Then and now – How some underwear brands have evolved

One of the things that saddens me the most about modern underwear brands is how they have changed and adapted to modern fashions over the years. This was obviously bound to happen, however, many brands have previously produced stunning foundation wear and now, well… most of them make unstructured, bland, elasticated garments that do very little for a woman’s shape. There are many reasons for these changes, that I won’t get into in much detail in this post; in this article I want to show how some brands have completely abandoned their original designs and how others have adapted to the modern times yet embraced their past.


Berlei is one of my favourites when it comes to vintage foundations, they produced some of the most effective yet elegant items for women. The Australian brand was started up in 1907 by but continued to manufacture sturdy girdles up until the late 1980s. If you would like to read up on Berlei’s history, I highly recommend Ivy Leaf’s post on the topic.

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These days however, Berlei’s products could be confused with any other lingerie brand as they have very few distinctive features. To me, as an avid shapewear lover, this is gutting. I completely understand that businesses need to adapt to the fashion and social changes in order to keep up with competitors and to be profitable, but I wish that they still produced quality, structured foundations.

I have included a couple of examples of their modern pieces below:

Unfortunately, Berlei is not a brand that I would ever consider wearing, unless I found a vintage piece.


Playtex, in my opinion is a very interesting brand. They started out making quality apparel in 1940 but have survived and adapted to the fashion changes, and evolved into a modern manufacturer, without completely abandoning their past.

Yes, amongst other pieces, Playtex makes some modern style t-shirt bras but they have also retained and modernised their previous designs. A poignant example of this is their Cross-Your-Heart’ bra, which has been around for a very long time and still is very much available.

Check out this early advert for the design!

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Now, check out Myer’s Playtex section:

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The design has barely changed! This is not the only bra they have brought through to the 21st century, if you do a little research, you will see that a few other old designs are also available 🙂


Rago Shapewear is another interesting brand, they seem not only to have survived all changes but actually thrived on it, which is interesting as their designs have remained more or less consistent over the years. I may be wrong, but I think the recent resurgence of the burlesque/ pin up/ vintage style may have contributed quite significantly to their success. You can’t flick through a boudoir photoshoot without spotting an item by Rago.

However, women are not only wearing Rago for shoots, they are also wearing it under their clothes, in the most part, on a regular basis! Why is this the case? Well, I put it down to the comfort level combined with the effectiveness of the shapewear, all pieces are fairly easy to put on and take off and they hold in all the problem areas extremely well. They cater to women who want to wear stockings, but also to women who want to have a nice shape under their trousers, without resorting to Spanx or similar brands.

From what I can tell, the image below is from 1954 (Please correct me if I’m wrong Rago):

It bears much resemblance to the 1294 girdle, most definitely available today:

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Gossard is well known as a quality high street brand, that produces a wide range of styles for young women in varying styles. Gossard is another brand that started last century, making strong foundations for women that has adapted to the current market.


Although not all of their products are not really my taste, I can still appreciate that there are some vintage influences infused into some of their designs. Don’t get me wrong, there are still flaws with some of these products, they will not be as supportive or as effective as previous Gossard pieces, but I really like the direction they are going in.

Take their Retrolution collection for example, they have a (short) longline bra, panty girdle (they call it a cincher) and corselette.  In my opinion they have done a good job or combining modern taste with some old styles. I especially like how wide their garter straps are! (The beautiful photo below is tempting me to buy some of their pieces). I think Gossard is a good example of how a modern manufacturer is able to sell retro style lingerie, whilst still being a strong modern brand.


I hope you found this interesting! What’s your favourite underwear brand? Do you know about their history?


One thought on “Then and now – How some underwear brands have evolved

  1. Very interesting! Let’s hope that some other companies see the renewed interest in vintage styles and bring back some older models. Exquisite Form is another US company that still offers some of its bras virtually unchanged from the 1960’s. JC Penney department stores have brought back some of their older style bras that they had dropped, due to a high level of customer demand.

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