Through History


Reproduction of 16th century gown worn by Queen Isabel of Spain
Reproduction of 16th century gown worn by Queen Isabel of Spain

Through History
I was looking through some pictures from my trip to Spain during Semana Santa in 2013. While scrolling through I came upon some photos from an exhibition that I nearly forgot about seeing. It was a fascinating look at women’s clothing in Spain from the time of Queen Isabel to today.

The display included original attire, some reproductions used in movies and one of the oldest wedding dresses still in use in all of Europe. What’s more, it also had a fun look at hairstyles and even the undergarments throughout Spain’s history.

The event showed just how quickly fashion changes. It also provided a detailed look into the artistry of fashion and the lengths women will go through to appear beautiful and fashionable. It made me  think just how ingrained fashion is in women’s lives.

Oldest wedding dress still in use today in Spain, typical of La Alberca.
Oldest wedding dress still in use today in Spain, typical of La Alberca.

As I went through the exhibition, it became apparent the extent undergarments played a role in the wear and appearance of the dresses. Each era in fashion had their own required undergarments to provide comfort, and sometimes foundation to the articles of clothing. This was the first time that I had the opportunity of seeing the undergarment pieces in full display. Have you ever been to the dress display at the Smithsonian that showcases the dresses worn by the First Ladies and ever wondered, HOW? I have. So this was probably the most exciting part of the whole display for me. How and what women did to achieve sometimes radical fashion has always been something that intrigued me.

2While it isn’t the best photo, you can see the undergarments used for seven eras in women’s fashion! During the 16th century women wore full length gowns under their dresses.  Later, the fashion changed to require caged shirts and bum rolls to accentuate small waists and emphasize hips. With the Victorian era, dresses became very narrow and required corseting, straight underskirts and even in some cases pieces of fabric to hobble the legs. Who knew!  In the 1920’s women fashion had to change for the new short style of the outfits. For the first time, what we think of as panties were introduced!  In a short time period women’s fashion took undergarments from items that deemphasized a woman’s shape, to the bombshell curves of the 1940’s and 50’s. Imagine how much our current fashion trends are impacting our  undergarments. Can we say “Thongs”?

7 eras of undergarments

This whole display was a wonderful event to experience. While looking at fashion choices from the past previously had me envious. I have had a change of heart. While beautiful, I am thankful for brands like Marie Jo, Simone Perele and Triumph that allow a woman to accentuate shape while being comfortable in their own skin. A conversation with a customer just yesterday provided an opportunity to talk about the engineering involved in creating a well balanced undergarment. Looking back, we can see how far we have come. It is exciting to see how our clothing continues to evolve. But overall, wear what you love and makes you feel comfortable.


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