The Fascinating History of Lingerie Manufacturing in Europe by Caroline Mutuga. Check out Caroline's other work at Travels by Carol.
The history of lingerie manufacturing in Europe dates back to the Middle Ages. In fact, you can trace the history of lingerie making in Europe as far as Roman times. Women wore a variety of undergarments, including bras, garters, corsets, pantaloons, and stockings.
When we talk about the history of lingerie, we can see that this is a very ancient craft. Women wore thin linen garments derived from the same fabrics as outerwear; cotton was the most popular material used for clothing until after World War II. The craft of making fine undergarments became popular in Europe in the 18th century.
The First Bras and the Victorian Era
The first brassiere was invented in 1889. Back then, women wore corsets that were often very uncomfortable, causing fainting spells and sometimes even harmful to their health. Corsets served an essential function at the time. They would make women's waists appear much smaller than they actually were, which was considered quite attractive and feminine.
Queen Victoria introduced lingerie in the Western world during her reign. The invention of crinoline, a stiffened petticoat made of horsehair canvas, gave women the freedom to wear looser and more revealing fashions.
The modern bra was invented in the early 1900s, but it wasn't until the Victorian Era that it became popular.
The bra allowed women to regain their health and feel comfortable while still feeling attractive.
The First Lingerie Manufacturers in France and Italy
There are many reasons why Paris became a hub for lingerie production in Europe. First, several legacies made the French women focus on undergarments since ancient times. When revolutionaries captured Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution, her luxurious underwear became well-known worldwide, making her panties an icon of female luxury.
Lingerie manufacturing in Europe started when the Industrial Revolution reached the continent. Manufacturers used new materials that were not available before. The change of social conditions and lifestyles led to changes in women's underwear, which became more complex and diverse.
The Rise of Modern Lingerie in the 18th century
The 18th century saw significant improvements in manufacturing techniques. Natural fibers like wool and cotton were used instead. There was also a development in the type of drapes used to accentuate the designs on the lingerie.
With the evolution in lingerie making, the designs changed over time but remained true to their roots.
Towards the 19th century, women experimented with various alternatives such as splitting the corset into a girde-like shaping device for the lower torso and transferring the upper part to devices suspended from the shoulder.
The Rise of Modern Lingerie in the 20th century
As time passed, the techniques used in lingerie making gradually evolved. By the twentieth century, silk became famous for creating lingerie. New technologies allowed for the creation of beautiful, smooth satin and nylon fabrics.
During World War II, a ban was put on lingerie by the British. However, it did not last long, and many of the towns closed during the war began to produce lingerie again. After the war was over, companies started to make more in-house designs.
Today, lingerie-making has become a billion-dollar industry. Some of the best designers come from Italy and France, where the tradition of making lingerie is steeped in history with romantic sentiment. Most of the top designers today come from France and Italy. Lingerie have gone from severe, restrictive torture devices to barely there little things to the focal point of an outfit.
Since then, however, lingerie has become more than just something worn underneath clothing to provide warmth or modesty. It's now a fashion statement.
Designers are creating new designs and new looks that combine old-time favorites with contemporary styles. Each country has its history, with its dress code and traditions. No two countries ever manufacture the same kind of lingerie, nor will they always make the same kind of design.