was impossible not to get a look at what women were wearing. G-strings were flaunted and undergarments were no longer under wraps. Sigh…