Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Panties Galore

In my novel, The Dark Lady, there is an intimate scene where he runs his hand up her dress and comes into contact with her…well, her warm folds, if you will. My last publisher was thrown off by this. She thought perhaps I had forgotten to add them, or that perhaps Van had purposefully left them off in preparation for their lovemaking. I got to thinking that perhaps my readers might be thrown off as well by this and thought I would give a short history of the panty.
Today panties come in many shapes, colors and styles, but they have not been around as long as some people may think. Panties, as we know them today, did not show up until the 1920’s and before that they had a long journey and a lot of change by the time they finally arrived at the modern day delicates that we take for granted.
Before the 12th century women went, as one would say, commando. They wore no coverings on their legs, bottoms or privates. Between the 12th and 14th centuries women wore full length leggings, from ankle to waist, and these garments were tied at the waist but left the crotch exposed.
In the mid 1500’s that changed and the change came, at no surprise, from a woman. Sidesaddle was an issue for some women. Long flowing dresses tangled the rider when trying to throw one leg over the horse’s neck and fighting to keep all your unmentionables, well…unmentioned, was a task in itself. Catherine de Medici, the queen of France, while accused of many horrible things, made a revolutionary invention. To keep herself modest, as a queen should be, while riding sidesaddle she invented the first style of women’s underwear, pantalettes. Basically, taking the two leggings and stitching them together. With the invention of elastic still years away, they still had to be tied, but the new design was still functional.
In the second half of the 16th century cotton gins and spinning machines made it possible for factories to mass produce underwear, no longer making it necessary for women to make their own or to hire out private seamstresses. They became more affordable and well known. They were produced in two styles. One piece, pantalettes, and as two separate garments that still tied together at the waist, the original leggings. The open crotch style was still produced for those who thought it was better hygiene. Now the open crotch is for a much more excitable reason.
In the mid 1800’s , Elizabeth Miller, an advocate of the women’s right movement and an advocate of the Victorian Dress Reform, fashioned and wore pantaloons, a shorter version of the Queen’s design. While the shorted legs were more scandalous, they allowed women to wear shorter skirts. Now, I don’t want to shock anyone, but they nearly showed the knees, if you can imagine that. These undergarments were known as Bloomers, due to Amelia Bloomer, in The Lily, who popularized them. These “Bloomers” were worn by leaders of the women’s rights movement as an act of rebellion.
After the 1920’s while the women’s rights movements and the right to vote flourished underwear became shorter and shorter to accommodate the shorter skirts. In the 60’s with the women wearing denim jeans and pencil skirts, the panties had to adapt. Soon came silk, rayon, and nylons.
The panty has become much more than just a covering. It is a way of expression, a feeling of sensuality and sexuality. They are as varied in style and charm as the people who were them. So no matter what your style, you can appreciate the women who came before us, who brought us from the dark ages and into the era of the light colored bikinis and thongs.

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