We don’t know when the underwear norm was broken, but for a very long time, women all over the world were going commando!
Today, on one hand, most working women hustle through the day in cheap cotton briefs bought in a bargain multipack OR throw on a hideous synthetic lingerie set to wear through the night. But when did the custom of wearing undies first begin?
From hidden, restrictive and painful to flaunt-able and barely there, intimate wear has somehow evolved corresponding to the status of women in the society! As the silhouettes of women’s fashion have evolved throughout history, so too have undergarments!
In ancient Rome, pants were known as subligaculum – a unisex garment made of leather and sometimes linen, available as shorts or loincloth, worn by gladiators, actors, soldiers as well as female performers! From then on, though men throughout history wore underwear, it was considered improper for a lady to have anything between her legs! In the medieval ages, ladies wore one long under-dress, which later evolved into slips and petticoats and by the early Victorian era, we started to see “drawers” being worn by women. Within one century, drawers went through a full style evolution, within the next 20 years drawer hemlines went up and, thus, the knickers we know today were born.
But somehow, underpants were always related to women’s sexuality (which was further controlled by men!!)
On one hand, stockings were worn for a very long time by women, which covered their legs till their thighs but the genitalia was open. Adventurous young men could easily slip their hands under the women’s skirts to touch their private parts! Thus, until the mid-nineteenth century, they were primarily worn by prostitutes. As a result of their direct contact with the female genitals, it was also considered “loud” to wear them, as they drew attention to the vagina. However, contrarily, few decades down the line, underpants, (now known colloquially as "panties") were contrarily used as a chastity device! Apparently, they were described at the time as "helping women keep clean and protecting them from the cold, also preventing the thighs to be seen if they fall off a horse”
Things finally changed during the 20th century, with the waves of feminism spreading in the world! The underwear by then had become popular in the knickers style! Especially the 1960s ushered in an era of freedom and rebellion. Many women of this decade burned their bras as an act of defiance and non-conformity, and even those who didn't still, enjoyed a more liberated sort of lingerie that embraced the natural female form. Further, in the 1990s, a new fashion for thong underwear became popular and the meaning of panties had completely changed. Previously they had to be hidden at all costs but in this decade it became fashionable to wear big waist high pants showing off the panty line.
So, whatever be the age, women’s underwear has always been a curious form of clothing. It can either be a necessity to cover our modesty, aid in safe menstruation and maintain hygiene of the body; OR it can be it can be a flirtatious symbol of sexual suggestiveness.
What is more practical and has a greater impact on women’s lives, we have to think! Don’t we?