1. Strophium: Tight Leather Band For A Bra

image source: reddit.com

We’re going back to ancient Rome here to find out that they used a tight band of leather in place of a bra, so that it would be tight enough to support and compress the breasts. Back then it was actually fashionable to have smaller boobs, so it was a good thing if the leather was tight enough to push them right down!

2. Subligaculum: A Loincloth Like A Diaper!

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To match with the thin band of leather up top, women would then wear something called a subligaculum – which was basically a loincloth that looked very much like a modern day diaper does. It would be made of wool or leather. Together, the strophium and subligaculum were pretty much like what bikinis are today.

3. Pantalets: Crotchless But Necessary

image source: metmuseum.org

These days, something ‘crotchless’ is very much something from the Ann Summers catalogue, but back in the 1800s, some women would wear pantalets – and by some, we mean the upper class. Any other class didn’t wear underwear at all! Pantalets were two parts of material tied together at the hip, with no material covering the crotch.

4. Silk Stockings: Because You Needed Something Under Your Skirt, After All

image source: mygoodqueenbess.tumblr.com

If you were a woman unfortunate enough not to be able to afford pantalets, then silk stockings were a go-to to wear under your skirts. But the problem was that silk stockings quickly became very popular because Queen Elizabeth swore by them. That meant they became a big deal, and soon there was a shortage of them!

5. Glamor Hose: If You Can’t Buy ‘Em, Paint ‘Em!

image source: reddit.com

Glamor hose were basically the solution to the stocking shortage. Because women still wanted to be seen as fashionable enough to wear stockings, they would instead paint stockings directly onto their legs. This was achieved by painting a long, dark line running down the back of the leg.

6. Chemise: A Dress Worn Under A Dress

image source: metmuseum.org

These days, chemises still exist in the form of vests, tops and dress styles, but in medieval times, they were thin dresses worn under outer dresses. In the 1780s, Marie Antoinette of France managed to have the chemise accepted as a normal dress in itself – but it went out of fashion when Marie Antoinette was executed.

7. The Teddy: The Old-Fashioned Shapewear

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The teddy started in the 1910s but became more popular in the 1920s. This is because 20s women wanted it to look like they had nothing on underneath their clothes – and teddies were perfect for that, because they were tight-fitting and came as a one-piece that covered the chest and crotch like a one-piece swimsuit.

8. The Corset: Because Who Needs To Breathe?

image source: library.unh.edu

If we’re talking about historical undergarments, then of course the corset needs a shout out. When corsets were first made, they were actually made out of iron. This then changed to whalebone – and corsets were actually the reason a lot of whales were hunted to extinction.

9. The Early Bra: Because Big Boobs Needed Help!

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Love them or loathe them, there’s no denying that bras are an essential tool in modern life for people who need support. The woman who first felt the need for a bra was Mary Phelps Jacobs, who was blessed in the breast department but would struggle with a corset for revealing fashions of the time. Her solution? The bra!

10. Corset Metal Was Needed For Other Things – So The Bra Was Good News

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As mentioned, corsets were originally constructed from metal, and it actually got to a point during the First World War that the metal was needed for much more important things. This meant more and more people jumped on the opportunity of the new ‘bra’ instead!

11. Menstrual Belts: Complete With Removable Pad

image source: underpinningsmuseum.com

The menstrual belt was a piece of underwear invented in 1900  with the intention of making that time of the month a little bit easier. The belt would be worn sort of like a harness with a detachable pad made out of wool, that could then be washed and reattached.

12. Sanitary Napkins: It’d Be Messy Otherwise!

image source: americanhistory.si.edu

The menstrual belt, as we know, didn’t stick around – and thank goodness – because it was eventually replaced by the much more comfortable sanitary napkin – which we still have today! The ‘sanitary napkin’ was invented in 1913 and meant you could throw them away after every use.

13. Radioactive Underwear: Your Solution To Problems In The Bedroom

image source: outmagazine.com

Before people realised that radioactive materials are, you know… bad for you, they thought they were beneficial. This meant radioactive underwear was actually a thing – and this glowing underwear was actually marketed as being able to help with issues in the bedroom.

14. Chastity Belts: Behave Yourself

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If radioactive underwear didn’t work out for you, maybe it was enough to swear you out of the bedroom altogether. Enter the chastity belt! Originally it was designed for women (of course) and it was even believed women had to wear them during the Crusades when their husbands were away.

15. Panniers: A Wearable Hoop

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These crazy dress hoops weren’t anything to do with making a woman feel supported or comfortable – they were only about making her dress look as good as possible. These hoops were there to go under the dress and spread it out in a wide arc around the hips.

16. Dimity Pockets: A Place To Put Your Keys

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Modern day women will always agree how exciting it is when something we want to wear actually has pockets – especially a dress or a skirt. Well apparently dimity pockets were ahead of their time, because they were panels of material worn under the dress and accessible through a slit in the outer fabric.

17. Cage Crinoline: It’s As Fun As It Sounds

image source: metmuseum.org

Because why wouldn’t you want to wear an entire cage? Because dresses were getting heavier and heavier by the Victorian times, a reinforced cage was actually required to hold it up. Crinolines were rings of steel kept together by string – and the only positive thing was a woman could move her legs freely under the dress!

18. The Bustle: Showing Off Those Curves

image source: historicalsewing.com

Just when you thought dresses couldn’t get any bigger – and around the backside at that – the bustle comes in. This was because this ‘hourglass’ figure was still an in-demand thing, so the bustle allowed a woman to draw attention to the behind while the corset squeezed her in up top!

19. Menstrual Briefs: Now Everyday Underwear

image source: etam.cmo

You might think menstrual briefs are a very modern day thing, but they actually started a long time ago! The normal ‘briefs’ that we know and wear today started around the 1930s, but briefs were actually only worn once a month originally, during the time of menstruation, before they became an ‘everyday’ undergarment.

20. The Loincloth: Perfect For Running Errands

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This particular piece is actually the first occurrence of what we know as ‘underwear’ – and it came about around 7000 years ago. Prehistoric men would wear loincloths to go about their business and fulfil their ‘how are we going to survive today’ tasks. It provided enough protection to just get on with things.

21. The Codpiece: Making For Quicker Bathroom Breaks!

image source: theartofmanliness.com

You might have always thought the codpiece was to protect a man’s downstairs, as well as maybe accentuate his, er… offerings. While codpieces did turn into a more decorative accessory, originally they were created so that a man didn’t have to untie all his clothes to use the bathroom, and could simply remove the codpiece out front!

22. Knee-Length Flannel Pants: Breathable? Nope

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By today’s standards, these look like regular pajama bottoms or maybe casual summerwear, but these were actually worn by men as underwear – underneath clothes! As you can imagine, these would have been quite warm to wear under thick trousers, especially during a heatwave! Not very practical – but compared to what women had to wear, this is easy.

23. Jockey Shorts: A Higher Level Of Support

image source: collections.tepapa.govt.nz

So eventually they did away with the knee-length fiasco and came up with this style that we’ll all recognize today: the boxer brief, or as they were known when they first came out, jockey shorts. Boxer shorts, with the more elastic waistband, were actually made for the reason the name suggests – more practicality in the ring for fighters!

24. Goatskin ‘Bikini Briefs’: That Leather Must’ve Chafed

image source: thehistorygirls.com

Once again, there’s evidence of something else ancient people did to cope with menstruation – and that’s where leather bikini brief-type underwear comes in. Likely made from goatskin, ancient women would have worn leather underwear with it being extra secure for holding rags during that time of the month.

25. ‘Breastbags’: A Worse Name For A Bra?

image source: medievalexcellence.com

Is there anything that sounds less appealing to wear than a ‘breastbag’? When underwear was discovered in Austria that went back to historical times, it was found alongside writing that described ‘breastbags’ – something similar to a bra – with the bags being a reference to the ‘cups’.

26. The Real Reason Female Underwear Has A Little Bow On The Front

image source: amazonuk.com

To the modern day shopper, a cute little bow on the front is nothing more than that – it’s cute. But in historical times, bows on the front of female undergarments actually served an important purpose. Because women dressed in the dark or by candlelight a lot of the time – and before elastic was invented – the ‘bow’ was made from threading the ribbon through and having to tie at the front to keep it all in place. And you can easily feel for that in the dark, too!

27. Furry Leggings For Men: Keeps You Warm, Right?

image source: iceman.it

When the mummified body of the historical ‘Iceman’ was discovered, what was also discovered was the kind of undergarments and clothing he wear. And apparently he paired a goatskin loincloth with a rather nice pair of furry leggings. Well, someone called ‘The Iceman’ obviously needed to stay warm, of course.

28. Egyptian Pharaohs Were Actually Entombed With Spare Underwear

image source: smithsonianmagazine.com

It’s the same as packing for a trip, right? The Egyptian Pharaohs were buried and entombed with the intention of their souls then traveling to the afterlife, and the Egyptians were very big on taking things with them. And what could you need more than spare underwear? King Tut was apparently buried with 145 spare loincloths.

29. Shirts Were Actually Once Considered Underwear – So It Was ‘Inappropriate’ To Have Them Visible!

image source: wikipedia.org

So back in the 1700s, shirts on a man were actually considered an undergarment, because of the fact they directly touched bare skin. So with this in mind, shirts had to be mostly covered up in the same way you’d expect underwear to be covered – only the collar, front and wrist cuffs were allowed to be visible.

30. Paper Briefs: The Easy Disposable Option

image source: etsy.com

Can you imagine how uncomfortable wearing a sheet of A4 paper would be as a pair of panties? But apparently – for both men and women – paper underwear was a thing in the 60s and 70s as a disposable option if you were traveling, or if you didn’t want the rigmarole of washing!

31. And Now: History’s Most Crazy Fashion Statements! Rouged Knees

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“I’m gonna rouge my knees and roll my stockings down” was a line in Chicago that maybe you overlooked as something quirky – but ‘rouging of the knees’ was actually a thing. Women in the 1920s would apply rouge – or blush we’d used on our cheeks – to their knees. Why? To draw attention to their knees, of course!

32. Ruffs: How Big Is Too Big?

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The ruff was an interesting fashion statement during the time of Elizabethan England, where a ruffled white collar was detachable around the neck. This was to make laundry that little bit easier by being able to wash the ruff on its own, and protect the clothes at the collar from things like makeup or powder.

33. Lead Paint: Because Dangerously Pale Is In

image source: wikipedia.org

With most of us squinting at the back of our makeup products these days to check what’s actually in the stuff, some people in history didn’t care that much – and actually wanted dangerous ingredients plastered on their face. White lead paint was used by only the best of the best when looking pale was in fashion – even though it was toxic.

34. Plague Masks: The Doctor Will See You Now

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From the 14th to the 18th century, plague masks were part of a protective ‘bird costumes’ that doctors would wear during – you guessed it – the plague. While its purpose was protective – and with the long beak allowing doctors to put things like herbs in there – it was still a slightly terrifying look for the poor patients.

35. Powdered Wigs: Guaranteed A Headache

image source: mentalfloss.com

In historical times, going bald was as embarrassing as some men think it is these days, so back then they came up with the crafty solution of wearing huge powdered wigs, so nobody would ever know whether they had their own hair or not. Because powdered wigs were worn by the bigwigs (heh) they became fashionable.

36. A Full Face Mask: Nightmare Fuel

image source: vintageeveryday.com

So apparently these terrified full-face masks were a thing in the 1920s for women who wanted to go swimming outside. Their purpose was to protect their skin from the sun, but apparently it was only important to protect the face! And scare everyone around them at the same time.

37. Portable Changing Room: So You Can Look Like A Dalek

image source: twitter.com

We all know the struggle of trying to discreetly get changed behind someone holding a towel on a packed beach, so maybe they were actually onto something with this one. It’s just a shame it looks ridiculous! The portable changing rooms let you get changed inside with nobody seeing!

38. The Protective Sun Cape: Perfect For Halloween

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They seemed to do a lot in historical times to protect from the sun without, you know… wearing sunscreen. This cape, called the ‘freckleproof cape’, was designed to protect the wearer from harmful UV rays – and the coolest thing about it is it also comes with sunglasses built in!

39. An Ice Mask: Ouch

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We know that cold masks can be very refreshing these days for the skin, or a cool slice of cucumber under the eyes to get rid of that swelling. So the theory of this one isn’t surprising – it’s more the way they’ve gone about it. By actually attaching literal ice cubes to the face.

40. A Vibrating Bra: Because Why Not

image source: reddit.com

This bra was made with the intention of apparently strengthening the breasts through vibrations, and it was supposed to be a handsfree, on-the-road option you could just wear while working and going about your business. Let’s hope it was a silent vibrate, though, or you might get some strange looks.

41. Black Teeth: Dentist Who?

image source: thevintagenews.com

Back to Elizabethan England, when the queen took it one step further than using that white lead paint we talked about. Apparently she was such a fan of sweets (aren’t we all) that her teeth turned back. And because she was the queen, it then became fashionable to stain your teeth black.

42. Hobble Skirts: When Walking Normally Isn’t Fashionable

image source: wikipedia.org

Just another think women weren’t apparently allowed to do without a man restricting it: walking. The hobble skirt was exactly as it sounds: a skirt designed with a restricting loop around the bottom so that women could only hope to ‘hobble’ at a slow speed. One small step for woman, one giant leap for the patriarchy.

43. Bombasting: Padding Out Sleeves To Get Those Gains

image source: fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu

You might not be too surprised at the idea of ‘padding’ by modern day standards, seeing as the push-up bra is a thing anyway, but apparently the area olden day folks were more bothered about being seen as big was the sleeves! They would pad their sleeves – called bombasting – to make them look huge.

44. Chopines: The OG Platform Shoe

image source: metmuseum.org

The original idea behind this raised platform shoe was actually very practical: it was designed to help women walk through the streets when they were muddy or dirty. But then, as these things often do, it turned into a fashion statement, and it was then worn by ‘important’ people when being tall became a symbol of wealth and status.

45. The Bloomer Suit: Women Being Shamed For Wearing Trousers

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The bloomer suit was another example of women just trying to wear something comfortable – and then being criticised for it. A female activist started the bloomer suit – made up of a short vest or top-half of a dress, and then gathered trousers – which went down a treat with other women. But then they started getting harassed for being ‘sexually suggestive’ and it was scrapped.

46. Category Is: Macaroni Fashion

image source: gurneyjourney.com

So in the 1700s there was a fashion trend called ‘macaroni’, which wasn’t anything to do with the pasta: it was to do with very OTT outfits and bright colors. This trend included absolutely huge wigs, complete with tiny hates or feathers, and things like bright stockings and buckled shoes.

47. The Crinoline: The Skirt That Could Actually Kill You

image source: pinterest.com

This type of hoop skirt worn under dresses in the 19th century was again a way to accentuate a women’s shape – but it was a very dangerous fashion statement indeed. That’s because the hoop skirt was so big that it caused a variety of fatalities, including being caught in wind and blown off cliffs, and being unable to fit through doors to escape burning buildings!

48. Wax Cones On The Head: The Historical ‘Deodorant’

image source: thevintagenews.com

Apparently Ancient Egyptians would wear wax cones on their heads, on top of their wigs, and let them slowly melt throughout the day. The wax cones were perfumed, so this was supposed to be a way to mask their natural body odor – so like a 2 in 1 perfume and deodorant.

49. Bliauts: Sleeves Too Long To Do Anything

image source: eg.bucknell.edu

So in Medieval times, Bliauts were a type of dress with a sleeve that was seriously too long – we’re talking down to the floor – with the very purpose that the people wearing it wouldn’t be able to do any tasks with their hands. This then became fashionable for the ‘elites’ to signify that the lower classes would have to do the tasks.

50. The Alexandra Limp: When A Serious Health Condition Becomes A Fashion Trend

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In the 19th century, Alexandra, Princess of Wales, was considered a fashion icon – but she also suffered from rheumatism, which made her walk with a limp and a walking stick. Because her devoted fans loved anything she did, they started walking with a limp, too, and it became ‘fashionable’ to do so.