Thanks to the DuPont Company, a chemical company founded in 1802, retro lingerie choices were no longer confined to scratchy woolen stockings that hung loosely around your ankles, linen underwear adorned with a mere ribbon of lace, or plain white cotton nightgowns that tangled and twisted until wrapped as tightly as a muslin encased mummy.
In the early 1900s, the development and use of rubber products is responsible for changing women’s undergarments from the heavily boned and laced corsets to the modern girdle styles. The earlier girdles and brassieres were quite utilitarian.
Vintage lingerie choices might not be as sought after or as attractive today if not for the introduction of nylon, polyester, and other synthetic fabrics during the 1930s. Structured undergarments lost favor during the World War II era only to emerge in the 1950s as a fashion necessity with Dior’s wasp waist “New Look”.
- Any discussion of retro lingerie begins with the patent for what is considered the first modern “brassiere”. Nineteen year old socialite Caresse Crosby fashioned a backless bra out of two silk handkerchiefs held together with pink ribbon and cord as a protest against the restrictive whale-boned corsets that flattened her large breasts together.
- The sweater girl popularity of the bullet bra continued into the fifties with brassieres fashioned of tightly stitched circles projecting the breasts forward into a conical shape.
- The open bottom girdles popular during the 1950s allowed the newly popular nylon stockings to fasten to garters for a smooth and non-sagging look. If the women chose not to wear a girdle, they attached their nylon stockings to a garter belt worn around their waist and under a full slip. They had to make frequent adjustments to their stocking seams to assure they were centered down the back of their legs.
- Highly revered by post World War II consumers, nylons replaced silk stockings as new technologies provided them a sheer look yet maintained a tensile strength for a figure hugging fifties look for all shapes and sizes.
- A respectable fifties lady always wore a slip under her dress or skirt. Nylon and other synthetic fabrics provided a smooth outline for the slim fitting pencil skirts. Crinolines and cancan slips were a popular addition to a teenage girl’s circle skirt.
- With the addition of rayon and acetate textiles, 1950s women’s sleepwear promised to glide with you, without bunching, twisting, or binding. They were presented in pretty pastels with rows of matching lace trims.
The few glimpses of lingerie worn by the beautiful fifties film stars hint of a sensual glamour not found in today’s overtly sexual environment.