Flashback/Flashforward: 12 Classic Lingerie Silhouettes Revisited
This blog post contains images which are NSFW.
There is a saying in the fashion industry that everything old is new again, and this is perhaps no more true than in the world of lingerie. The basic silhouette of the bra and panty has remained unchanged for decades, and a global, interconnected intimate apparel industry (run by only a handful of major companies) means less variation in both style and form — across countries, price points, and target markets.
As a way of differentiating themselves from the mainstream, many independent designers have taken to dipping into the historical fashion archives and recreating certain classic lingerie looks. As a lingerie enthusiast, I love seeing these vintage silhouettes make a modern-day reappearance. There’s a certain magic, a particular glamour, in antique and vintage lingerie that a lot of modern pieces lack (especially in the United States with its emphasis on seamless, “practical” undergarments). The opportunity to own a bit of that magic, to freely incorporate a retro style into your wardrobe, not out of necessity, but out of choice, is a beautiful thing.
However, I have another reason for sharing these resurrected looks, and that’s because of the direction I’ve seen the conversation on lingerie knockoffs take recently. Of course, it goes without saying that there’s nothing wrong with a designer drawing inspiration from history. But, on occasion, some designers get very protective of these resurrected styles, claiming that a design which originally debuted in the 1930s or 50s or 70s is a 100% original creation (as a brief aside, this Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog book changed my life when it came to recognizing these repurposed silhouettes).
That said, this blog post isn’t about “calling people out” either (I’ve been compiling this article for several months now until I had enough pictures to actually publish something), nor am I implying that every item shown below is an identical copy. Rather, I hope this piece helps you connect certain historical looks with their modern-day counterparts, and to gain a better understanding, not just of the fashion and lingerie trend cycle, but also of how complicated and complex the knockoff conversation can be. Said another way, if many of the pieces and trends we think of as modern (such as bondage details, mesh bralettes, and ouvert knickers) have clear and obvious roots in fashion history, how do you define a knockoff in the modern era?
I don’t know the answer to the question, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the paired items below. Are there any favorite modern day iterations of classic designs that I haven’t listed? And while we’re on the subject, what distinguishes a knockoff of a historical garment from a knockoff of a modern one? Let’s talk about it in the comments.