Naughty or Nice? Lingere Then and Now

Last week,  I found myself wading through pages upon pages of the Victoria’s Secret website.  VS offers a host of products, ranging from shoes to clothing to bathing suits, and of course, lingerie.  Not a die-hard lingerie fan, I do, on occasion, dabble in a piece or two for various reasons.  It prompted me to take a look at why women wear lingerie; and the history and marketing around it all.  

Around 1850, the French term “linge” , or linen, was introduced into popular culture to describe scandalous undergarments.  It was about this time that women’s undergarments were transitioning from boyish to feminine.  Practically speaking, undergarments at this time were harsh and painful.  Corsets to cinch the waist in;   buttocks lifters and devices to make the breasts larger were just some of the things women endured.   

With the twentieth century came the women’s movement, and more demand for less restrictive undergarments. Many women began working in factories, and the corset was too tight and impractical.  In the year 1914, Mary Phelps-Jacobs designed a new support that was exclusively for the breast. It was made of two handkerchiefs, ribbons and a seam separating the breasts at the front - and the first bra was invented. It never really caught on, and the design was sold to Warner’s in 1935.  Warner’s reworked the original design, adding reinforcement and cup sizes a, b, and c, to choose from. 

As lingerie became more sexual in nature, it was expected to be kept private and within the confines of marriage.  Most lingere was hand-made, considered a luxury, and only purchased by the wealthy.

During the 1960’s, lingere saw a downturn with the advent of mini-skirts, but saw somewhat of an upturn during the 1970’s, when powerhouse Victoria’s Secret began heavily advertising, as well as the highly sexualized Frederick’s of Hollywood. Agent Provocatuer  is another supplier of lingere, extremely sexy, beautifully crafted, and considerably pricier than their peers. 

Today, the lingere business continues to thrive.  Lingere is worn not only as undergarments, but in the bedroom and out of the bedroom in clubs and bars, virtually as street wear.  While I am not immune to the occasional thong, teddy or thigh-high stocking purchase, it does beg the question-is it naughty-or nice-to wear lingere outside the bedroom or as clothing? Depending on where you are going, the choice is up to you.