The History of Underclothes. C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington (through the British and a bit of French perspective)


  1. protect the body from cold
  2. to support the shape of the costume
  3. for cleanliness
  4. erotic use of underclothing
  5. class distinction

materials: Linen, cotton, woolen petticoats, silk for the leisure classes.
construction:  hand made, poor fit, better weaving, knitting closer fit.
methods of fastening: strings, ribbons, buttons, studs, snaps, hooks and eyes seldom used.


Medieval Period: protect garment from dirt and body from harsh fabrics.

the shirt  of all the undergarments worn by either sex this is the one which, if not the most ancient, has certainly preserved longer than any other.  Until a hundred years ago it was always worn next to the skin. made of wool and linen.

the drawers

saxon word – breechers or braies.  denoted the garment used to conceal the sexual region.  confusion for outer and inner.  second half of 12th century braies became and undergarment.

the smock (chemise)  flowing, ankle length garment with long straight sleeves and small round neck



the stays

uncertain if women worn something in the nature of a corset.  singular figure suggests the possibility.




New fashion for slashing men’s out clothes exposed the fine quality of what lay beneath, and immediately brought the shirt itself, to greater attention. The edge of the shirt was ruffled at the neck, a decoration which soon developed into a separate accessory. For women, underclothing took on  the new function of supporting the growing size and shape of the skirt.


the shirt: made of cambric or holland.  Very full, low necks, full sleeves into narrow bands at wrist.  Embroidery.


the ruff: put on separately from shirt and fastened by band strings. Ruffs were made of cambric, holland, lawn and the finest cloth that could be got. Embroidered with silk and edged with lace.


1533 sumptuary law: no one under the rank of knight might wear “plaited shirts or shirts garnished with silk, gold or silver”  Only undergarment which obtained the honour of an Act of Parliament.

the waistcoat: worn under the doublet.  Waist-length with our without sleeves, usually quilted or bombasted.  “vest” Made of velvet, silk, or linen and often embroidered.

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1700 waistcoat

the drawers: corresponded to modern pants, and were know as trousers or strosssers.  They were knee or ankle length, cut on the cross (bias) to give a close fit.

the night clothes: night shirts, caps



The Chemise: collar developed and opened at the top of the gown in a frilled border, becoming often a high collar, splayed open, and loosely tied at the neck with strings.  Made of cambric, holland and silk used occasionally.  Embroidery was common. It was acceptable compliment for courtier to present Queen Elizabeth with elaborate specimens of this garment. They were heavily perfumed, to cover smell of bodies and wood ash.



the wasitcoat. like the mans was slipped over the head and resembled a vest.  Materials were flannel, velvet, damask, sarcenet and linen.  Enriched with “wrought work” during Elizabeth’s reign.

the corset.  underbodice made of two parts called “a pair of bodies”, stiffened with busks of wood or whalebone inserted into casings in the “bodies” and tied there by “busk points”


the petticoat.  women of England wore three cloth gowns for petticoats one over the other.

the farthingale.  petticoat reinforced by a series of graduated hoops of cane, whalebone, or wire.  Shape of a cone, closely resembling that of the Victorian cage-crinoline.


the drawers.  Introduced by Catharine de Medici.  silk or linen breeches.

the nightclothes.  smocks, embroidery, openwork, were worn by all women of social pretension.  Heavily perfumed.



Romantic period, ceased being merely utilitarian in function, there were being exploited to indicate class distinction and sex attraction.   Antagonism to Puritanism which persistently disapproved of the display of underclothes for erotic purposes though it had no objection to class distinction in costume.


the day-shirt.  Shirt was conspicuously displayed.  Its neckband was narrow; to it the material was gathered, with a short centre-opening in front, edged with lace or a linen frill.  Opening was tied at the neck with strings and buttoned.  Sleeves were full and were caught in the wrist with ribbon ties. Materials were fine holland, linen, lace, frieze holland and course linen called lockeram.


The half shirt.  short under shirt about hip length, made of flannel in winter and linen in summer.

the drawers.  two types.  silk trunks 13″ long, cut full and square: they are fastened with ribbons in front, have a small slit behind, and are tied at the back.  second type consists of long drawers with stirrups, a band which passed under the instep to prevent the garment from slipping up the leg.

the nightclothes.  fine gentleman was an elaborate as the day-shirt, often with lace insertion at the neck and down the sides of the sleeves with ruffles at the wrist.  Sleeves were very full, collar laid flat.



the chemise or Smock.  made of holland and heavily perfumed. plain except for the frill, sometimes edged with lace, at the neck and sleeves.  Neck line was cut low, with a short V opening in front where it was tied by means of a threaded draw-strings.


the corset.  heavily boned, long bust in front and was laced up behind.

the petticoats. farthingale ceased to be fashionable about 1625, and as the skirt of the gown then became trained and flowing it would doubtless have required a number of under-petticoats to support it.   Little direct evidence.

the bustle.1690 overskirt became bunched up at the back, natural the bustle returned.

the waistcoat.  worn under the garment, maybe even next to the skin.

the drawers.  French women wore, but no evidence English women wore

the nightclothes.  hight ranks lavishly trimmed with lace.

the pocket.  detachable, in shape of narrow bag with a centre slit, fastened round the waist under the petticoats.




The whole of costume at this period was dominated by the hoop, which gave women’s skirt a special importance and underclothes a peculiar significance.

We associate this fashion with it’s predecessor, the farthingale of the 16th and 17th centuries, and with the Victorian crinoline which followed it a century later.  Although these types has primary function of expressing class distinction, their erotic associations differed.  As Englishwomen did not wear drawers until the 19th century, the thight were bare beneath the petticoats, so that, with the farthingale and the hoop, accidental exposures must happened.   The men in this period are strangely happy.  1712 – send ladies sky high on swings.

17th century the erotic center of attention was the breasts.   1710 erotic zone shifts to the legs when the hoop becomes fashionable.


the shirt.  shape remained unchanged, bottom cut square.  Back flap slightly longer than the back.  1710 the hanging cravat was commonly dispensed with so that the jabot or frilled border of the central opening becoming more elaborate, embroidered and exposed.   Neckband became higher and developed into a collar attached to the shirt, though concealed by the neckcloth.   The sleeves were voluminous, with carefully pressed pleats along the outer side.


the drawers.  short, tied in at the knees, closed by a string fastening round the waist.

the nightclothes.  linen nightshirt resembled the day-shirt except that it was slightly longer and fuller in the cut.

the artificial calves.  Introduced by the Macaronis, from 1770 on.  purpose to accentuate the shapeliness of the male calf of the leg.



the chemise.  reached just below the knees.  Top of the garment was edged with lace and threaded with a draw-string, scarcely on the shoulders and followed the line of the bodice.  full sleeves, gathered at the top, with lace frill.



habit-shirts. worn during riding, similar to mens costume, with ruffled jabot.


the corset.  worn from childhood. lower margin cut into tabs to fit over the hips.



the hooped petticoat.  is made to keep men at a distance.



the bustle.  large roll or pad, tapering at the ends and tied around the waist.


the under petticoat. narrow and tubular under skirt which did not reach the small of the leg.


nightclothes.  resembled the day-chemise except for being longer.  on the head was worn a night cap.



Has the historian pieces together the fragmentary finds of knowledge, they always remain conscious of the gaps in the story as well as of the conflicting accounts from which it is composed.

The fashion magazine becomes a new source of information.

Last quarter of the 18th century saw the introduction to two important changes:

  1. Prudery. Regards underwear in a more serious manner.
  2. Personal cleanness.  Introduced by the Macaronis 1770’s.  “no perfumes, very fine linen and country washing”


the shirt: Shirt-front became completely concealed under the immense wrapping of the voluminous neckcloth.  Frill was omitted.  Collar 5-6″ high was no longer visible.  Bottom of the shirt was cut square until 1850.  Evidence of machine stitching indicates a date after 1860, but many shirts continued to be sewn by hand.


the drawers.  two lengths, short when worn under breeches and “smallclothes; long when worn under pantaloons and trousers.


the braces.  useful addition added shortly before 1800. used to hold tight breeches.  working class wore loose fitting clothing and called the braces, gallows.

the corset.  Dandy’s frequently wore this aid to beauty.   “prinny has left off his stays and his belly now hangs over his knees.


the nightclothes. no important change.

the underwaistcoat.  made with stockenette with wool lining, and fastened down front by dorest  thread buttons.  sleeves have gap under the armpits and narrow wristband with one button.

Classical style of dress, accompanied by an extensive shedding of superfluous undergarments.   In the English spirit of moderation kept in check “near nudity’ movement except for a daring few.  For a few years stays were discarded by the “fashionables’, but returned early in the new century.

the chemise.  the old term “shift” has now become unfashionable.  The garment was made of cotton or linen, straight and ungathered, the shape being almost oblong.  Knee length, the neck opening was square and edged with a gathered muslin frill.  The short sleeves were set in with a gusset in the armpit.  Bing side, the chemise was often omitted if the dress was narrow.

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the petticoat.  made of cotton, cambric, linen or sometimes flannel.  was a bodice and skirt, with opened sides to get into the garment.  Cut known as a “low stomacher front”  1807 invisible petticoats, drawers and waistcoats all in one.  woven on a stocking-loom and drawn over the legs so that when walking you obliged to take short, and mincing steps.


the drawers.  1806 come into fashion, similar to men’s, come just below the knee.


the pantaloons.  1830’s, worn under garments by school girls when doing sports.  went to the mid calf.

the corset.  1794-1800 they were short and not worn universally. Corsettes about 6″ long, and a light buffon tucker of two inches hight, are now the only defensive paraphernalia of our fashionable belles, between the neckline and a apron strings.

the long corset was made jean or buckram, well stiffened with whalebone, extended down to cover the hips, and up wards to push the breasts.  Lower edge has no tabs.  laced up the back.


the short corset was equally rigid, and had back lacing.


“by the newly invented corsets we see, in eight women out of ten, the hips are squeezed into a circumference little fore than the waist; and the bosom shoved up to the chin, making a short of fleshy shelf disgusting to the beholders and certainly most uncomfortable to the wearer.

the divorce corset appeared in 1816.  Used to separate one bosom from the other, using a piece of iron or steel thrusting breasts apart to make the Grecian shape.


the pregnant stay, 1811 as completely enveloping the body from shoulder to hips and elaborately boned so as to compress and reduce the shape desired the natural prominence of the female figure in a state of fruitfulness.  Lucia belt for every lady expecting to hailed by the endearing title of mother.



the bustle.  1810 small rolls sewn into the back of the skirt.  1815 detached in the shape of a long sausage with tapes at each end.

the pockets.  replaced by handbag or reticule commonly called a ridicule.


the nightclothes remain the same.



Careful regulation of the forms of sex attraction especially in the apparel of the lady.  Increasing social importance of the middle class the spirit of prudery recovered from it’s war-time set back, and became the dominating influence over the costume of men and women.

High priestess of this moral cult was Mrs. Grundy.  eminent fictitious Victorian. 1830 onwards became the convenient censor of social morals and dress.  Refined language; with child, breeding, bowels, stomach.  Psychological “black out” affects parts of the body: legs become limbs, breasts become bosom, the lower back became the region that has baffled the descriptive fashion writer.  underclothes – linen, nether integuments



the shirt. Differences between day and evening styles came to be accentuated.  The man of fashion tended more and more to reserve ornamentation for his evening shirt.

“when traveling take three dozen cravats and at least three dozen shirt collars”  “the bosoms of the dress-fronts are invariably composed of lawn or worked cambric which is puckered and furbelowed with a variety of ruffled shapes.


the drawers. long called trouser drawers, short drawers.

the corset.  continue to be worn

the nightclothes.  plain turned downed collar, buttoned at the neck, the centre opening extending a considerable way down the front.



the chemise.  homespun linen, unshaped square neck edged with cambric frill.

the petticoat.  made with attached bodice, in the form of the stomacher-front.  evening petticoat would be ornamented.  the short petticoat IE without a bodice.  cotton, muslin, linen or cambric.  steadily expanding skirts.


the drawers.  end of 1830’s generally accepted by women of any social pretensions.  Garment of class distinction, not usually worn by lower classes.   Silk drawers worn when riding and bathing.

the pantalettes were sometimes worn.


the corset.  Tight-lacing became progressively more severe, partly to accentuate the much-admired ‘small waist” and partly as a moral restraint correcting the looser habits of the Regency


the demi-corset.  8-10 inches tall, with light whalebone were worn when performing domestic work by day.

the bustle.  1833 down stuffed. the diameter of the fashionable ladies at present is about 3 yards. Liable to slip out of place.


the nightclothes.  no material change.  plain unshaped and has a falling collar with frill, sleeves gathered into a cuff and fastened by a hand-made button.  1818-33 Night cap.



The art of costume seldom develops at a uniform rate of progress; it exhibits phases of activity interspersed with periods of apparent quiescence.  Such quiet interludes are, illusory, for changes, below the surface maybe ongoing, preparing for an upheaval of the visible landscape.  Outwardly the fashions paused.  It is more important to express class distinction than sex attraction, or rather the evidence of social rank and wealth was a sufficient form of attraction.


the shirt.  fine lines with vertical tucks or embroidery on each side of a narrow central panel.  Shirt exposure depended on the cut of the waist coat. Studs replace buttons, linked with gold chain.  Worn with large cravat.  Morning dress.  buttom cut with a deep curve.  “patent elliptic collar” cut higher in front then behind was introduced.



the drawers.  pink silk ankle length stockinette, 9″ front opening, closed by an overlap of 2″, waistband fastened by 2 pearl buttons.  4″ opening down center back is closed with two silk tapes in the waistband.


the under-vest.  Merino vests advertised in 1840’s but no description.  extra warmth.


the braces.


the nightclothes.  sometimes a shirt and sometimes long.


the chemise.  front square with a falling flap (to cover corset) and short full sleeves gusset in the armpit.  Evening wear, has lace.


the petticoat.  number from 4 to 6 were worn according to the season.  only the outermost would be decorative.  Width of petticoats steadily expanding.



the camisole.  New garment, appeared early in 1840’s.  spoken of as “waistcoat” made of long cloth and shaped to the waist by goring, covered the corset, and took the place of the flat front of the old type chemise.

the vest.  merino vests advertised 1847, but young women wouldn’t wear, as it increased their waist size.

the bust improvers.  “lemon bosoms and many other means of creating fictitious charms and improving the work of nature.

the drawers.  keep clean and healthy.  Long cloth drawers, drawers, full maids, ladies riding trousers, very plain.

the corset.  extends to hips.  Day corsets had shoulder strap.


the bustle.  no longer confined to back, spread around to the sides to help in throwing out the skirt into a domed shape.  “dress-improvers”

the nightclothes.  long cloth, frilled around neck and down front opening and at the cuffs.   1851 – ready made


1857 -1866

Ease and comfort must be sacrificed into order to express social rank.   the well-groomed gentleman, corseted and gasping in the tightest of surtouts and pegtop inexpressibles, and the lady, staggering under the burden of multitudinous petticoats, were the prisoners of etiquette.  Outside of confines of society there were the workers in clothes allowing freedom of movement. How simple to barrow from the people the principle that clothes should be the servants of their wearers and not the masters!

Novelty of colored undergarments, shocked the principles of prudery by their liberal exposure.  Chemical dyes introduced in 1860.  Sewing Machine arrives, abundance of ready-made under clothes in exuberant hues.  amount of embroidery is sinful.  a young lady spent a month in hem stitching and embroidering a garment which it was scarcely possible that any other human being, except her laundress would see.

Popular attention concentrated on the crinoline, that ingenious mechanism which in shape and size resembles Albert Hall or the Great Pyramids.  with three or four of these giantesses in a aroom a diminished man could not creep in beyond the door.




the shirt.  Day. Formal.  enough of shirt front was exposed to reveal the uppermost button or stud.  Large folded cravat.  Upright collar with gap between points. Necktie – band passed round the neck and tied in front either in a bow or knot with hanging ends.


Evening. show expansive front trucked on either side of a centre panel, or the centre panel might be slightly embroidered.


country and sporting shirts in a wide variety of styles.

the drawers and undervest.  no reliable account.

the braces.  worked by young ladies and given as gifts to the sterner sex.  at a time when prudery forbade the mention of the garments to which they were destined perhaps they were symbols of secret attachment.

the night shirts.  no change.


the chemise.  shape remains unchanged, 1864, sometimes trimmed with scarlet cotton designs.

the camisole.  continued to be worn over the corset.

the corset.  1860 waist shortened, corset shortens, and taste for colored corsets is rapidly increasing.


the crinoline.  “artificial crinoline” or “cage petticoat” strengthened by metal or whalebone hoops.




other petticoats.   worn over the crinoline.  Ornamental, muslin flounce.

the vests.  high in the neck with long or short sleeves of merino or flannel.

the drawers.  trimmed with frills. IN winter color flannel knickerbockers were worn in brilliant scarlet.  confined just below the knee with elastic.


the nightdress.  2.5 to 3 inch hem, collar, cuffs and front trimmed with embroidery.  night cap had become old fashion.


the pockets. old detachable pocket in the shape of a bag with a side slide opening was suspended around the waist and under the crinoline.  “safety railway pockets”.



City Dress: Fashions rigid control.  Country Dress: more comfortable and only worn in the country.

1875 fashion journal: the reason for the present extraordinary luxury in dress is that the surplus million of women are husband-hunting and resort to extra attractions to that end.  The pursuit had to be masked in prudery.  Crinoline no longer decent and was replaced by elaborate concealment made as alluring as possible.  The curves of nature enriched by corset and bustle become prominent features.  “a well-developed bust, a tapering waist, and large hips are the combination of a good figure”




the shirt.  day-shirt curved hem about and inch shorter in front than behind, plain white linen, with cuffs and front more starched than formerly.  one to two studs revvealed. Lounge suit.

the vest.  woolen, hip length, narrow neck band and center opening closed by four buttons.

the drawers.  woolen, ankle length, closed by four buttons at the front opening.

the night clothes.  no change.



the chemise.  now made of breast seams shaped to the figure so as not to take up more room than possible beneath the stays.


the drawers.  old form continued 1868 drawers have 5 or 6 tucks at the knee.

the combinations. new style of combining chemise and drawers. the function of the garment is betrayed in the comment: in the present day the object of dress is no longer to conceal but to display the female form divine.


the petticoats.  colors become less aggressive.  white day petticoat should have pleating 9″ deep; for evening goffered flounces are long as the dress.

the crinoline, crinolette and bustle.





the corset.  waist measurements of 17 to 21″ was the fashion.  Glove fitting corset.  1875 long corset and tight-lacing to give the long slender fashionable figure.



the camisole.  petticoat bodice, shaped to the figure with a heart shaped opening.

the vest.  1875, often of washing silk in various colors, made with long or short sleeves.

the night dress. stand- up collar and a yoke with front being tucked.



economic depression which overshadowed most of this period curbed the extravagance of dress.  In a more sober atmosphere was a growing appreciation of hygiene and a demand for sensible underclothing.  Experimentation with Rational Dress.

Both sexes were exploring the joys of outdoor sports, for which appropriate costume was needed.   Innovations in feminine costume, however, were checked by the prudish dread of arousing unwelcome sex interest; a horror of the human body seems to be been the hall-mark of gentility.  Conflicting impulses, some eager for progress, others shocked by the signs of the time, resulting in confusion.

Hygienic rule of wool (to absorb perspiration) next to the skin, and wearing of underclothes that lacked charm.  1880’s every nice-minded girl was trained to be oblivious of a large area of her body, “how awful it must be, to be seen, by one’s husband – in one’s petticoats!


the shirt.  day-shirt for formal wear remained white and starched, with rectangular shaped cuffs.  Side slits with small gussets, curved in front and back.  Hight of collar was 3″.  Collars possessed the most elaborate and varied assortment of neckwear.

1894 fancy colors, in hot weather pale pink or blue stripes

the dress shirt.  one button on front. sometimes button in the back, while linen and fine pique.


the vest.  undershirt, ventilated undershirts of lambs wool with perforations in the armpits.

the drawers.  natural wool and lambs wool.  short pants of absorbent stockinette worn for exercise.

the braces. number of variations.

the nightclothes. Pajamas, replacing the nightshirt, in wool and silk.

the corset.  stiff band with ribs and is fastened to the pants.

dress accessories.  Flannel and leather chest protectors, sock suspenders, tie clips, metallic devices for holding down the tie round the upright collar, studs, and cufflinks.

ties:  Napoleons, black tied around neck.  twice-round scarf. derbies, oxfords, ascots, batswing, made up cravats.




The chemise.  worn until end 1880s, empire chemise appeared with a high waist and puffed shoulder sleeve.

the combinations.  woolen material, silk trimmed with lace.  New undergarment of fine muslin edged with lace combining low bodice, petticoat and drawers, worn over the corset which is worn over the vest, introduced by Marshall and Snelgrove 1892.





the drawers.  worn over the combinations, frilled at the knees and becoming extremely wide in the leg, so that by 1895 the garment was as wide as the petticoat.


the petticoats.  crinoline petticoats.


the bustle.  separate article from petticoat with back flouncing.


the corset.  continued to be long waisted, elegant materials of silk, satin and brocade and in a variety of colors.

the vest.  silk stockinette

the bust bodice.  device to support the breasts introduced in 1889, worn above the corset.


bust improvers.  1887, cup-shaped wire structures.



the camisole. high and close fitting for day wear, and with a low V neck for evening; plain or trimmed with lace.

the nightgown.  frilling around the neck, with lace ruffles and jabot.  White silk.  1887 becoming pretty.



The spirit of costume, anticipating the Edwardian period, changed in character, and the new epoch began in 1897.  The influence of sport spreads taste for more comfortable clothes in daily life, and the top hat and frock coat were becoming a specialized uniform for particular occasions.   Feminine underclothes developed a degree of eroticism never previously attempted.  They invented a silhouette of fictitious curves, massive above, with rivulets of lacy embroidery trickling over the surface down to a whirlpool of froth.


never a time in history when everybody was dressed so nearly alike. the badge of the working man as the white shirt was of the middle and professional classes.

the shirt.  Day, white shirt, linen cuffs, front; the attached collar was giving place to the detachable, and by 1900’s the colored shirt for day wear was accepted.

the dress shirt.  changes little.


the dress-shirt protector.  popular end 1890’s worn to protect the shirt when the overcoat or evening cloak was worn.


the undervest.  natural wool or in summer silk or cotton.

the drawers and pants. similar materials to undervest. pants were ankle-length or mid-calf, drawers were either just below the knee or just above.


the combinations.  vest and pants in one.

the pajamas.  replace the night shirt.


A wish for dainty underwear is a desire for cleanliness.

the chemise. for day fine linen, batiste or lawn.  For evening of lawn or silk.

the combinations.  knicker and camisole combinations with lace, made of wool and silk and wool.

the corset.  the stays are straight and forward but leave the figure graceful and supple; whilst narrowing the back in a most surprising manner.  Chest expands. Gibson Girl silhouette.



the petticoat.  always flimsy; not more than two were worn, the top one, particularly when colored was referred to as an underskirt.


the drawers.  nainsook knickers with frills of muslin embroidery; french drawers of mull muslin or washing silk, with flounce and three rows of insertion, threaded with baby ribbon, worn under lace or silk petticoat.



the camisole.  corset covers – petticoat bodices, under clothing becomes thinner and thinner.


bust improvers.  bust fashioned on Venus de Milo.  The Neena bust improver.



the bust bodice.  worn above the corset


the nightclothes.  flimsier materials and elaborately trimmed.


the trousseaux. ladies undergarments.


Simplification in dress. Underclothes were permitting freer movement, growing inclination to reduce the layers which covered the body.  Slowly realized that in the active life of the modern world so much clothing was unnecessary and a relic of obsolete ideas.


progressive increase in the variety of articles available.

the shirt.  long fronted white or printed shirt is now obsolete.

the business shirt stiff 10″ front, detachable cuffs, for day the white shirt was being steadily displaced by the soft-fronted, made of flannel in winter and of cambric in summer.  Pleated and tucked fronts.  Day tie, four-in-hand, or bow knot.

the vest.  long or short sleeves; made of unbleached cotton, white gauze or net for summer, and of meriono.

the drawers and pants.  unbleached cotton, calico, gauze and merino.

the combinations still being worn.

the nightclothes.  Longcloth shirts and pajama’s



the new silhouette, with a skirt of 1 1/2 yards round the hem, left little space for expansive underclothing.

the chemise.  square-cut with narrow shoulder straps.

the combination.  replaces the chemise and skirt-knickers by skin fitting combinations and silk pantalettes.


the corset.  corsets whether back or front lace, boning was all important, the strain on the garment was terrific. 1912 clock-spring steel covered with hard rubber or celluloid was adopted and whalebone never recovered.



the petticoat. Princess petticoat 1911.  1915 expands


the Brassiere.  1916 a new undergarment which takes place of camisole.


the chemi-knickers.  1917 new under slip, worn over the corset, helping to reduce the number of undergarments; a button and loop can be put at the lowest hem to catch the skirt together in divided skirt fashion.


the knickers.  french with wide frilled legs. skirt knickers.


the nightclothes. pre-war the nightdress.  Pajama suit has a growing interest.


new attitude of mind towards the function of clothing and underclothing.

“skin worship”  devotees tanned their bodies by sunlight, real or artificial, or by stains; women improve their faces with paints, lotions and skin foods containing hormones.  Focus on the face they cut off their hair.  glorification of youth.


Prince of Wales, publicly condemned “the boiled shirt” Garish colors in dress was the new spirit.

the shirt.  for day wear.  oxford shirt with white collar and cuffs. the dress-shirt single stud, white pleated front.  the sports shirt, cotton or wool taffeta, turn collar.


the combination. derived from America, one piece suit for underwear in place of a vest and pants.

the shorts and trunks.  made with lastex wasitbands, generally worn by 1930.


the singlet.  jersey necks and quarter sleeves, low neck, sleeveless displaced in vest in 1930’s.

the pajamas.  light weight in a wide choice of materials.




no period in history has presented a great variety of underclothes and though so much reduced in bulk, they developed a new importance and complexity.  Many materials employed, artificial silk in various forms dominated, and was available for all classes.

the garments were divided into two headings: single and composite.

Single –

the chemise.  “the vest”

the undervest. wool was unfashionable garment

the combinations.  close fitting woven garment, becoming almost tights during the 1930’s

vest combinations

the camisole. disappeared as a separate  garment towards end of 1920s


the brassiere.  becoming the bra in 1937.  Developed from the bust bodice and in the 1920’s becomes very tight, compressing the breasts to produce the straight, shapeless form then fashionable.


the corset.  wrap-around rubber corsets to compress the buttocks.  corsets to produce a slenderizing effect on the figure.





the belt.  substitute for the corset, varied from abdominal supports to light suspender belts with or without bones.



the knickers. french drawers with open legs, and closed knickers.  1924 shortened into panties.



the petticoat.  becomes the princess slip.



The Composite.

the corselette.


the cami-knickers .


the cami-bockers.





the nightclothes.  reflect the spirit of the dress of the period.



























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