history of lingerie

“how did Victorian women use the bathroom in all those layers?”

crotchless underwear. from the 1820s to the 1920s, underwear had open crotch seams (not in a sexy way)

so they just had to pull up their skirts and push their drawers open and make sure their chemises were out of the way and there you go

Edit: a sex toy blog liked this post, so I would just like to reemphasize how totally normal and non-sexual these drawers were with a photo (1890s example)

see all that fabric? no way is anyone seeing your bits without effort, open crotch or no open crotch. not to mention that you’re wearing at least 3 layers over it and a chemise under it that will show through the gap. this is not the same as modern crotchless panties. honestly every time I mention this people either think it’s gross or naughty

A technical and not-at-all-sexy guide to 1920s/30s lingerie for people intending to write Fantastic Beasts steaminess

During this period, women wore three basic item categories under their clothes for most purposes, consisting of some next-to-the-skin layer (layer A), some shapewear layer (layer B), and stockings.  You needed all three layers to be properly dressed…and no, this does not mean women were constantly overheating.

Layer A’s purpose was manyfold.  It protected your skin from the structure of your shapewear.  It protected your shapewear and clothes (both of which were laundered only with difficulty; they wore a lot more wool and silk then) from your sweat. It might keep you warm in winter, though the vast majority of surviving ones are very sheer and would not have contributed to overheating.  There were several options for this “layer A”, including slips (exactly like the full slips of today), teddies, camiknickers, and step-ins (think full slip but with a strap to connect the front and back hems between the legs, which most often could be unfastened with a button), a combination of camisoles and French knickers (like teddies/camiknickers but separated at the waist), and a combination of camisoles and bloomers (the latter being pant-like garments that gathered just above the knee, almost always worn with sporting gear).  Based on Tina’s propensity for trousers, she probably wears camiknickers or camisoles and bloomers.  Queenie, obviously, wears slips but might own a teddy or two.  One thing should pop out at you: the lack of a true equivalent garment to today’s panties.  This is really important.  There’s a practical reason why “true panties” didn’t develop at this point that we’ll explore when we discuss layer B, but the real reason there wasn’t an equivalent is that womankind literally hadn’t seen the need for such a garment yet.  The “drawers” worn by prior generations were all completely open at the crotch.

(If you’re wondering how women could have possibly handled That Time Of The Month without modern-style panties, they pinned rather long sanitary pads—either disposable ones made of cellulose like today or reusable ones made of rags—to elastic belts worn under layer A. Think kind of like a modern thong where you can change out everything but a waistband.)

Layer B was shapewear…and yes, even in the liberated 1920s, women wore shapewear.  Like layer A, there were options.  Corsets were still worn in the 1920s, mostly by women who had reached adulthood when corsets were the be-all-end-all of shapewear, but by this time they extended from the underbust to the hip.  Corselets were cut along the same lines as a slip but were much snugger.  Girdles extended from the waist to the low hip.  All of these options would have garters (suspenders for you Brits) at the bottom to hold up one’s stockings, and all of them were designed to help achieve the ideal banana figure of the era, not a tiny waist.  Queenie most definitely wears a corselet, and Tina probably wears a girdle but might also wear a corselet depending on the scenario.  Now for the important bit: remember that layer B fits snugly to the body in order to do its shapewearly duty, and you’d have to remove it before you removed your layer A.  If you’re going to use the bathroom, you either have to completely disrobe, or you’re going to have to remove no garments whatsoever…and this is where the open-crotch lingerie designs come in handy, because you only need to pull up your skirt to use the facilities.

(A quick word on brassieres: while they existed during this period, brassieres in the 1920s provided almost no support, functioning mostly like a layer A piece to conceal nipple topography under thin dresses, and they were altogether pretty rare since the other layer A styles worked better to protect dresses from sweat.  They became more popular in the mid-1930s, particularly among younger women, and they provided some more support…but not by much.  Busty women of this era would have been stuck with corselets.)

Stockings were mandatory for everyday wear, full stop.  This is an era before shaved legs, so they were essential to get a smooth look.  Stockings basically all came in the same style, fully-fashioned with a back seam coming to mid-thigh, where they would be held up by the garters/suspenders attached to the shapewear layer.  That is, unless you were a mid-1920s flapper.  For the flappers—who, it needs to be noted, were a counterculture that did not describe the majority of women in the 1920s—there was a short-term fad for women to wear elasticized garters below the knee and roll their stockings down to that level.  This was so they could go without shapewear and its garters, but I stress again—this was a short-term fad.  Even flappers returned to their girdles after about two years, and stockings held up by garters were the only real option throughout the 1930s.


The Brief History of: Jessica’s Lingerie Shop

In 1989, Walt Disney Co. opened Pleasure Island as a way to keep adults on the Walt Disney World property after dark. Pleasure Island was restricted to guests 21+ (unless accompanied by an adult), and consisted mainly of shops, dance clubs and over-priced bars.

A year later, in 1990, Disney opened Jessica’s (often mistakenly referred to as ‘Jessica’s of Hollywood’) on Pleasure Island. Jessica’s was a small shop originally billed as a lingerie store, although the majority of what was inside was actually Jessica Rabbit-themed souvenirs like t-shirts, magnets, beach towels, etc. A giant, neon Jessica – complete with slowly swinging leg – hung outside, immediately becoming a popular photo-op for theme park and animation fans. The sign was designed by comic book artist Mark Marderosian, who also designed much of the merchandise sold in the shop.

Sadly, Jessica’s didn’t last long. The shop closed in February of 1993, after only three years of operation. The neon Jessica was placed high atop the 'Pleasure Island Tonight!’ sign that hung above Pleasure Island, acting as the area’s visual 'weenie.’ The sign hung there until June 2006, when it was removed as part of a Disney-mandated 'clean-up’ of the area. Pleasure Island closed two years later, in September of 2008. In its place came Hyperion Wharf/Disney Springs, a safe, predictable, all-ages shopping and dining area.

R.I.P. semi-dangerous Disney, Jessica’s lingerie shop and the giant, sexy, neon Jessica Rabbit sign. You will be missed.


Every artifact in our collection has a unique story from World War II and beyond. This ecru-colored silk peignoir, once a parachute for the US Army, has withstood a world war, a marriage, a precocious child, and Hurricane Katrina before entering the Museum’s collection in 2008.

Using parachute silk brought back from the war, a Syrian immigrant crafted this peignoir for her daughter who waited to marry her sweetheart until after the war because she refused the prospects of being a war widow.

Surviving a new life as a garment, this peignoir was beloved by its wearer and used for joyous dress up games by her child. During this time it sustained red lipstick stains and signs of wear.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s high winds and waters destroyed the home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi where the garment was being stored. It was found buried beneath a thick layer of dried, rust-colored mud where the home had stood.

Following the storm, this peignoir was cleaned up and given to the Museum’s collection to honor its maker Menna Abdelnour Lutife and to serve as a testament to the strength of the parachute silk used in World War II. This fabric safely landed our troops from the skies, survived the wears and tears of fashion, and weathered destruction of a hurricane. With its beauty and stains, it tells a story of war, love, and survival.

Gift of Patricia Saik, from the Collection of The National WWII Museum.

So this is the project that I’ve been immersing myself in for the last few months: The Underpinnings Museum!

The Underpinnings Museum is the first extensive online museum dedicated to showcasing and documenting the history of lingerie, through an exquisite selection of historical and contemporary objects. The museum will offer free access to all, with high-quality photography capturing the garments in exquisite detail. Each object will be accompanied by extensive contextual and technical information.

We are currently crowdfunding through Kickstarter to cover some of our set up costs.  If this is a project that you would like to see come to life then please give us your support!