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Object of the Week : U for Underwear

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Whilst the Museum is closed and our collections unable to be seen by visitors, we have created a weekly virtual museum with an Object of the Week feature from our collections.

Object of the Week : U for Underwear

The Museum has a rather nice collection of lingerie produced by Keystone Knitting Mills.  As the history of Keystone has been covered previously in ‘K’, it doesn’t need repeating here.  Also, we all know what underwear is and what its functions are, so that’s probably best not repeated here either.  However, these are items of a Museum collection, so let’s look at a bit of history.

The earliest undergarment to be worn by human beings is thought to be the Loincloth and as Tarzan fans will know, sometimes in hot weather would have been the only item of ‘clothing’ to be worn.  In colder climates, the loincloth would be worn under other garments.  The fabric used for loincloths was believed to have been either wool or linen or a coarse twill. Scratchy.

As time progressed, men wore cod-pieces and ladies wore bodices which later became corsets.

By the early 20th century, textile industries like Keystones were booming.  Whalebone corsets began to be relaxed and be replaced by the liberty bodice.  Advertising for underwear first began in 1910 in the US and by the end of the decade, the requirement was for ladies to have underwear in which they could pursue sporting activities, so the bloomers were born.

In the 1930s, the girdle revived the fashion for the corset, but without the whalebone and accompanied by a brassiere and garters.

From the 1950s onwards, underwear became more of a fashion item in its own right and items such as the Wonderbra, Pantyhose (or tights), brief and boxer shorts came into production.




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