A Brief (ha ha!) intro to 18th Century Undies

In Three Star Island, Penelope gets stranded in the eighteenth century by way of a time portal that closes behind her and never lets her go home again.

This is a problem, of course, for someone who only brings one change of clothing. Especially when it comes to our modern sensibilities vs. the dress codes of 1721.

And of course, everyone wants to know about underwear, right? Right. So, what would a woman in the early 1700s wear under her dress? Not exactly what you’d think.

The shift was the equivalent to a pair of panties and a bra. One wouldn’t walk out into public in a shift, nor would one entertain guests, of course, or be seen by certain members of the family in it.


Beneath that, a proper woman didn’t wear panties as we would today. Panties were only for prostitutes. Why, you say? Well, a “proper” woman would be fully clothed when in mixed company. A prostitute, however, would be in various stages of undress, and therefore a little titillation was necessary. “Panties”, which weren’t quite like the ones we wear today, would have covered up just enough to be exciting.

In fact, doctors actually recommended women stay away from any underwear unless they were in extreme cold, as it was supposedly unhealthy for them.

This didn’t mean that some women didn’t wear “under breeches”, but this was a rare thing, and often frowned upon.