Underwear – also called lingerie, bra, panties or inner wear – is a piece of garment that is worn under the clothes for various reasons. They aid in shaping the body, preventing the clothes from getting soiled with body secretions, supporting the essential areas and offering concealment of the body parts. The olden times had seen underwear as a means of providing warmth, covering the genitalia and providing protection from the direct rub of the clothes against the skin. In some instances, underwear was used as an outerwear especially during hot seasons.
Early on, the Crete, Egyptians and French women wore a garment under the bust that merely supported and enhanced the breasts rather than covering them. The Greek women named them apodesmos. The Romans re-designed them and called themstrophium or mamillare. The difference between the Greek and Roman wear was that, the later had basically covered the breasts and helped in flattening the chest rather than enhancing it. Scattered evidence through poetry and pictorial arts has shown that in that era, women with larger breasts were considered unattractive and those who wished for breast augmentations were also criticized. Hence, it was appropriate for Roman women to employ an undergarment that prevented social stigma.
Although a simple loincloth was probably the first types of an under-pant, it was nonetheless modified by various groups of people. The Roman’s loincloth was called a subligar. Athletes wore its modified version called a subligaculum.
It is still doubtful whether the Egyptian women wore an under-pant on a daily basis because of the hot climate; instead they wore kalasiris which was essentially a simple dress without any underwear.
Back in India, during the Vedic era (1500- 500 BC) the loincloth was worn by the people falling under the poorer class while its longer foot-length counterpart was adorned by the rich ones.
The material of the underwear has changed as per the advancement in technology and level of affordability. Skipping on the era that employed leaves and plant fibres as the basic material to cover the essentials, among the first materials to be used in the making of underwear were leather, wool and linen. The olden lingerie was both hand and needle woven.
With little availability of dyes, the colours were allocated according to the class and authorities in a society and depicted a social status especially among the Romans.
Underwear has seen, ever since, a tremendous revolution yet has remained an essential part of daily wear for modern women.