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A Pictorial History of Lingerie

Crinoline circa 1860. The fashion designer Worth claimed that the Empress Eugenie had introduced the crinoline to conceal her pregnancy (the Prince Imperial was born in 1856). Queen Victoria, in a similar condition, was also thought to have adopted this timely fashion. But the crinoline had made its appereance as early as 1845.

Courtesan in chemise and drawers, circa 1900

Medical corset. American model, 1890

Corset, French model, circa 1896. White satin decorated with pink eglantines. The shape of this busk which curves forward will be replaced in 1900 by a new line: the straight-front corset.

Corsets, Boulevard de Strasbourg, Paris.

Corset for pregnant or nursing mother. American model, 1908

Suspender belts over cami-knickers. England 1928. The practice of wearing lingerie under a corset was on its way out.

Lingerie Neyret. France 1928.

Combination Cadolle, Paris 1934. Silk with lace insertions. The combination was developed around 1880 by joining the chemise to the drawers, then the camisole and the petticoat. This garment achieved its highest level of popularity in the 1920s and became widely used, being almost "de vigueur" until the 1940s.

Advertisement for Rubis stockings, France 1936.

Creation by Diana Slip, Paris, 1932.

Creation by Diana Slip, Paris, 1932.

Creation by Diana Slip, Paris, 1932.

Bra and girdle. Gossard, England, 1930s. After the "corsetless" era, women were no longer willing to bear the discomforts of undergarment which were too confining. The manufacturers all endeavoured to improve corsets (now preferably called girdles or belts) increasingly making use of elastic materials. the classical corset became a combination of elastic panels reinforced with brocaded silk or satin.

Advertisement for Highams, 1948.

Bra in black tulle and extensible girdle, England 1950.

Girdle with matching bra, Gossard, England, 50s.

Dancers from the Crazy Horse, Paris, in the 50s.

Long line bra with "peplum" by Rochas, France 1952.

Black corset, USA, 1962.

Panties with matching bra, Kayser, France in the 60s; lace by Tiburce Lebas (Calais), elastified by Sarlane.

Panty with removable suspenders, Formit, France, in the 60s; in lycra, with a scooped back designed especially for wearing low-waist trousers or skirts.

Net stockings, France 1976.

Waist cincher with garders, Gretchen, John, Kacere 1970.

Structured bra, sheer petticoat. 1958. Photograph by Jerry Schatzberg, American, for Vogue magazine. Ten years after the New Look, a pointed bra gives definition for fitted bodices, while sheer petticoats are layered to buoy full-circle skirts.

1957. Return of the compressed waist. Fernand Fonssagrives, American. The waist cincher is worn by Lisa Fonssagrives, the photographer's then-wife and a top model.

"Weery sorry, Mam, but leaves yer Krinerline outside." 1858, stereograph, English. Robert Dennis Collection. The bulky crinoline had to be hung from the outside of the public conveyance in order for the wearer to get aboard.

Paris in the belle epoque. 1883, Robert Damachy, French. In a pornographic photograph the models reveals what was under all those petticoats. Nothing!

Schiaparelli petticoat, 1950, designed by Helen Hunt Bencker Hoie. A sheer circular half slip banded with lace, meant to be worn under big skirts. This was the beginning of profitable licensing programs through which the stellar names of French couture were applied to a variety of merchandise created in America by American designers.

Veruschka, 1965. Bert Stern, American. One of the first supermodels, wearing lingerie designed specifically for evening-a merry widow corselette and a long, lace-edged half slip.

In control-the long line bra, Italian Vogue, 1988. David Seidner, American. The bra as corselette, shown with sheer, sheer stockings.

Unlaced, 1951, the merry widow, Lillian Bassman, American.

Firm Foundations, 1937, Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995), German. Corset shown at S. Klein's department store.

1959, A pleated halo for beautiful legs, Fernand Fonssagrives, American.

Updrafts. Marilyn Monroe caught on a subway grate in "The Seven Year Itch", 1955. Twentieth Century Fox. Few of the many versions of this photograph reveals the fact that the actress was, indeed, wearing underpants.

Underwear goes public, according to Hollywood. Joan Crawford and Lester Vail in "Dance, Fools, Dance", 1931. Metro Goldwyn Mayer. An excellent view of what daring young things wore under their clothes.

1938, Mary Martin in the Cole Porter musical "Leave It to Me". Ingenue Mary Martin stole the show in a lace-trimmed teddy.

"Nylon, a natural traveler.", Lillian Bassman, American. Dressing on a train in the pointed bra of the period, and zippered panties.

Mae West in a 1928 Brodway production of "Diamond Lil.". The corset and the pose spoofed sex at a time when the feminine ideal was boyish and slim.

1951, short petticoat. After Word War II, lingerie designers celebrated their liberation from wartime restrictions with a lavish use of color, sheer fabric, lace.

1955, Italian tennis player Lea Pericoli lost her first match at Wimbledon, but the crowd loved her while she lasted.

Underlining the sporting life in "Life", 1950. Wrestlers at the gathering of the Braemer Royal Highland Societe. The definitive answer to the question of what Scotsmen wear under their kilts.

An early version of the all-in-one, 1945. Louise Dahl Wolfe (1895-1989), American. Then-model Lauren Bacall photographed in the Fifth Avenue apartment of Princess Gourielli (Helena Rubenstein).

Innovations in underthings, 1967, Neal Barr, American. The bodysuit and the introduction of panty hose changed forever the way women dress.

Dressing or undressing outdoors? 1890. English. Robert Dennis Collection. The complicated ritual of dressing out of doors provided greater erotic stimulation for the stereograpgh viewer.

The mesh-enhanced leg, 1959. Fernand Fonssagrives, American. These precursors of today's panty hose would have been worn only on stage or for purposes of seduction.

The universal attraction of black lace. Carlo Mollino (1905-1973), Italian. Photograph by the architect-designer, one in a series of women in lingerie.

The cross-dresser. R.F. 1916, France. Taken over a period of years and carefully preserved in several albums, the photograph shows the same unidentified man dressed in women's clothes, primarily underwear. Most probably R.F. took the pictures himself.

The cross-dresser. R.F. 1916, France. Taken over a period of years and carefully preserved in several albums, the photograph shows the same unidentified man dressed in women's clothes, primarily underwear. Most probably R.F. took the pictures himself.

Model in the dressing room prepating herself for a fashion show in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in the 1950s

Lingerie in the 1920s. If the corset was no longer worn, the girdle or the shorter rubberized (or stil newer 'elasticized') wool waist-cinching 'belt' were being taken up instead. In 1922, Warner brought out the Wraparound girdle for the new 'tube' line.

Lingerie in the 1920s. If the corset was no longer worn, the girdle or the shorter rubberized (or stil newer 'elasticized') wool waist-cinching 'belt' were being taken up instead. In 1922, Warner brought out the Wraparound girdle for the new 'tube' line.

Lingerie in the 1920s. If the corset was no longer worn, the girdle or the shorter rubberized (or stil newer 'elasticized') wool waist-cinching 'belt' were being taken up instead. In 1922, Warner brought out the Wraparound girdle for the new 'tube' line.

Bibi in cami-knickers. Chamonix, 1920.

Marlene Dietrich in 1922.

Theda Bara, cinema's first vamp, in the First World War period.

Stockings, end of the 1930s.

The modern all-elastic corselet (1930s). From this time, the majority of girdles had slide fastenings.

Model for the Neyret firm, 1928-1929. Toward the end of the 1920s, such precious combinations and nightgown -invisible, intimate envelopes for a new type of woman- began to conform to the voguis 'princess line'.

Model for brassieres by Madame Denise Ferreiro, 21 Rue Washington, Paris, 1935.

Model for brassieres by Madame Denise Ferreiro, 21 Rue Washington, Paris, 1935.

Model for brassieres by Madame Denise Ferreiro, 21 Rue Washington, Paris, 1935.

Stocking and garters, 1927.

2 lingerie lines by the firm of Neyret, 1928.

2 lingerie lines by the firm of Neyret, 1928.

A range of girdles. The shop dummies are shown with raised arm to exemplify how comfortable the garment are to wear. Paris, 1951.

The model's dressing room during a show presenting Christian Dior's collection in the 1950s.

Silvana Mangano wearing a combination in 'Bitter Rice', a film by Guiseppe De Santis, in 1949.

Girdle, brassiere, negligee, 'Harper's Bazaar', May 1952.

'Two at the Fair', Great Britain.

Junie Astor in a combination. 1930s.

Left, deluxe dressing gown or 'matinee' (morning dress). Right, a nightgown, both made by Cadolle, at the begininning of the 1940s.

A diaphanous negligee from 'Harper's Bazaar', 1937.

A young woman in the 1930s, in cotoon-knit underwear perhaps by the French firm Petit Bateau 'pour dames' ('Modes et Travaux', April 15, 1539).

Arletty in 'Tempetes', directed by Bernard Deschamps, 1939.

Marlene Dietrich in 'Destry Rides Again', directed by Georges Marshall, 1939, playing the role of the saloon dame 'Frenchie'.

Marilyn Monroe in a see-through negligee, 1952.

La Goulue (left) and Grille d'Egout (right) in 1885, queens of the energetic 'Chahut', the 'Cancan' and the 'Quadrille Naturaliste', dances that epitomized fun-loving turn-of-the-century Paris where women's underclothes played a starring role.

Actresses from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The actress Martine Carol: 'Mefiez-vous des blondes' and 'Darling Caroline', 1949; 'Adorable Creatures', 1951; Lolo Montes, 1955.

The picturesque if tough neighborhood of Rue Mouffetard, in Paris, 1952.

Left, lavender satin open-stitched paneled corselet. Right, black lace ciombination with elasticed lace panels. 1954.

Left, 'justaucorps', panty-basque in elasticized lace and silk estamine faced with lace. Right, lavender-blue strapless corselet. 1954.

Advertisement billboard, 1974.

In this 1965 advertisement, the International Comittee for Lace, Tulle, Hat-veils and embroidery attempted to reinvigorate the image of the combination: for the first time in French history, more trousers were made than skirts.

Calais lace bra and panties by Tiburce Lebas in 'elasticized Sarlane', Cadolle Editions, 1967.

See-through bras and hipster briefs, 'Elle', 1966.

Polyamide nylon coordinates in multicolored stripes from 'La Redoute'. Left, bra an dculotte-style pantslip; right, dress form.

Coordinates by Peter Pan, 1967.

Bra. 'Elle', March 20, 1965.

Brigitte Bardot in 1959.

Brigitte Bardot during the 1961 shooting of 'A Very Private Affair', directed by Louis Malle. From the time of 'And God Create Woman' (Roger Vadim, 1956), 'BB' creared a new type of feminine sensuality, a mixture of inncocence and seduction that made the pinup generation look jaded. Like Marylin Monroe sporting black tight and a sky-blue sweater in 'Let's Make Love' (1960), 'BB' too, is photographed in tights of the type used for dancing or skiing, or perhaps against the cold.

The 'professionals of the photosensitive plate' posing for racy postcards, magazines and picture books specialized in reproductions of women undressing, in which each shot corresponded to a stage in the process. This was in accordance with the formula provided by predecessors of the modern striptease, pantomines such as 'Yvette goes to Bed', the first show of the kind performed in 1894. Two out of the three prints in the serie are shown (the last shows the woman naked). This is print 1.

The 'professionals of the photosensitive plate' posing for racy postcards, magazines and picture books specialized in reproductions of women undressing, in which each shot corresponded to a stage in the process. This was in accordance with the formula provided by predecessors of the modern striptease, pantomines such as 'Yvette goes to Bed', the first show of the kind performed in 1894. Two out of the three prints in the serie are shown (the last shows the woman naked). This is print 2.

Model for a bra-slip, 1965. In the 1950s, the effect of movie censorship favored the slip. To the detriment of the negligee and other articles of casual dress, slips were being worn increasingly in the privacy of family home.

Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', directed by Richard Brooks in 1958.

Michele Morgan in Yves Allegret's 'The Proud and the Beautiful', 1953.

The 'hollow-look' stomach, fashionable in the early 1950s.

Novelty wear shop. England, 1950.

Corset, 1947.

Christian Dior and the model Lucky, 1947.

Nylons. United States, 1940.

Shirley MacLaine in 'Irma la Douce', directed by Billy Wilder, 1962.

Warner Baxter choosing the female star for his film 'Forty-Second Street' (1932).

Waiting in the Chelsea Hotel.

'Synergy Controlling Body Culture.' tights that flatten the stomach and 'contour the silhouette.'

Synergy, semiopauqe control tights.

Black stockings and basque with garters. 1983. Sexy 1980s lingerie breathed new life into a backlist of caricatures that had been absent from women's wardrobes since the 1960s. During the 1970s, only sex shops, revue bars and transvestite clubs provided house room for this type of 'show lingerie'.

So-called wasp waist shown in a probably retouched photograph of 1902. The corset was accused of softening the body flesh, collapsing the muscles, crushing the rib cage, compressing the liver and provoking lordosis, consumption, stomach cramps, miscarriages, vertigo, fainting fits, and so on. Increasingly after 1850, its real presumed pathology formed the basis of an abondant corpus of medical literature.

The singularly personal nature of lingerie and our collective obsession with intimate apparel continues to enthrall both the average citizen and anthropologists alike. Our fascination with changing morality, its display drawn in the lines between seduction and functionality, ranges through history in a series of contrasts that run the gamut between the prurient and the prudish.

To observe the morals of the past is to spy on our own desires, and as we look around today it's easy to see the mirror reflecting us in ways that are not so far removed from both our recent and ancient ancestors.

Our bodies have been gilded, bound, concealed, molded, modified, adorned, revealed, and worshiped through the ages. The ritual may change in its specifics, the pendulum of morality swing from one extreme to the other, but the reflection will prove time and again that our love affair with our lingerie continues to be an unbreakable thread that binds us inextricably to our own human natures.

The images in this small collection of photographs are moments captured in the lens of that reflecting pool. A way for us to see ourselves both as how we truly are and how we imagine ourselves to be. Our lingerie affords us our longings, if only sometimes for the day, or the night, but nonetheless we seek out the transformation that is our most personal, the one that brings us face to face with our own true self.

 


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