history of panties

history of panties

Panties are an essential part of our clothing and is one of the components of women's underwear.

Knickers were a type of underpants that generally wrapped around the thighs. They were made of wool, linen or cotton; even tow, that is, the coarse part of flax or hemp. Underneath he could take other canvas ones.

The inventor of the panties is unknown. Surely, he was not a single person, but a natural evolution of this garment over time. It is known that the first people, who used panties in a general way, was the Persian people, around the year 1,700 BC, according to some bas-reliefs found in the ruins of Persepolis, which was the ancient capital of the Persian Empire.

Etymologically, Breecches seems to derive from the Indo-European root “Bhrg”, which means “to break”, which is used here in the sense of “divide”, “separate”. The consonantal sequence "brk" which implies a Germanic origin that regularly changes the sound g to k, instead of belonging to the Indo-European languages. Therefore the panties were the garment that "separated the legs".

Those were wide, puffy panties, of different sizes, tight between the groin and waist or extended to the knee. A garment, which the ancient world often used as a unique piece of clothing, for strictly masculine use, a direct heir to the loincloth.

Around 1500 B.C. In Ancient Egypt, crocheted stockings or leggings were common in the pharaoh's entourage. They did not end in the groin but reached the waist, where it was held as a panty.

The Greeks were always reluctant to use it. The ancient Greeks considered this garment as typical of barbarian people and did not use it; men and women wore nothing under the peplos, which was the outer garment used in ancient Greece.

The panty as such did not exist in Spain in the past, women did not wear anything. It was a male thing. It is assumed that the first undergarment to appear was the loincloth, which dates back to the Celts period.

The Etruscans and Romans adopted this garment from the Gauls. In Ancient Rome, both men and women wore beautiful clothing such as the toga or stole and a long tunic, which reached almost to their feet.

The clothing that covered the legs was not well seen in ancient Rome. It was a custom of the barbarians, who lived beyond the borders or a form of protection for the legs of the poorest.

The braccae never came into common use in Rome, the capital of the Empire, even some emperors prohibited their use in the capital. This garment was so strange for the first Romans that sculptors and painters, to identify foreigners, presented them in their works with these garments.

When Roman armies began venturing north between 27 B.C. until 476 AD, they began to understand the usefulness of covering the legs to combat the cold. Over time, it became a popular garment among legionnaires and especially cavalry: riding with braccae was much more comfortable and warmer in cold regions than wearing a skirt.

The barbarians wore two types of pants, some were called Braccae and the other Feminalia. The Romans adopted the braccae.

The Feminalia were Braccae that adjusted the leggings. It was a masculine garment, the name was given by the Roman army to refer to that barbarian garment, which by adjusting the legs made the enemies look like women.

The Panties, Braies, Breecches, Braccae in Latin, is a unisex garment, which was worn by both women and men, had the shape of pants and was worn by almost all the nations of the Mediterranean basin around 600 BC. They even came to dress in India. They were widely used by the Gauls

In Rome, footwear, stockings, leggings and panties have an intertwined history: they were part of the calceuso borceguí, which covered the foot and leg, and ended up being a protective garment for the lower abdomen. At first, the Romans considered it to be the attire of uncivilized people, so when they represented a barbarian god they dressed him in wide, flowing panties.

The Braccae are held by a leather cord at the waist and their length varies from the knees to the ankles depending on which tribes wore them. Farther north, the braccae were longer and made of raw wool from the cold. Unlike the feminalia, the braccae are loose garments.

The Sarmatians, who were a barbarian people, also used this garment. In Trajan's Column, a monument in Rome, where the campaigns of this 2nd-century emperor are depicted, a large number of Romans are seen wearing them up to their knees, wearing the rest of the naked body: they were the bracae, where a group of Sarmatians also appear wearing braccaes. Its use became widespread in central Europe thanks to the Celts. They arrived in Rome after the conquest of Gaul, being used by all social classes.

The 3rd-century emperor, Alexander Severus, wore white knickers, abandoning the imperial custom of purple knickers, and from the 4th century, tailors took it as something positive and proud to be good bracarii.

History of panties

The Romans would impose the use of the panty in their Empire and it would spread throughout Europe. The expression "to be a braggado hombre" is reminiscent of the time, as well as the word "fly", which is still used today. Bragados men were brave men, although well-bragados men were also called those who hid something big.

Emperor Honorius banned its use in the city in AD 397. C., but it continued to be the favorite garment of the barbarians. After all, the word is of non-Latin origin.

It was an outer garment widely used by the Visigoths.

Large, wide panties were a sign of distinction during the Middle Ages. Charlemagne's son, Louis I of France, also called Ludovico Pío, wore a wide-sleeved shirt and panties, as seen in the mosaic in the Roman church of Santa Agnes.

William the Conqueror, King of England, gave his wife leggings as a tight, which included colored panties, but it was not a garment to the taste of the Church, which ended up banning them for two reasons: it revealed the outline of the figure, and collided with canon law, which forced the spouses to sleep naked.

The combination of leggings and shorts or panties originated pantyhose in the Middle Ages, and they were before stockings, and they included panties. Stockings are the result of dividing the pantyhose into two pieces.

The panty would have a long journey through the Middle Ages, but always among men and without being adjusted to the body. It was kind of unsanitary at the time. This garment continued to be used during the Middle Ages until the middle of the 15th century. From the middle of the thirteenth century, appearing the short panties, which replaced the long panties.

Medieval braga.

Lingerie or underwear was considered another class of dresses, which were not made by tailors. What differentiated the social classes was the quality of the fabric and the cleanliness of the underwear. Dyed garments, as well as garments made by tailors, could not be washed, so underwear was a protective barrier not only for the clothes with respect to the body, but also for the body with respect to the dresses.

Medieval panties were generally made of linen, forgetting the material that barbarians used in other times, wool.

Unlike linen, linen is washed without shrinking the garment. Linen even improves with washing as it becomes softer. The linen surface is smooth, therefore more comfortable and highly absorbent, making it ideal for the function of this type of garment.

Medieval panties were a garment of men's lingerie. Although they were lingerie, they were not necessarily hidden. Workers often wore just knickers when it was hot or knickers and a short tunic. And not just the workers, all the men who wore a short coat or a coat with a slit in the front when they sat down showed their knickers.

Medieval knickers evolved from their long form to their shorter form and in a second period they became more fitted to the body. Chronologically we can say that we find the long medieval panty from the 9th century, with some variation it came from the barbarian peoples and we can date it from the 6th century. We can place the short panty in the 14th century and the tight short panty in the 15th century. (In the image: Lower edge of the panties raised and attached to the waist. San Juan de Acre, Navarrete, La Rioja, year 1185).

Knitted half-breeches covered foot, leg, and northern anatomical areas in the 12th century, and it was a garment that changed little. They were attacked leggings, which were tied at the waist like modern pantyhose. Its consecration as a definitively feminine garment would take time to arrive.

The width of the canvas was from 50 to 90 cm. Linen was usually woven 90 cm wide. The garments were not cut to size, especially lingerie, since the entire width of the fabric was used. To make panties, the entire width of the fabric was also used, so the upright was 45 cm.

Until the mid-14th century, panties would cover from the waist to mid-thigh or to the knee. At the end of the XV the panties ended up joining the leggings, and at the beginning of the XVI it formed a whole called leggings-panties. Even so, she continues to wear another panty underneath.

(In the image: “San Vicente en la hoguera”, altarpiece of San Vicente de Sarriá in Barcelona, ​​year 1450).

The truss is no longer used. A kind of waistband is made for the panty by folding the upper part of the waistband and then making several openings through which a cord, strap or rope passes, leaving the ends outside.

When the leggings are elongated, reaching much higher than the thigh, they are held with a truss that in turn joins the panty.

There are two types:

-Extremely small and tight to be able to wear them with leggings that were very tight to the body.

-More or less long and looser:

The outer panties, also called panties, is a garment that is placed over full leggings. This external panties ended at the end of the XV being only used by fishermen, tanners, dyers, farmers, etc. and they would be made of cloth. It becomes an undergarment giving rise to underpants at the beginning of the 16th century.

“Martyrdom of Santa Lucia”, by Bernardo Martorell, year 1440. National Museum of Art of Catalonia.

Women throughout this time wore open nightgowns so they could easily go to the bathroom, or bloomers, which came to the knee but were still loose. The panties will remain as underwear in the sixteenth century. It would be dressed under a new piece of clothing called leggings/panties.

The panty was finally reduced to a very small and tight garment, until at the beginning of the 17th century it disappeared definitively in the masculine attire.

Panties are known in the masculine attire, however, in the feminine we can say that no written or iconographic references to them have been found. Therefore, a question arises.

Did the women wear panties?

Taking into account that at the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century in the Roman Empire, women wore a short and tight garment, called a subligaculum, which was a rectangular-shaped tunic fastened at the waist to practice sports, It should not be ruled out, that they also wear them as an undergarment.

Russian Tsar Peter I was visiting Paris in 1717, and was walking through the streets of the city, when a woman slipped and fell backwards with her legs up. Pedro I observing such a beautiful picture of the legs of the Parisian woman, exclaimed with total mischief "The doors of Paradise are open."

French women of that time did not wear underwear, but the same thing happened to the rest of the world's women. Until the end of the 18th century, the undergarment worn by women consisted of long, loose-fitting tops and tops with buttonholes at the waist or corsets, which in its early days was an aristocratic garment.

Also, petticoats were very popular, especially when doctors associated fatness with health, consequently fatness and wide hips were reserved for aristocrats. Skinny people were associated with disease and poverty. We can affirm that the panties that we currently know is a modern invention.

Women never wore anything under their dresses for the sake of comfort. Closing the flow of ventilation to the humid environment of the vagina would cause minimal stinging and irritation. There was no water at home in that historical period, so it was relatively easy for infections to develop and the proliferation of lice and crabs.

Only in menstrual periods, women put a cloth between their legs, which they adjusted with a kind of sheet, very similar to the one used by Japanese sumo wrestlers, for this reason they also took several petticoats just in case something was missing.

An unusual law had arisen in Paris, around the year 1800, which forced prostitutes to wear panties, probably for reasons of hygiene.

If the decorative bow is on women's underwear, it's because panties haven't always been feminine paraphernalia. Under their petticoats, the women, especially the well-behaved ones, were bare-bottomed. The men wore the panties, but it was a garment, not underwear, and since they were visible, they had to be pretty. That's why they were buttoned, says Denis Bruna, curator in the Fashion Department of the Museum of Decorative Arts in his book "In the 17th century, men's panties wore buttons."

Since the 19th century, “lingerie panties” became popular, says fashion historian Catherine Örmen. With the advent of the crinoline in the 1850s, the use of these "mode tubes" became common, as these loose garments were easily pulled up. The bow was not conceived then to decorate underwear. The first bows of women's panties had a utilitarian function, explains Denis Bruna:

“When the first panties appeared, since the elastic did not yet exist, they put on a string or a cord”

Women had to wait until the can-can era for them to start designing undergarments according to their needs. "The history of women's underwear is linked to can-can dancers." Back then, underwear was just a way to keep warm and avoid infection.

The dancers were also obliged not to show their spectators more than necessary, a norm that was also accepted by women of higher class: “These ladies wore skirts with very open petticoats and their private parts were very open. exposed, so they began to wear panties to protect themselves from the cold.

Today's flat panty ties are reminiscent of these early panties, which had to be worn to protect women's modesty. But this also explains why they are still there today when their first use is long gone.

Lacing was part of the legacy of lacing under women's outer garments. "The lacing appears on bodices with boning, the ancestor of the corset, in the 17th and 18th centuries," continues Denis Bruna, before women's panties were invented. The ribbons and bows were used to adjust the bodice to the chest, neckline and shoulders.

Decorative ties existed in the 18th century, reminiscent of one of the utilitarian ties, like the one found on the front of rigid boned undergarments, even though they were tied in the back. "It was used to embellish the object. Because, to say that the underwear was only made for the person who wore it is not very accurate. The underwear often had a decorative aspect because it was also used to display itself to the couple."

We don't know if the central bow is just to give balance and harmony.The bows could be an aesthetic reminder of social prestige because, during the 19th century, when women could finally dress themselves, some upper-middle-class ladies followed dressing in the old style because it was a "sign of social distinction".

Of course, Denis Bruna affirms: “This transformation of a utilitarian element into a decorative element was done by reducing it: the lace of the 19th century panties or the bodices with bodices of the 17th and 18th centuries was much larger; they are small ties”. However, this strategy of associating ties and prestige did not disappear two centuries later.

Menstrual panties

Menstrual panties are not a modern invention. This underwear already existed at the beginning of the 20th century, although it was something different. Today they are more comfortable, more hygienic and constitute a real alternative to the use of tampons during menstruation.

At the end of the 19th century, the menstrual belt, which had similarities to a chastity belt, came into fashion, the spongy bandage inside could be washed, the concept of disposable items came much later with the society of modern consumption.

So-called menstrual belts have been used until the 1970s, but then with disposable bandages. The first models of menstrual panties as we know them today were uncomfortable and particularly unsightly, but they accomplished their mission.

The industry has worked on the technicality of the product in the 21st century. Therefore, while still hygienic protection, many menstrual panties can no longer be distinguished, at first glance, from normal comfortable and visually appealing underwear.

The structure of period panties is important. They have several layers of different materials, one of which serves to absorb. This ensures that period blood stays away from your skin for obvious comfort and hygiene reasons, but at the same time keeps it in place so it doesn't leak.

The first layer, the one that touches your body, is made of a more comfortable material, merino wool, cotton, etc. Quickly removes moisture from your body and is antibacterial. The second layer absorbs moisture like a sponge and is antibacterial. The third layer, the outermost, does not let any liquid through, that is, it prevents leaks, but it must remain elastic and breathable.

Of course, the seams must be designed to stop the liquid.


Astor Landete, Marisa. “Valencia in the 14th and 15th centuries, Clothing and image”. 1999. Valencia. Bernis Madrazo, Carmen. "Costume and fashion in the Spain of the Catholic Monarchs: men". 1962. Diego Velázquez Institute of the CSIC. Madrid. Bernis Madrazo, Carmen. "The suit and the social types in Don Quixote". 2001. Viewer. Madrid. Barefoot Lorenzo, Amalia. "Notes on fashion from Prehistory to modern times". 2007. Magazine of the Costume Museum. Madrid. Menéndez Pidal, Gonzalo. "The Spain of the thirteenth century: read in images". 1987. Royal Academy of History. Madrid.

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