Who invented knickers (and revolutionized the history of lingerie)?

Who invented knickers? The protagonist of women’s underwear, which is as basic as essential in daily life, boasts centuries and centuries of extremely precious historical evolution behind it. The merit of the invention – whose original idea came up entirely for functional reasons – goes to Egyptian noblewomen who introduced an additional tunic into their daily clothing in 1550 B.C.: it was something similar to a pair of knickers whose intention was to protect the intimate areas of their body.

This captivating and fascinating chapter in the history of lingerie has been retraced by a study conducted by focus.it: according to the report, Egyptian women were also much more far-sighted than those belonging to Greek and Roman societies. The latter ones cared very little about the potential need to wear knickers under their clothes. The problem only came up when there was physical exercise to do or a bathing suit to wear: in both circumstances, they would wear the so-called subligatula (the word comes from Latin subligare, which means “to tie underneath”), plus a top bandeau for their breast. From now on, we therefore know that “Egypt” is the ultimate answer when questioning who invented knickers. At the same time, the curiosity to see the very first prototype is huge. Fortunately, the source provides us with a very precious image of one of the mosaics of Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina, Sicily: it’s the first artistic evidence ever found as far as underwear is concerned.


What do we know about the origins of the word mutanda, which actually means “knickers” in Italian? This time it will not be the history of lingerie – it’s going to be medieval Latin! – to teache us that the word comes from mutare, or “what must be changed”. The word, which was adopted in the fifteenth century by Caterina de’ Medici to address the tight knickers she wore when riding horses, was then turned into braghesse acquiring at the same time a much more sensual meaning. Focus.it reminds us that at the beginning of the 1700s only 3 noblewomen out of 100 used to wear a braghesse. Why? Well, the church considered them obscene garments and a source of sin, because even prostitutes were using them as a means of frivolity and seduction. Thinking of all the (long) road that underwear had to go through to get here actually makes us smile. What a long journey till here to be socially accepted!

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