Origins of ordinary things: Undergarments

An undergarment, also knowing as underwear, is a very common and essential item around the world. It comes in many forms and is called by different names, names that have evolved over the years. It is helpful in protecting sensitive body parts. It is also a symbol of modesty.

The piece of clothing wasn’t initially worn under anything as ancient people barely wore clothes and those who did just covered only a few parts of their body. If any extra clothing was worn, according to History Extra, an education platform, it was to protect against coldness.

According to The Conversation, an academic and research resource, Egyptians were the first to wear underwear around 5000 BC. They used a loincloth called a ‘schenti’ which was made of cotton and flax and held up by a belt. However, this was only underwear for the richer classes, such as pharaohs, since people in lower classes were mostly naked or wore nothing more than the ‘schenti’.

Different parts of the world began to use undergarments at different times and they didn’t always cover their private parts the same way. Studies show that while in some places men wore nappy-like clothing tied to the side, in other places, they used stockings. For instance, in Middle Ages Europe, both men and women wore a long shirt made of linen and cotton. And in the 17th Century, Italian women wore slips while men tucked their shirts under their privates.

In the 18th Century, women graduated to petticoats and then ‘pantalettes’ that stopped at the calves. This is according to the Good Housekeeping website. Men then graduated to drawers. During this time, men and women in western countries were wearing many layers of clothing. This is according to information platform Local Histories.

However, it took the 20th Century to abandon restricted dressing and go for lighter clothing. This is when the undergarments in the form that they are in today started to make an appearance. Undergarment making companies competing for the market started to make the clothing with different styles and making them look enticing with different colours and designs. This is according to Wikipedia, an encyclopedia.

Undergarments have over the years graduated from being a basic form of covering to being a very private piece of clothing, which is not supposed to be seen by the public. However, in some countries, it is increasingly becoming less scandalous to go to public spaces, such as swimming pools and beaches in undergarments.  In other countries where modesty is highly valued, exposure of undergarments is considered highly indecent and in some cases punishable by law.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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