Lingerie and Women in SocietyIt’s hard to believe that women used to have to dress like this. Throughout history women’s underwear has followed women’s long battle for freedom and social equality.
Perhaps the most influential form of women’s underwear has been the corset. This painful contraption, sometimes made of wood or iron, kept women immobilized for centuries. It made even the simplest tasks, such as breathing and sitting, nearly impossible. This contributed to the conception of women as “delicate flowers” prone to fainting.
Corsets were seen as a metaphor for virtue, as well as a necessity for the fashions of the day. The derogatory English term “loose woman” stems from the view of loosely corseted or corset-less women as being sexually promiscuous and unkempt.
By WWI women began rejecting corsets, as they interfered with their ability to perform the new jobs they found themselves doing as the men left for war. A new image of women as a capable, independent sex emerged. Women began flattening their curves (chest and hips) with another kind of corset, and demanded more comfortable underwear to participate in sports and exercise. The first bra was invented by an American woman, Mary Phelps Jacobs, in 1914. (Come back Thursday to read more about Mary.)
In the 1930s the value of the feminine virtues of childbearing and housekeeping resurfaced, leading to the ideal of a well-proportioned body with slimmer hips. Thus, bust-emphasizing brassieres, suspender belts and corset became popular.
During WWII women often knitted their own underwear as funds were scarce. After the war, women reverted to the very feminine styles influenced by the Victorian period, wearing full skirts, corsets and lifting bras.
In the 1960s tights were invented. Brassieres lost popularity as women all over the world saw them as symbols of women’s suppression. The old brassieres were replaced by lighter underwear and fun colors to try to win back women shoppers.
Nowadays corsets are fashionable again, and they no longer symbolize the suppression of women, but rather the beauty and power that the sex possesses. Check out some of Lingerie Diva's corsets! Lingerie comes in all sorts of fun and flirty colors, fabrics and styles. Now women (and their significant others) have fun picking out lingerie. Thanks for celebrating Women's History Month with us at Lingerie Diva!