All things vintage have seen a huge increase in popularity over the last few years and we see its influence everywhere. Cafes with homemade bunting and pastel coloured cupcakes, ASOS starting their own vintage market place, girls dressed in 1950s style dresses for their proms, charity shops specialising in vintage furniture. You can’t even get away from it on TV with shows like Kirstie’s Fill Your House For Free and Homemade Home, as well as Dawn O’Porter’s This Old Thing. And it influences our intimates too.
Every era of the 20th Century had its own stand out style or silhouette that still gets drawn upon and redesigned into modern-day versions. From the high street right through to luxury lingerie, every designer can’t help but look backwards for inspiration.
In the 1920s and 30s, the teddy, or step-in as they were sometimes known, was the item to have in your underpinnings drawer. Originally being constructed in fine cottons and lightweight silks as a looser garment to previous eras, it went on to become a piece of timeless glamour in a narrower silhouette of rich satins and delicate laces. Starting as a garment to be worn under a more restrictive corset or girdle, it later found its way into the boudoir as a stunning piece of nightwear.
These days designs are usually restricted to nightwear or loungewear, whereas tighter, more body-hugging shapes are the choice of undergarments. The black satin Miss Jones Teddy from Playful Promises is clearly influenced by the teddies of the Art Deco era with its ruched waist and delicate lace rim. However, it has been brought up to date with its shorter length bottom section that is designed in the shape of a loose modern-day brief.
As the Depression hit and was later followed by WWII, women looked to Hollywood for escapism and inspiration. One of the stand out pieces of the time was the boudoir robe or peignoir. You couldn’t be a starlet on screen without one. Always full length with yard after yard of fabric, they came in beautiful silk satins and the more daring sheer chiffon. They were made to enhance the woman’s figure, with tight fitting waists, voluminous sleeves and a slit down the front for your stockinged legs to teasingly appear from as you walked.
Full length robes are not exactly favoured these days with calf or thigh length versions proving more practical. But if you want to bring a little Silver Screen glamour to your lingerie then look no further than the Purple Elle Robe by Kiss Me Deadly. This sheer chiffon robe was created from an original 1940s piece and has an abundance of fabric in the skirt section. It closes at the waist with a hook and eye and a delicate velvet ribbon tie.
After the war ended, and women returned to their traditional roles in the home, their silhouette shifted again to an hourglass figure. Corsets, that had been thrown off in favour of practicality, once again entered the wardrobes of millions of women to help create this flawless shape. Designed to nip in the waist and enhance the bust and hips, they were a must for wearing under full circle or wiggle dresses.
Today most women shy away from corsets, claiming that they are old fashioned, too restrictive, unpractical and just downright uncomfortable. These are all misconceptions usually thrown out by people who haven’t actually worn one. A modern day corset such as this Passion Ivory Underbust Corset by Vollers couldn’t be more up-to-date if it tried. Perfect for first time wearers due to its short length, it can be worn underneath a dress as intimate wear or over clothing for an ultra modern and unique style.
During the 1960s, as fashions changed and women began to enjoy going back to work, undergarments started to relax. Practicality was a must for the woman who had to dress in a hurry and get to work on time so corsets and lace up girdles were a no-no. Yet women still wanted to feel supported and so the panty girdle was born. Designed to hold in all of the areas a traditional girdle would but it could just be pulled on, without the necessity of other undergarments, and just clipped to your stockings for all day comfort.
Today, of course, most women don’t feel the need for firm control underwear but you can still see the panty girdle’s influence in pieces like the L’Artiste High Waisted Suspender Brief by Rosy. With its high waist and ivory satin strips that lead down to the four suspender clips, these briefs are perfect for creating a similar silhouette.
In the late 1960s and 70s the Women’s Liberation movement began. Okay, so hardly anyone actually burned their bra, but the message behind it has lived with us ever since. As women began to fight to be seen as being equal to men, their underwear relaxed even further and the natural look became the norm. Many women chose not to wear a bra at all but those who did opted for the newly designed triangle bras or the no-bra look. With no underwires, no boning and hardly any seams, this gave the wearer a greater sense of freedom that was so far away from what their mothers would’ve worn a couple of decades before.
Triangle bras or bralettes are very much the height of fashion these days and, due to modern-day construction, many offer far more support than their 70s counterparts did allowing those with a larger bust to also enjoy this look. The Onyx Soft Bra by Dentelle Etc is a very simple construction of vertical seamed sheer lace cups in a triangle shape, adjustable shoulder straps and satin underband.