by TeAnna, Exhibits Intern
While some may feel a little uncomfortable discussing women’s undergarments, let’s face it, they’ve been around long enough to be openly discussed and talked about. I find the history of these undergarments to be fascinating, especially when you compare today’s modern garments to those of the past. Disneyland once took on this comparative feat. In 1995, you could find the mechanical Wizard of Bras in a store named Intimate Apparel, Brassieres, Torsolettes. Rather than purchasing intimate apparel, however, the Wizard guided you through the history of bras, starting in the 19th century, leading up to 1955. For more information on this store, click here.
Although my clothing exhibit will not feature a talking, audio-animatronic figure as your guide, there will be a whole section focused primarily on men, women and children’s undergarments. The Willamette Heritage Center archives has a surprisingly high amount of clothing undergarments, in which a large portion is made up of woman’s brassieres, girdles, corsets and such. I was told that the WHC was given the remaining inventory of a lingerie/intimate apparel shop here in Salem, Oregon. My guess, from some of the dated clothing, is that the shop was at least open during the early 1900s.
Upon reviewing the undergarment category in the archival records, it became apparent to me that I knew nothing about real undergarment terminology. I knew what a corset was. I knew what a garter was. However, I did not know that there was a difference between the two. Did you?