Sicilian Bikini Girls

1.4 What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath: The History of Women’s Underwear

Large numbers of women in history went free and easy, wearing nothing that resembles modern underwear, though they sometimes wore plenty of undergarments that don’t resemble modern underwear. Knickers came in the early 19th century before evolving into briefs in the 20th century. Bras are also a 20th century invention, sort of, but the reason for the bra’s existence is curiously inconsistent.

Women mentioned include Queen Victoria, Mary Phelps Jacob, Caresse Crosby, Madonna, and Brandi Chastain.

This episode belongs in Series 1: What’s in the Closet and How Did It Get There?

Selected Sources:

One of many sources I used for this episode was Amber J. Keyser’s Underneath It All: A History of Women’s Underwear.

The Guardian has an article on Queen Victoria’s knickers. History Extra has an article on the medieval underwear of Lengberg castle. And Fashion Era has a great page on undergarments that goes into much more detail than I did here.

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The featured image is the Sicilian Bikini Girls, from Wikipedia.


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