Women's underwear has undergone as many changes, as have all other aspects of women's fashion over the years, ranging in looks and practicality. Check out what underwear has looked like on women in the West for the last century - and be inspired (or have a giggle) at all the different pieces we've seen and worn!
1920s: Cami Knickers
In the 1920's, the corset style of underwear was slowly going out of style, replaced with boyish, stream line figures as the new vogue. The point of underwear during this era was to maintain a sleek and bulk-free body line - which was achieved with cami-knickers.
Cami-knickers were full-body underwear that streamlined the body - a favorite with flappers and young women ready to abandon their mother's old, frumpy underwear.
1930s-1940s: Practical Panties
In the 30s and 40s, underwear began to more closely resemble what we think of when we say "underwear" today; it was shorter, and cut close to the figure of its wearer. Cotton and nylon panties were most popular during this era, with many brands touting how flattering these fabrics were under shorter hemlines and fitted skirts.
Underwear from this era was also much simpler to move around in - a useful ability considering how much more common it was for women to work beyond their homes. Factory work during the wars (and beyond!) was much easier in underwear more suited for movement.
1950s: Girdles And Garters
While the classic female form stayed pretty similar to the last two eras, a particular trend that grew in popularity in the 50s was the girdle. Girdles, which helped women achieve an hourglass silhouette, often hooked onto garters that helped hold up stockings.
1960s: Playful, Colorful Underthings
Underwear in the 60s moved toward a feminine playfulness, embracing the youth culture and freedom reflected in the wider world in everything from teddies to pastels. High waisted cuts remained popular all through the decade, with "day of the week" undies rising in popularity in the later 60s and into the 70s.
1970s: Low Riding Glamour
Going along with the increasingly low-rise hip-huggers of the time, low-rise underwear quickly became the fashion in the 1970s. While cute playfulness was still around in teenage underwear, the demure young woman of the day often grew out of that style and into underwear made of silks and lace. Disco era excess often translated into decadence in everything, including women's underwear.
1980s: Bodysuits And High Cut Silhouettes
Popularized by over the top fashion icons like Cher and aerobic apparel, bodysuits and ultra high cut panties made their biggest impact in the 80s. High bikini lines and exposed hipbones were a huge part of 80s women's fashion, in both underwear and swimwear (think Baywatch).
1990s: Minimalism & The Rise of VS
Minimalist fashion was ultra popular in the '90s. Calvin Klein "heroin chic" was a huge aesthetic of the time - particularly those featuring Kate Moss.
Underwear with labels on the band was a big part of early 90s underwear trends - quickly transitioned into more colorful and flirty undies as companies such as Victoria's Secret blew up.
2000s: Thongs and Suggestive Branding
Ironically enough, the 2000 Sisquo "Thong Song" was prophetic in understanding the tone for underwear for the entirety of the early to mid '00s. Low-rise jeans were back in style, going hand in hand with the visible thong trend, even though rebellion against the thong movement lived in the similar popularity of boy shorts style underwear.
Whether thongs or boy cut undies though, most underwear also had some sort of suggestive messaging on them. Sexually suggestive clothing as very popular during this era, and underwear was no exception.
2010s: Diverse, Body Flattering & Comfortable
During the 2010's, there has been a big push for diversity everywhere, including the underwear world. How? Companies such as Nubian Skin offer undies in nude tones for a variety of colors, and embraced the color and body differences of all women; Thinx has redefined what it means to be a modern woman by rethinking the period panty; and Uwila is redefining what it means to live in a world without panty lines and wedgies.
While Spanx have also made a rise in this era, most women have taken to accepting their curves and lines for what they are - in a cross between aesthetics they enjoy from all era. Huzzah!
Wondering what each of these pieces of underwear looked like in action? Check out this awesome visual from Glamour Magazine!
No matter what era you're in, we think women have always strived for the best in underwear - and though we're happy to be around to serve in this day and age, its always nice to see where we've come from!