The Changing Attitudes Towards Lingerie throughout the Decades

Lingerie has been a staple in women’s wardrobes for centuries, but the attitudes towards it have changed drastically throughout the decades. From the restrictive corsets of the past to the comfortable bralettes of today, lingerie has evolved with the times. With each passing decade, new fashion trends and societal changes have influenced the way women dress underneath their clothing. Join us on a journey through the decades as we explore the changing attitudes towards lingerie and the impact they had on fashion and society.

The 1920s: The Rise of the Flapper

The 1920S: The Rise Of The Flapper
In the 1920s, the style of lingerie saw a massive upheaval due to the rise of the flapper. Women were claiming their rights, freedom, and representation in society, and this was reflected in their clothing. The traditional corset was out, and the new foundation garments were all about comfort and practicality. Women started wearing more lightweight and flexible undergarments like girdles and brassieres. These new “figure garments” were all about creating a smooth and streamlined look, and allowing for more freedom of movement, reflecting the changing attitudes and lifestyles of women during this period. The rise of the flapper marked a turning point in the history of women’s undergarments, and the new styles of the 1920s paved the way for the evolution of lingerie in the decades to come.

The Flapper Look

The 1920s marked a time of significant change in society and fashion. Women were claiming their rights, freedom, and representation in society, and fashion reflected this hard-won empowerment. The flapper look was all the rage, with shorter hemlines, looser clothing, and a more relaxed overall silhouette. This look was a stark contrast to the traditional hourglass shape created by corsets. Instead, the new clothing style embraced the straight, boyish figure of the flapper.

To achieve the desired look, women needed to wear new types of undergarments that were more lightweight and flexible. Girdles and bras replaced the traditional corset, allowing for more freedom of movement and comfort. The “step-in” or “chemise” slip was a one-piece garment that replaced the traditional camisole and drawers combo, making it more practical and comfortable to wear.

The new foundation garments were all about creating a smooth and streamlined look. The bra, in particular, experienced a rise in popularity during this time. Women needed a bra that would allow them to move freely and comfortably while still providing support. The bandeau bra, which was essentially a simple band of cloth, was a popular choice.

The flapper look and the changing attitudes towards lingerie during the 1920s represented a significant shift in fashion and society. Women were breaking free of restrictive clothing and embracing a new era of comfort and practicality. The changes that took place during this decade set the stage for future innovations in lingerie design and helped pave the way for women’s fashion as we know it today.

The End of the Corset

In the 1920s, a major shift in women’s fashion and attitudes towards their bodies led to the decline of the corset. Women were claiming their rights, freedom, and representation in society, which was reflected in the flapper style that was all the rage. The traditional corset was out, and more comfortable and practical options such as girdles and brassieres were in. These new foundation garments were all about creating a smooth and streamlined look, allowing for more freedom of movement. The rise of the “step-in” or “chemise” slip also replaced the traditional camisole and drawers combo, making it more comfortable and practical. The end of the corset signified a turning point in boudoir fashion, as women began to embrace garments that allowed for greater movement, comfort, and self-expression. This revolution in 1920s lingerie was all about comfort and practicality, reflecting the changing attitudes and lifestyles of women during this period.

The Rise of the Bra

The 1920s marked a turning point in women’s lingerie. With the rise of the flapper movement, women were seeking more freedom and comfort in their clothing, and that included their undergarments. As a result, the traditional corset was no longer in fashion, and women began to embrace the bra as a more comfortable and practical alternative.

Bras of the 1920s were designed to create a more relaxed and streamlined silhouette, and they were often made of lightweight and flexible materials. Women could finally move and breathe freely without being constrained by the corset. The bra also allowed for more versatility in clothing styles, as it did not require the hourglass figure that the corset had demanded.

The bra was not an entirely new invention, but it was during the 1920s that it began to rise in popularity and become a staple in women’s undergarments. As hemlines rose and clothing became more revealing, the bra became more necessary than ever. It provided support and coverage without the bulk and rigidity of the corset.

The bra’s rise in popularity during the 1920s was a reflection of the changing attitudes towards women’s bodies and fashion. Women were no longer content to be confined by antiquated notions of femininity and beauty. They wanted to be comfortable and free to express themselves in their clothing choices. The bra was just one small part of the larger revolution in women’s undergarments that was taking place during this time.

Today, the bra remains a staple in women’s lingerie, but it has evolved greatly since its early days in the 1920s. From the push-up bra of the 1980s to the bralette of the 2000s, the bra has adapted to meet the changing needs and desires of women. But it all started with the rise of the flapper and the rejection of the corset. The bra may seem like a small thing, but its impact on women’s fashion and liberation cannot be overstated.

The 1950s: The Hourglass Figure

The 1950S: The Hourglass Figure
In the 1950s, the hourglass figure made a comeback with the debut of the New Look, and women began wearing pointed bullet bras and firm girdles around the waist, paired with large fluffy petticoats to achieve the desired shape. This trend can be compared to earlier periods like the Renaissance and Victorian eras, when large skirts and small waists gave a dramatic silhouette and hinted at a woman’s wealth. However, the 1960s feminist movement provided a backlash against these restrictive undergarments again, just as had happened 50 years earlier, and more comfortable and natural styles prevailed. Simple bralettes and bikini briefs became popular, underwear styles that would look remarkably familiar to our modern eyes! If you’re interested to learn more about the evolution of women’s undergarments, check out this article for a fascinating read.

The Return of the Corset

The corset’s decline in popularity during the early 20th century marked a turning point in lingerie fashion. However, in the 1950s, the hourglass figure became popular once again, and with it, the return of the corset. It was no longer seen as a symbol of oppression but as a way to enhance the feminine figure. The new versions were not as restrictive as the older ones, and they were often made of stretch materials like spandex. This revival of the corset was accompanied by the rise of corset-inspired fashion, with dresses and tops featuring boning and lacing, creating a more structured and fitted look. The corset also made a comeback in bridal lingerie, where it remains a popular choice for brides-to-be who want to achieve an hourglass silhouette on their big day. While the corset’s popularity has fluctuated over time, it remains an iconic piece of lingerie that has played a significant role in shaping women’s fashion throughout history.

Bullet Bras and Girdles

The hourglass figure came back into fashion in the 1950s, and women began wearing bullet bras and firm girdles around the waist, paired with large fluffy petticoats to achieve the desired shape. The bullet bra, also known as the torpedo or cone bra, was popularized by movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, and was designed to give women a pointed, perky bustline. These bras were often made with underwire for added support and lift.

Girdles, on the other hand, were designed to flatten and smooth the stomach, hips, and thighs, creating a more streamlined silhouette. They were typically made with a combination of elastic and boning to provide both support and flexibility. Some girdles also had attached garter belts for holding up stockings.

While these undergarments were popular for achieving the ideal hourglass shape, they were often uncomfortable and restrictive. Women would sometimes even resort to wearing multiple girdles at once to achieve a smaller waistline. However, the emergence of the pin-up girl and the acceptance of lingerie as a desirable fashion item helped to make up for the discomfort of these undergarments.

Hollywood played a role in popularizing these undergarments, as well as the rise of women’s magazines like Good Housekeeping and Women’s Home Journal, which offered tips and advice on how to achieve the perfect hourglass figure. As with previous decades, women’s undergarments were often influenced by societal attitudes towards women and their roles in society.

The Pin-Up Girl

The 1950s brought about a new era of lingerie with the rise of the pin-up girl. These models embraced the curvy female figure and showed off the latest underwear trends, including seamed stockings and bustiers. Lingerie became more than just practical undergarments, it became a symbol of sensuality and femininity. Women were no longer afraid to embrace their sexuality and show off their bodies in these new provocative styles.

The pin-up girl represented a new type of woman who was confident and unapologetic in her sexuality. She was a representation of the changing attitudes towards women’s roles in society and their newfound freedom to express themselves. This new era of lingerie was all about celebrating the female form and empowering women to feel sexy and confident in their own skin.

One of the most iconic pieces of lingerie from this era was the bikini brief, which created an acceptance for women to be pictured in lingerie. Thanks to films and advertisements, lingerie became a part of popular culture and women began to see it as a way to express their personal style and sexuality.

The pin-up girl may have been a representation of a bygone era, but her legacy has lived on through the decades. Today, lingerie continues to be a symbol of sensuality and femininity, and women are still embracing their bodies and expressing their personal style through their undergarments.

Related link: The Evolution of Panties from the 19th Century to Modern Times.

The 1960s: The Sexual Revolution

The 1960S: The Sexual Revolution
The 1960s saw the rise of the sexual revolution, and with it, a rejection of traditional gender roles and societal norms. Women began to reject uncomfortable undergarments, leading to the infamous bra burnings of the era. The focus shifted towards comfort, and the minimizer bra was introduced to reduce the appearance of breasts. However, this decade also saw the rise of the sexualized bra, with daring shapes and designs becoming fashionable. The changing attitudes towards lingerie in the 1960s reflected the shifting cultural landscape, with comfort and sexual liberation taking center stage.

The Bra Burnings

The 1960s was a decade of activism, including women’s liberation movements. One memorable event was the bra burning protests. In 1968, feminist activists staged a protest at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They were protesting the objectification of women and the beauty standards set by the pageant. While it is a common misconception that bras were burnt during the protest, no bras were actually burned. Instead, a “Freedom Trash Can” was set up to symbolize the liberation from oppressive beauty standards. Women threw items such as girdles, cosmetics, and magazines into the trash can. The bra burning protests became a symbol of the feminist movement, and it was a powerful statement against the objectification of women’s bodies.

The bra burning protests were not just about burning bras, but about rejecting the idea that women’s bodies were objects to be controlled and manipulated. The protest sparked a broader conversation about women’s rights and led to changes in society’s attitudes towards women. The bra burning protests were a turning point in the fight for gender equality and women’s liberation.

During the 1960s, there was also a rise in the popularity of the braless look. Women began to reject the idea that they needed to wear a bra to conform to societal beauty standards. This was a statement against the objectification of women’s bodies and a rejection of the idea that women’s bodies needed to be controlled and manipulated.

The bra burning protests and the rise of the braless look were powerful statements against the objectification of women’s bodies. They were part of a larger movement towards gender equality and the liberation of women. Today, there are many different types of bras available, including sports bras, bralettes, and push-up bras. The bra has come a long way since the days of the corset, and it continues to evolve with changing attitudes towards women’s bodies.

The Rise of Comfort

Fashion has always been about finding the perfect balance between style and comfort, and lingerie is no exception. As the feminist movement gained momentum in the 1960s and 1970s, women began to reject traditional undergarments that were restrictive and uncomfortable. This led to the rise of more comfortable and practical options, such as the minimizer bra, which was designed to reduce the appearance of the bust and create a more streamlined silhouette. This was a far cry from the push-up bras of the 1980s, which focused on enhancing the bust and creating a more voluptuous look.

In recent years, the focus on comfort has only intensified, with the rise of sports bras and bralettes. Sports bras, in particular, have become increasingly popular, thanks in part to the rise of athleisurewear and the trend towards more active lifestyles. These bras are designed to provide support and comfort during high-impact activities, making them a must-have for fitness enthusiasts.

Meanwhile, bralettes have become a popular alternative to traditional bras, thanks to their comfortable, lightweight design. These bras are typically made from soft materials like cotton or lace, and are designed to be worn all day long. They provide a more relaxed fit than traditional bras, making them a great choice for women who value comfort above all else.

The rise of comfort in lingerie reflects a broader trend towards more practical and functional clothing. As women continue to demand more from their clothing, it’s likely that we’ll see even more innovations in the world of undergarments in the years to come.


The Minimizer Bra

The 1960s saw a move towards comfort in lingerie, and the minimizer bra was a product of this trend. The minimizer bra was designed to create the illusion of a smaller bust, which was in line with the fashion of the time. The minimizer bra was usually made with strong, supportive material, and was designed to spread the breast tissue across a larger area of the chest, rather than compressing it. This style of bra was perfect for women who wanted to wear more form-fitting clothing without drawing attention to their bust. The minimizer bra was a popular choice in the 1960s, and its popularity has continued to this day. Today, the minimizer bra is available in a range of styles and materials, making it a versatile choice for women of all shapes and sizes. The minimizer bra is perfect for those who want to reduce the appearance of their bust without compromising on comfort or support.

The 1980s: The Power Suit

The 1980S: The Power Suit
In the 1980s, the power suit was the epitome of women’s fashion. With its broad shoulders and tailored lines, the suit exuded confidence and professionalism. And what better way to complete the look than with the perfect lingerie? The push-up bra came into its own during this decade, offering women the ability to accentuate their curves and feel sexy and powerful at the same time. High-cut panties were also in vogue, showing off long legs and creating a sleek silhouette. Lace and satin were popular materials for lingerie, adding a touch of elegance to an already sophisticated look. The 1980s may have been all about the power suit, but the right lingerie made all the difference in making women feel unstoppable.

The Push-Up Bra

The 1980s saw the rise of the power suit, and with it, the push-up bra. This bra style was all about enhancing the bust line and creating a dramatic silhouette. The push-up bra typically has padding at the bottom of the cups to lift the breasts, while the top of the cups is angled inward to push the breasts together and create cleavage. This bra style quickly became popular, as women embraced the idea of power dressing and looking confident and sexy in the workplace.

The push-up bra was often paired with high-cut panties, which helped to elongate the legs and create a smooth silhouette. Lace and satin were also popular fabrics for lingerie during this time, adding a touch of luxury and glamour to women’s undergarments.

The push-up bra was a symbol of female empowerment and sexuality in the 1980s. Women were no longer content to hide their bodies under shapeless clothing and unflattering undergarments. Instead, they embraced their curves and used lingerie as a way to express their femininity and confidence.

High-Cut Panties

In the 1980s, high-cut panties became a popular choice for many women. These panties had a high waist and a high leg cut that elongated the legs and accentuated the hips. They were often made from materials like satin, lace, or sheer mesh for a sexy and feminine look. High-cut panties were designed to be worn with high-waisted pants and skirts, which were also in vogue at the time. They were a departure from the full-coverage panties of the previous decade. Instead, they offered a more daring and revealing style that showed off more skin. The high-cut panty was not just a fashion statement but also a practical choice for women who wanted to avoid visible panty lines under their tight-fitting clothes. The style became so popular that it has remained a staple of lingerie collections to this day. Some popular styles of high-cut panties include the bikini, thong, and French cut. High-cut panties are available in a wide range of colors, fabrics, and designs, from simple and classic to bold and playful. They continue to be a popular choice for women who want to feel both sexy and comfortable.

Lace and Satin

The 1980s were all about power dressing, and lingerie was no exception. Lace and satin were popular materials for lingerie during this decade, with designers creating pieces that were meant to be seen. The lingerie of the 80s was all about making a statement, with bold colors and daring designs. The push-up bra was also popular during this time, as women sought to enhance their cleavage and create a more voluptuous look. High-cut panties were another trend, meant to elongate the legs and create a more streamlined silhouette. Lingerie was no longer just about function, but also about fashion. The 1980s lingerie was all about embracing femininity and sexuality, and women were encouraged to indulge in luxurious lingerie pieces that made them feel confident and powerful. Lace and satin were the perfect materials for this, as they were soft, sensual, and undeniably sexy. Whether worn under a power suit or on their own, lingerie pieces made of lace and satin were a symbol of feminine power and sensuality.

The 2000s: The Rise of the Bralette

In the 2000s, comfort made a comeback with the rise of the bralette. This style of bra, often made with soft, stretchy materials and minimal padding or underwire, offered a more relaxed and natural fit. It became popular among young women who valued comfort over the push-up and padded bras of previous decades. The bralette also reflected a shift in fashion towards more casual and laid-back styles. Along with the sports bra, which also gained popularity during this time, the bralette represented a departure from the rigid and constricting lingerie of the past. Lace and embroidery were still common elements in bralette design, but they were often used in a more subtle and understated way. The return of comfort in lingerie marked a shift in attitudes towards women’s bodies, with a greater emphasis on self-acceptance and natural beauty.

The Return of Comfort

In the 1960s, women began to embrace comfort in their lingerie choices. The restrictive and uncomfortable undergarments of the past were no longer desirable. The focus shifted towards lingerie that allowed for greater freedom of movement and comfort. This trend continued into the 1980s and 1990s, where lace and satin were still popular, but comfort was the top priority. The push-up bra, for example, provided lift and support without sacrificing comfort. High-cut panties also became popular, providing a flattering fit without digging into the skin. The return of comfort culminated in the rise of the sports bra in the 2000s. This new style of bra was designed to provide support during physical activity, without the discomfort of traditional underwire bras. Another popular trend in recent years has been the bralette, which is a comfortable and stylish alternative to traditional bras. The return of comfort in lingerie has been driven by a desire for practicality and a rejection of the restrictive undergarments of the past.

The Sports Bra

The sports bra revolutionized the way women exercise. Prior to its invention, women had to wear two bras or a bra and a binder to keep their breasts from bouncing during physical activity. That all changed in the late 1970s when the first sports bra was created. Originally called the “jockbra,” it was designed by Lisa Lindahl and featured two jockstraps sewn together. The sports bra quickly gained popularity among female athletes and fitness enthusiasts, and by the early 1990s, it had become a staple in women’s activewear.

Sports bras are designed to provide support and comfort during high-impact activities such as running, jumping, and aerobics. They typically feature a compressive design that holds the breasts close to the chest to minimize bouncing and reduce discomfort. Some sports bras also feature moisture-wicking fabric to keep the skin dry and cool during exercise.

There are several types of sports bras available, each designed for different levels of impact. Low-impact sports bras are suitable for activities such as yoga and walking, while high-impact sports bras are designed for intense activities such as running and jumping. Some sports bras also feature adjustable straps and removable padding for a customizable fit.

In recent years, the sports bra has become a fashion statement, with many brands offering trendy designs and colors. It’s not uncommon to see women wearing sports bras as crop tops or layering them under sheer tops. The sports bra has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

The Bralette

The turn of the 21st century saw the emergence of a new lingerie trend – the bralette. This unstructured bra, reminiscent of the bra-burning days of the 1960s, is a far cry from the structured and padded bras of the 1980s and 90s. The bralette is a delicate and often lacy bra that is designed to be seen – worn under sheer tops or peeking out from under a low-cut shirt. It’s all about comfort and style, rather than lift and support. The bralette has become a symbol of the current trend towards embracing natural body shapes, rather than trying to conform to an unrealistic ideal. It’s a refreshing change from the push-up bras of the past, and it’s a style that women of all ages can feel comfortable and confident wearing. The bralette is here to stay, and it’s a welcome addition to the lingerie drawer of any woman who values comfort and style.


Throughout the decades, lingerie has reflected the changing attitudes and lifestyles of women. From the rise of the flapper in the 1920s to the power suit of the 1980s, lingerie has evolved to meet the needs and desires of women in each era. The decline of the corset and the rise of more comfortable and practical undergarments have allowed women to take control of their bodies and fashion choices. The sexual revolution of the 1960s and the return of comfort in the 2000s have further propelled the evolution of lingerie. As we move forward, it will be interesting to see how lingerie continues to transform and adapt to the changing needs and attitudes of women. One thing is for sure: lingerie will always be an important part of fashion and self-expression for women.

Frequently Asked Questions

What were the popular materials for lingerie in the 1950s?

During the 1950s, lingerie was made of materials such as nylon, satin, and lace.

Did the bralette exist in the 1960s?

No, the bralette did not become popular until the 2000s.

What was the purpose of the corset in the 1950s?

In the 1950s, the corset was worn to create the hourglass figure that was popular at the time.

What was the impact of the feminist movement on lingerie in the 1960s?

The feminist movement of the 1960s led to a backlash against restrictive undergarments and a preference for more comfortable and natural styles.

What is a bullet bra?

A bullet bra is a bra with pointed cups that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, often worn to create a conical shape under clothing.

What is a minimizer bra?

A minimizer bra is a bra designed to make the bust appear smaller, often by redistributing breast tissue to the sides of the chest.

What is a push-up bra?

A push-up bra is a bra designed to lift and enhance the bust, often with padding or underwire.

What is the purpose of high-cut panties?

High-cut panties are designed to elongate the legs and create a more flattering silhouette under clothing.

What is a sports bra?

A sports bra is a bra designed to provide support and minimize breast movement during physical activity.

What is the current trend in lingerie?

The current trend in lingerie is towards comfortable, natural styles such as bralettes and sports bras.