Underwear as Outerwear: a fashion (r)evolution

19th Mar 2019

underwear as outerwear

We’ve seen a brief history of the evolution of undergarments, but how did we go from the buttoned-up era where a woman showing her ankles was scandalous, to the fashion of today where showing off a cute bralette or bustier is on trend?

Marie Antoinette is one of the first women known to wear her underwear in public. Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun painted her portrait in 1783, with Marie wearing a white muslin chemise-like gown. At the time, the chemise was an item of clothing that many women wore next to their skin, underneath their corsets and outer clothing. To our modern eyes, Marie Antoinette looks pretty and natural in her filmy dress. However, to the public at the time, it appeared the queen was posing in her underwear. Her casual appearance caused an uproar, and was viewed as an affront to the dignity of the French royal family.

The lingerie industry expanded in the 21st century with designs that doubled as outerwear. The French refer to this as 'dessous-dessus,' meaning something akin to innerwear as outerwear.

In the 1980’s Madonna and Cher played an instrumental role in popularizing the trend by performing in lingerie. During her Blonde Ambition Tour in 1990, Madonna most famously performed wearing the iconic pink satin cone breasted corset designed by French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.

The 1990’s brought Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City with her frequent exposed bra straps and bralettes.

Today, many celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna regularly wear or perform in underwear or lingerie only, which helps fuel this fashion trend in the news and on high fashion blogs. From there it trickles down to mainstream culture and street fashion, where we are free to embrace or reject it.

Susanna Cordner, the Victoria and Albert museum’s assistant curator of textiles and fashion, has this to say about the appeal of underwear as outerwear: “Underwear as outerwear, as a trend, every time it comes back, we’re told that it’s this new, bright, shocking style, and I think that it always will be slightly risqué, because no matter how many times high fashion and street fashion return to it, our connection to underwear is so inherently personal, and we will always think of it as the first thing you put on in the morning and the last thing you take off at night; the thing that you catch a glimpse of in an erotic situation. Therefore, revealing it in fashion will always have the slight sense of titillation, or at least a really certain brand of confidence to it.”

What do you think- shockingly risqué or exuding confidence? We love the way Adrian has embraced the trend here.

Levana Bratique

Ready to give it a try? Our beautiful selection of bralettes is a great place to start!