Ruth Spencer delves into the history of undergarments
Delving into the history of undergarments
In spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of managing his many children around the lingerie department. While a dad of this calibre wouldn’t find much to shock him here, the nebulous world of Ladies’ Underthings was a mystery to most men for generations. By 1971 it was out of the shadows and on to the shop floor here in Lynn Mall, the first of the Americanstyle malls to open in New Zealand. Far from a secret boudoir of frills and lace, the goods run the gamut from sensible to utilitarian. On display are discounted slips, quilted bedjackets, and the startling gusset of a giant pair of legs, presumably demonstrating the proper area on which to wear pantyhose.
These giant legs were making great strides. 1971 was the turning point, where pantyhose sales overtook stockings for the first time. Miniskirts had entered the mainstream, as seen on Mum in this photograph. No longer would women purchase the “three-piece set” of bra, knickers and garter belt as standard equipment. Girdles were on the out too, as lingerie became more fluid and sheer and young, presumably perky women abandoned bras — at least temporarily. For those who wanted the braless look but didn’t want to forego the support, there was a bra with a prosthetic “cold weather” effect — this was something of a niche market and probably not on offer at Lynn Mall. Despite spring blooming among the bloomers, the sales smock of the staff member is firmly resisting any influence of fashion, either in length or sheerness. Anything at all could be under it and it would remain a mystery.
Lynn Mall, New Lynn, Auckland, 1971.