The Evolution of Lingerie Styles Through the Decades

Mackenzie Open Crotch Lace Panty


Lingerie, often viewed as a symbol of femininity and allure, has undergone significant transformations over the decades. Each period in history reflects distinct societal attitudes and fashion trends that influenced lingerie design, fabric, and functionality. This blog explores the evolution of lingerie styles through the decades, from the early 20th century to the present day, highlighting how shifts in culture and technology have reshaped this intimate apparel.

Early 20th Century: The Foundations of Modern Lingerie

At the dawn of the 20th century, lingerie began to evolve significantly. The Victorian era's restrictive corsets were slowly abandoned in favour of more practical and comfortable garments like camisoles and bloomers, which represented the progressive attitudes towards women's roles in society. The introduction of elastic fabrics in the 1910s further revolutionised lingerie, allowing for designs that were not only functional but also more comfortable to wear.

By the 1920s, as women gained more independence, the demand for practicality became even more apparent. The flapper era brought about a significant reduction in structured undergarments. Corsets were increasingly replaced by lighter, more flexible girdles that complemented the era's iconic loose dresses. This period marked the beginning of the modernisation of lingerie, setting a trend towards simplification and comfort that would continue in the decades to follow.

1920s: The Flapper Revolution

The 1920s are often celebrated for the flapper dress, but the changes in lingerie were equally revolutionary. With the Roaring Twenties in full swing, women embraced shorter and more form-free garments that allowed for easier movement and a break from the rigid fashions of the past. Lingerie pieces such as step-ins, teddies, and bandeaux bras mirrored this liberation, characterised by their simple lines and absence of heavy boning.

This era also saw the first iterations of the modern bra, influenced by the need for a bust support that complemented the new, more revealing necklines and backless dresses. The shift towards more revealing lingerie was not just a fashion statement but a sign of the growing empowerment of women, a theme that would continue to influence lingerie design in subsequent decades.

1930s and 1940s: The Impact of War on Lingerie

The economic constraints and fabric shortages during the Great Depression and World War II had a profound impact on lingerie. Materials like silk and nylon were requisitioned for military use, leading to the innovation of using more accessible fabrics like rayon and cotton. The 1930s lingerie began to reflect a return to femininity with the introduction of more decorative elements such as lace and embroidery, albeit in a more subdued fashion due to the economic climate.

During the 1940s, despite the ongoing war, lingerie maintained a sense of glamour, though often compromised by practicality. The utility was key, with designs focusing on durability and comfort over style. However, the post-war period saw a resurgence in luxurious lingerie, as women sought to reclaim the femininity and indulgence denied during the war years. This period highlighted the resilience of the lingerie industry in adapting to the challenges posed by global events.

1950s: The Age of Glamour

The 1950s heralded a return to opulence in lingerie design, reflecting the decade's broader cultural emphasis on luxury and femininity. The iconic bullet bra, with its distinctive pointed shape, symbolised this era, emphasizing the hourglass figure that was heavily popularised by Hollywood stars. Girdles also made a comeback, refining the silhouette under the voluminous skirts of the period.

Moreover, the 1950s saw the introduction of more elaborate and decorative lingerie featuring lace, satin, and even jewels. This was the era when lingerie began to be widely recognised not just for its functional aspects but as a critical component of a woman's wardrobe, meant to be both seen and appreciated.

1960s: Liberation and Simplicity

The 1960s broke many of the conventions set in the previous decade, with the youth-led cultural revolution affecting everything from music to fashion. Lingerie styles became simpler and more practical, reflecting the growing feminist movement and the increasing participation of women in the workforce. The decade also saw the rise of the miniskirt, which required a redesign of lingerie, particularly underwear, which became more discreet.

This period also marked the beginning of the decline of the girdle, as women started to reject restrictive garments in favour of more comfortable options like pantyhose. The bra, too, underwent changes with the introduction of the first seamless and moulded bras, which offered a more natural silhouette, further reflecting the shift towards minimalism and comfort.

1970s: The Rise of Feminism and Lingerie as Outerwear

The 1970s were defined by a bold approach to fashion and the continued impact of the feminist movement, which challenged traditional norms of femininity and

1970s: The Rise of Feminism and Lingerie as Outerwear

The 1970s marked a dramatic shift in how lingerie was perceived, largely influenced by the burgeoning feminist movement. This era saw lingerie emerging as a symbol of empowerment rather than mere allure. Women started experimenting with lingerie as outerwear, a trend exemplified by the popularity of camisoles, bodysuits, and slips visible under sheer or open clothing. This was not just a fashion statement but a political one, challenging traditional norms about the visibility of underwear.

As the decade progressed, there was a significant move towards comfort and functionality in lingerie design. The introduction of sports bras in the late 1970s revolutionised the market, catering to the needs of active, health-conscious women. This period also witnessed an increased rejection of restrictive undergarments, which were replaced by more relaxed styles that emphasized natural body shapes, reflecting the feminist ethos of body positivity and freedom.

1980s: Bold and Exuberant Styles

The 1980s are often remembered for their bold fashion statements, and lingerie was no exception. Bright colours, extravagant lace, and daring cuts became popular, influenced by the decade's ethos of excess and self-expression. Lingerie designs included high-cut bodysuits and elaborate embellishments that mirrored the broader fashion trends of shoulder pads and sequins, indicating lingerie's role not just as undergarment but as a key element of fashion.

This decade also saw the emergence of lingerie as a tool for personal expression, with increasing diversity in styles catering to different tastes and preferences. The expansion of lingerie advertising, including more overtly sexualised imagery, played a significant role in positioning lingerie within the realm of luxury and fantasy, making it a coveted item for women seeking both comfort and glamour.

1990s: Minimalism and the Underwear-as-Outerwear Trend

Continuing from the 1970s, the 1990s solidified the trend of lingerie as outerwear with minimalistic yet chic designs becoming mainstream. Influenced by icons like Madonna, lingerie elements such as corset tops and lace trimmings became staples in everyday wardrobes, blending the boundaries between private and public fashion. The minimalist trend was also seen in the simplified designs of bras and panties, which favoured smooth, seamless fabrics that offered both comfort and a clean silhouette under clothing.

During this decade, there was a growing awareness of the need for lingerie that could fit various body types, leading to a broader range of sizes and styles that promoted inclusivity. The introduction of memory foam bras and improvements in underwire design enhanced comfort and fit, reflecting an ongoing commitment to combining aesthetics with practicality in lingerie design.

2000s: The Boom of Luxury and Customisation

The 2000s witnessed a luxury boom in the lingerie industry, with brands like Victoria’s Secret dominating the market with their lavish fashion shows and celebrity endorsements. This era embraced the idea of lingerie as a luxury item, with increased attention to detail, exotic materials, and customisation options that allowed women to tailor their lingerie to their personal tastes and needs.

Simultaneously, the internet revolutionised shopping, with online lingerie retail expanding rapidly. This accessibility made it easier for consumers to find and customise their lingerie, from selecting fabrics to adjusting designs to fit their body shape perfectly. The 2000s also saw the rise of body positivity movements, which influenced lingerie brands to diversify their product ranges to include plus sizes and maternity lines, further personalising the lingerie shopping experience.

2010s to Present: Inclusivity and Technological Advances

In recent years, the lingerie industry has seen significant changes, driven by advances in technology and a strong push towards inclusivity. Brands are now focusing on creating ranges that cater to a diverse array of body types and skin tones, reflecting societal shifts towards equality and representation. The integration of technology has also led to innovations such as smart bras and fabrics that offer better support, comfort, and durability.

Moreover, the rise of social media has given consumers a powerful voice, influencing brands to be more transparent about their manufacturing processes and to adopt ethical practices. The modern lingerie consumer not only expects high quality and comfort but also demands that products be made sustainably and ethically, driving further evolution in the industry.


The journey of lingerie through the decades encapsulates more than just changes in fashion. Each transition reflects broader cultural shifts, technological advancements, and evolving social norms. From its origins as restrictive undergarments to its status as a symbol of empowerment and personal expression, lingerie continues to adapt, mirroring the dynamic nature of its wearers and the times they live in.