07/11/2016 12:05 EDT | Updated 07/11/2016 12:59 EDT

Can You Believe Women Once Wore These Undergarments?

Can you believe women once wore these undergarments? From the AOL Partner Studio

Kurt Hutton via Getty Images
Backstage, British models enjoy a glass of champagne as they wait to change into clothes designed by John Cavanagh. The designer is in Paris with four British models to show off his work and win orders from international buyers who don't come to London.

It’s uncomfortable to be a woman sometimes. From menstrual pain to the possibility of bladder leakage, it’s true that us ladies go through a lot.

But on top of all the natural things that can cause discomfort are the man-made contraptions that we willingly put ourselves in throughout history. In partnership with Depend, we look at the evolution of undergarments, from restrictive corsets to comfortable adult disposable underwear. Thank goodness for advancements in technology!


The corset is possibly one of the most constrictive women’s undergarments ever invented. It came onto the fashion scene in the 16th century and was worn into the early 1900s . It cinched the waist using strongly taught lace or string and was constructed using hard material creating a smooth hourglass silhouette.

The confining nature of the corset meant that women wearing them often suffered from constipation and digestive problems. This takes the idea of suffering for fashion to a whole new level.


The girdle hit the market around 1910, as women sought freedom from the confines of the corset. The purpose of the girdle in those early days was not much different than today’s body contouring underwear — to make sure our jiggly bits stayed in place — but they were much more elaborate. They featured straps at the bottom of the garment to attach stockings to and were constructed out of wire which limited movement. Imagine the discomfort of underwire bras but this time moved down to your stomach. No thanks.

Drawers And Knickers

Although undoubtedly more comfortable than other undergarments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, drawers were essentially loose-fitting panties that had an opening at the crotch. In the mid-to-late 1800s, the crotch area was fastened with buttons creating the knicker, which was worn like loose shorts — baggy and bulky. Not sure how that would look with our blue jeans.

Bulky Menstrual Pads And Belts

The first disposable menstrual pads were developed by nurses and inspired by bandages used in the war. Several companies eventually improved upon the design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries making way for the women’s sanitary towels and napkins we know today.

However, the first iteration of the design didn’t quite, er, flow as smoothly as expected. They were hefty and long and were fastened to the body by a belt worn around the waist. However, they often slipped around, making it easy to soil underwear. When adhesive backing was finally put on the back of pads in the 1970s, women everywhere rejoiced and got rid of their sanitary belts for good.

Adult Disposable Underwear

At one time, adult disposable underwear was made out of tissue paper. Thankfully, design improved and were made of absorbent material. Even still, disposable undergarments were bulky and ill-fitting. However, brands like Depend have revolutionized the adult disposable diaper game in the late ‘80s creating garments that were sleek and flexible.


Throngs of women have purchased thongs so that no one could tell they are wearing underwear. But the first thongs were sold back in the 1930s and were intended to give nude dancers more coverage.

The thong was made up of a one or two inch strip of material that sat between the buttocks. The problem was that the garment, even modern ones, were made of unbreathable material and got uncomfortably stuck in some intimate areas. The struggle is real.

Women have worn many uncomfortable things in their life but adult disposable underwear doesn’t have to be one of those things. The new Depend line of product is UltraThin and is made of body-conforming lycra. Improved Fit Flex, now more flexible to move with you.