For almost as long as there has been clothing, there has been intimate lingerie. It may have been originally for practical purposes, but since ancient times underclothing has been used to enhance and adorn the female figure. While the specifics of ladies intimate lingerie change with the times and the culture, the function of emphasizing the shape of the breasts, waist and hips stays constant.
The art of ancient Egypt, as well as classical Greece and Rome show women with wrapped bands of linen supporting or wrapped around the hips. These look remarkably like modern ladies' shapewear lingerie. Both Greeks and the Romans had a sizable vocabulary for the things we would today call ladies intimate lingerie, based on translated texts. Then as now, ladies lingerie was of interest to both men and women.
It was the Middle Ages that gave us the most important icon of ladies intimate lingerie, the corset. There were many variations in design over the years, based on changing fashions in body shapes. Compare portraits of British monarchs Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria to get an idea of how the corset changed through time.
Corsets remain an enormously popular piece of ladies lingerie. When the modern woman thinks of a corset, she usually pictures a bodice with lacings. The variety of designs available is quite large and ranges from very rigid constructions with stiff stays to lacy underwired confections. They all follow the basic concept of pulling in the waist and holding the breasts high.
Women who shop for intimate lingerie have a greater selection now than ever before, thanks to the boom in online shopping. When choosing intimate lingerie to suit the individual figure, it's important to keep in mind which features to accentuate. Underwires and padding can give a little extra oomph to certain areas and decorative trims and lacing can highlight assets.
Ladies intimate lingerie is a potent symbol, and as such it has been both adored and reviled. At various times throughout history there have been revolts against the wearing of undergarments that are perceived as restrictive. Whether it was the angry peasants of the French Revolution or the dress reformers of the 19th century, women's intimate lingerie has been part of radical social movements.
We saw this arise again in the 20th century, when feminists cast off the tight elastic girdles and bullet bras of the 1950s and '60s. However, a few decades later their daughters were wearing the Wonderbra. This social debate about women's intimate lingerie will probably continue throughout human history.