Vintage Underwear…




5,000 years ago is where the first sign of underwear was found, on the body of Ötzi the Iceman who sported a goatskin loincloth, triangular shaped that fastened at the hips.

1,500 years ago in the Bronze Age of Egypt, Pharaoh Tutankhamen was apparently entombed with 145 spare loincloths to use in his afterlife! Women of status at the time are said to have worn narrow tunics that extended from breast to ankle with shoulder straps. The Egyptians were pretty imaginative as it is claimed women fashioned tampons from bits of wood with lint wrapped around.

In Ancient Rome underwear was called subligaculum and was a unisex garment made of leather and sometimes linen available as shorts or a loincloth. In addition, some women wore a band of cloth or leather around their chests, what we would now call boob-tubes. Women also often wore pads and tampons made of wool, this became a popular solution throughout the following centuries.

Much to the surprise of costume historians, a medieval bra with shoulder straps similar to those worn now was found in a 15th century castle in Austria recently.

In the 16th century women were known to wear ankle-length linen slips and skirt-like garments called petticoats, while men are said to have tucked their shirts under their genitals.


The 18th century was the time corsets became popular when the idealised female form was for tiny waists and broad hips. Women were known to have physically damaged their bodies as a result, by tight-lacing and crushing their ribs.

19th century underwear would still come down well below the knee but was often partnered with hoop skirts supported by crinolines, steel cage-like structures worn with a corset.

The 20th century introduced women to close fitted briefs made of lightweight, breathable fabrics that eventually became the norm. In addition, the modern bra was invented in 1913 and consisted of two handkerchiefs joined by a ribbon.



By Tim Lambert

c 100 AD

Roman men and women wear shorts called subligaculum. Women also wear a band of leather or cloth around their chest called a strophium or mamilare.

13th Century

Men begin to wear linen shorts called braies. Women wear a nightie like garment called a shift or chemise under their dress. However women do not usually wear knickers.


Many women wear a frame of wire or whalebone called a farthingale under their dress. The cheaper version was called a bum roll. It was a padded roll worn around the waist. Wealthy women wear silk stockings.


Women begin to wear knickers. At first they are called drawers because they are drawn on.


Some women begin to wear colored drawers and petticoats although white is still popular.


In Britain drawers for women are now called knickers and men’s underwear is called pants. Men also wear vests or sometimes combinations, pants and vest in one garment.


Some women are so poor they have to make their knickers from sacks used to hold food like flour


Knickers and stockings are first made of rayon


The modern bra is invented by Mary Mary Phelps Jacob who uses two handkerchiefs joined by a ribbon


Knickers become shorter


Y fronts are invented in the USA


Y fronts go on sale in Britain


Nylon stockings are first made


Fashionable women wear briefs. However in Britain clothes are rationed from 1941-1949. During World War II women sometimes make their knickers from parachute silk.


Tights (pantyhose) are invented


The wonderbra is invented


The wonderbra is introduced to Britain


The thong is invented


Thongs become popular