Women first began wearing underwear for hygienic reasons as well as for function. Panties were added as a means of holding absorbent materials in place during menstruation to prevent blood from soaking through and ruining one’s clothes. Bras were invented to adjust the way the breasts hung in front of the body by either pushing them up to look larger or down to appear smaller.
What is considered the ideal form has changed through the centuries and by culture. During the 16-1700s, it was considered ideal to keep a woman’s waist as slim as possible. This was often achieved by wearing a tortuous device known as a corset. Corsets pushed the breasts up and accented the hips while forcing the waist to conform to the limitations imposed by the device. Other cultures made young ladies begin to bind their chests at puberty to keep their breasts from growing.
Corsets became unfavorable after it was discovered that they were causing permanent damage to the organs of women as well as being a direct cause of miscarriages. Women stopped wearing these to force their waists to remain waspishly thin, but many began using girdles, which were not quite as stiff, but did hold the stomach and waist in to a lesser degree.
Undergarments remained somewhat plain up until the last half of the twentieth century. This was because most people maintained somewhat prudish attitudes toward sex and the female body. Undergarments were seldom spoken of, and when they were, they were often referred to as a woman’s unmentionables. There was even a time when these items served the purpose of obscuring or blurring the lines of the female body.
In the 60’s and 70’s, attitudes changed radically. As attitudes changed, so did clothing styles, including underwear. Different materials began to be used in the manufacture of these items and designs began to be created that added to the allure of the wearer when viewed in nothing else. Some were even created to be attractive on their own rather than serve any utilitarian purpose.
Today’s designs walk a fine line between being too prudish and too revealing. It is, however, a matter of general consensus that a woman is sexier when some parts of her body are covered than when completely nude. However, some items of underwear are made as thin as possible or to fall in ways that prevent them showing when tight clothes are worn.
Today’s women have many more options available to them then their predecessors. Undergarments can now be chosen for function as well as appearance. What a woman is doing can affect her choices in underwear. For example, when working, she may want something somewhat plain to avoid giving the appearance that she is using her gender to succeed. When going out in the evening, she will want items that accentuate her curves. Exercising calls for items that hold the breasts in place rather than pushing them up.