Anne here, talking undies – the wearing and the not wearing of. Most people today can't imagine not wearing knickers (underpants.) A few hardy souls "go commando" ie. do without them, but we could as easily call this practice "going Georgian" or even "going historical" because for most of history — I'm talking the UK here— women didn't wear knickers at all.
Petticoats, yes, sometimes numerous ones, worn one on top of the other. Corsets, yes, versions of, even back to medieval times. The chemise, called a smock before the Norman invasion, and sometimes a
shift, yes. But underpants? Not so much. As this cartoon by Rowlandson in 1800 suggests:
According to my favorite book about undies (The History of Underclothes, by Willett and Cunnington) "It does not seem that Englishwomen wore drawers before the very end of the seventeenth century." They point out that this was not necessarily a European habit and quote a 15th century report that noble ladies in many parts of Italy "wear silk or linnen breeches under their gownes. " I also appears that drawers were introduced into France by Catherine de Medici. But the habit never crossed the channel.
* According to Wikipedia, Catherine de Medici more or less invented them so she could fold her legs across the horse's neck without exposing her crotch when riding sidesaddle, but I don't believe that. Women had been riding sidesaddle well before and after Catherine. Riding habits were made of heavy fabric and designed with extra long hems to protect their modesty. The entry went on to say "Medici's early version, which originated in France in the early 19th century. . ." Um, Catherine de Medici lived and died in the 16th century… The moral is, check your sources…"
Back to undies, or drawers as they were first known in England in the early 19th century, the name coming from the men's article of clothing. They came from France with the new fashions in women's clothing; light, flowing dresses made of flimsy fabric, designed to resemble the drapery found on classical statues — the French Revolution took inspiration from ancient classical sources, and fashion followed politics.
When drawers for ladies first came to England, they were regarded by many as scandalous, daring, outrageous and even downright dangerous. Some regarded them as a French plot to corrupt the flower of English womanhood!
So exceptional was the wearing of drawers by ladies of fashion before 1800, that it even made the newspapers: "At the late Fandango ball in Dublin, a certain Lady of Fashion appeared in the following very whimsical dress:— flesh colored pantaloons, over which was a gauze petticoat. . ." (The Times1796)
Doctors warned that these fiendish and unnatural garments would hinder the natural circulation of air around the female nether regions, thus endangering women's health and worse — their ability to provide heirs. (Note, heirs, ie boys, not just children.) Ministers lectured against the wearing of pantaloons, suggesting that moral corruption would result from women donning such masculine garments. Only women of easy virtue would wear such demeaning things. Fathers instructed their wives to forbid their daughters to wear them.
It took Princess Charlotte, the dashing only daughter of the Prince Regent, to bring drawers (or pantaloons) out of the closet, as it were, and into the mainstream of fashion. She wore them openly, and glimpses of them were seen as she climbed in and out of carriages. When she was reproved for this by Lady de Clifford, the Princess said she didn't care. And when told her drawers were too long, she pointed out that the Duchess of Bedford's drawers were much longer and trimmed with Brussels lace.
Of course, young women all over the kingdom flocked to copy her in this dashing new mode.
I had fun with this in my second book, Tallie's Knight. Arriving in Paris with an ill-clothed, hastily married bride, my hero ordered her a complete wardrobe of clothing. It came with drawers, and both hero and heroine found them both slightly shocking and erotic.
I don't have time or space here to go into the various change in styles of underpants, but it's a fascinating area of study. What I think is even more fascinating is the response to change — these days some older people find thongs rather shocking, while to many, "going commando" is quite unthinkable. I wonder if we'll ever come full cycle. . .
Both my mother and grandmother were very big on the importance of underwear — mainly that it should always be neat and clean in case I was hit by a bus. Note, it was the underwear they were most concerned about, not me. I learned young my importance in the scheme of things. *g* But they grew up in the era when undies could embarrass you with a snap of elastic.
What about you — do you think underpants will ever go out of fashion? And what do you call them — knickers? Panties? Scanties? Undies? Do you have any good underpant stories? Do you "go commando" or are you addicted to pretty undies and Victoria's Secret?