- Gendered Fashion, Power, and Sexuality
A History of Women's Lingerie from Random History
"From the Old French linge, meaning “linen,” the term “lingerie” was originally introduced into the English language as a euphemism for scandalous underclothing." This usage as slang is not confirmed in other sources.
"The history of lingerie, then, is a history of gendered fashion, power, and sexuality." Which is concise manner of the subject as possible.
Ancient Lingerie: From Egypt to Rome
It is impossible to say exactly when the history of lingerie started, but it seems that the first record comes from ancient Egypt around 3000 B.C. In general, clothing was a status symbol for the Egyptians, and higher-ranking women would wear narrow tunics as undergarments that started below the chest, extended to the ankles, and were supported by a crosswise shoulder strap. Sometimes they would draw tunics around to the front of the body to mold the waist. Slave and servants wore no undergarments; they wore only simple loin cloths or went naked. Several female terra cotta figurines found throughout the ancient Near East appear to wear several different types of undergarments. One of them is a Babylonian girl from about 3000 B.C. who is wearing what might be considered briefs that look as though it could have been derived from the loin cloth. Another female figure from 2000 B.C., found in Crete, depicts the first recorded corset-like bodice and crinoline (a caged or hoped underskirt) that shoves the bare breast upward (Ewing 1972). Both are interesting in that they show similarities to lingerie eons later in the western world.
In classical Greece, several female statues wear a crossed band over their shoulders and across the breast, as in the famous statue of the charioteer at Delphi. The Odyssey and Iliad mention women’s undergarments, as does Herodotus, Aristophanes, and the later Hellenistic writer Lacian (Ewing 1972). In these texts, women are described as wearing a band of linen known as the zoné around the waist and lower torso to shape and control them. Other Greek words also appear to describe women’s undergarments, including the apodesmos (meaning a band, breast band, or girdle), mastodeton (or breast band, which actually flattens the bust) and, occasionally, mastodesmos (with a similar meaning) (Ewing 1972). These garments appear to presage the bra as well as the corset.
A famous Roman mosaic from A.D. 400 shows several women wearing what appear to be bikinis or briefs
Roman women followed Greek fashion closely. The Roman poet Martial describes a cestus, which is similar to the Greek zoné but wider, and Cicero also mentions a strophium or breast band. Other Roman terms describing women’s underclothing include the mamillere and fascia, which were tight bands of cloth that primarily supported the bust rather than the abdomen. A famous mosaic from A.D. 400 shows several women wearing what appear to be bikinis or briefs (Ewing 1972). For both the Greeks and the Romans, underclothing (which sometimes was worn as outer clothing as well) was designed more for function than exclusively aesthetic reasons.
- Undercover Sylvia Giles examines the story of lingerie, and its link to recent history. Expanded from issue 22 of Lucire. discusses briefly the changes in women's social roles reflected in their foundation garments.
Ewing, Elizabeth. 1976. Underwear: A History. New York, NY: Theatre Arts Books.
Kunzle, David. 2004. Fashion and Fetishism: Corsets, Tight-Lacing and Other Forms of Body –Sculpture. Thrupp, UK: Sutton Publishing Limited.
Steele, Valerie. 2001. The Corset: A Cultural History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Workman, Nancy. 1996. “From Victorian to Victoria’s Secret: The Foundations of Modern Erotic Wear. Journal of Popular Culture. 30.2, 61-73.
Alac, Patrik. 2001. Bikini: A Cultural History. Parkstone Press USA, ltd.
Lencek, Lena and Bosker, Gideon. 1989. Making Waves: Swimsuits and the Undressing of America. Chronicle Books.
The Lingerie Handbook (Paperback)
by Rebecca Apsan (Author), Sarah Stark (Author) # Paperback: 186 pages. Publisher: Workman Publishing Company (October 20, 2006). Language: English. ISBN-10: 0761143238
Margaret A. Lowe
An Intimate Affair: Women, Lingerie, and Sexuality (review)
Journal of Social History - Volume 42, Number 3, Spring 2009, pp. 793-795
Saturday, May 02, 2009
overviews and print resources
this post is a collection of items that provide historical overviews & print resources.