The Middle Age saw many changes in the world of lingerie. Women became more self conscious and sought for more comfort and attention to their natural curves.
This era redesigned the preliminary forms of underwear to a more comfortable kirtle. A kirtle was a long gown worn under the outer dress. In the early Middle Age, kirtle had wide and loose sleeves which later were modified to more fitting around the wrists. Later on, the hanging sleeves regained fashion. A kirtle was shown off through multiple slits on the outer gown and sometimes was made longer than the outer tunic just for the display.
Later on, smocks or chemise as called by the French came into the scene. These were very long version of a shirt that reached ankle length with varying lengths of sleeves. Ladies wore this without wearing any panties underneath.
Historical evidence shows that corsets were present since the 12th century, however, back then they were less popular. The sixteenth century became the turning point for corset made out of whalebones. The year 1545 brought the wire incorporated corsets called the farthingale. The corset covered the entire torso, supported firmly the back and the chest and gave definition to a woman’s body. It worked both ways; some were designed to enhance the busts while others flattened them. However, as these garments were uncomfortably tight they resulted into internal organ displacement that raised health concerns. Despite this shortcoming, corsets are still found in the wardrobe of modern day women, albeit, more comfortable.
About the same time, a bum roll was another inner wear that was worn around the waist to hold out the dress. This allowed the ladies to walk more freely without having layers of fabric being trapped between the legs.
Towards the end of the Medieval period, the lingerie had another variety; a petticoat. A petticoat was an under-skirt attached to the corset. It was made out of various materials such as linen, leather or wool and came in variety of colours. They were later modified further by addition of whalebones, wires or wooden borders to give it a cone shape.
In 2008, the archaeological study in Austria found a lingerie piece that had well defined cups stitched together with a shoulder support, which looked like the modern day bra, raised many questions regarding the knowledge of lingerie in that era.
Reflecting back on the Middle Age, there is no doubt that woman in that era set the scene for the modern day lingerie.