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The Way Sewing Used to Be: Lingerie


I love wearing vintage dresses. Would I love to wear a vintage bra? Absolutely not.

For the most part, I don’t believe lingerie technology has evolved that much. Elastic, the major component of lingerie, was used in bras and underwear in the early 1900s and is still used today.  I believe what has changed is the number of options. Obviously, I can’t speak from experience, but from what I’ve read, there was one predominant silhouette during a time period until recently. Sure, there may have been other, smaller trends at the time, but for the most part, one bra ruled. A classic example – the 1950s bullet bra. Look at the torpedoes on Patti Page! Since then, the number of options have increased and I think we’re at a point where there is a bra for every type of woman and breast shape. There’s Victoria’s Secret, La Perla, Aubade, Chantelle, Fortnight, Free People, Handmade by Elma and many more. Every brand has a different aesthetic and caters to a different woman. The same thing goes for lingerie in the sewing world. There’s Orange Lingerie, Cloth Habit, Merckwaerdigh, Make Bra, Bravo Bella, Bra Makers Supply, Kwik Sew and many more.

I’m thankful that the industry – can I also say our society? – has reached a point where there is a place for every woman. At the same time, it makes me wonder what it would have been like if I lived in an era where I didn’t fit into the popular silhouette of the time. I like my small chest and wouldn’t want to change it (unless for medical reasons). Would I think the same thing in the 1950s?

Do you have any vintage lingerie notions from your mom, grandma or aunt that reminds you of the way lingerie used to be? Share in the comments below or upload to Instagram with the hashtag #thewaysewingusedtobe

Below are some of my personal favorite from my stash.






  1. Reply


    But the one thing that has not changed is the imperative to wear a bra. I am glad that bras are more comfortable (I imagine) and varied these days, but Claire would rather ditch her bra altogether. I love how they look but I don’t like wearing them. And I can’t get away with anything less than a sports bra as far as comfort goes. I walk into my house and my bra comes off. That being said, I do still wear them and will probably try my hand at making one soon.

    • Reply


      I think Nellie Warner would be the perfect bra for you! It’s a mix between a sports and soft bra. It’s what Merckwaerdigh calls a “luxury sports bra.” I’d never wear it working out, but it is luxurious!

      • Reply


        I have admired Nellie Warner for how comfortable (and cute) it looks! Re-reading my post I realize I sound like I’m complaining, rather than speaking to a cultural dialogue about how boobs should look. Sorry ’bout that!

  2. Reply


    How cute are those vintage lingerie guards?

    I’m glad I have the bra options available to me now, as a DD cup I’m not sure there would have been that many options open to me back then.

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