As long as people have been wearing clothes, they have been wearing underwear. The earliest form of ladies underwear was a simple bit of fabric wrapped around the body, just as it was for men. As civilizations settled and sewing of clothes became more common, panties for both sexes evolved into a pair of shorts.
As women’s fashion became more and more elaborate, lingerie did, too. It stayed rather simple in character – supports and frames were sometimes necessary to bear the weight of massive skirts and heavy fabrics – but more pieces came into being. A corset to hold and shape the breasts and waist, a pair of long knickers, and a chemise were worn by women of almost all social levels from the middle ages through the end of the nineteenth century.
The seductive quality of a bit of lingerie peeking out was utilized in the past, as it sometimes is today. It wasn’t anything as obvious as a see-through blouse or showing bra straps, though. The lace-trimmed edges of the chemise were allowed to show at the neckline of the bodice by Victorian and Elizabethan ladies.