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Why is Black Lingerie So Sexy?: A Brief History

What is it about black lingerie that is so tantalizing and sexy? There is something dangerous and glamorous about a woman in black bra and panties, yet it is hard to pin point what it is exactly that makes it so tantalizing.

During the Victorian Era, a time of romanticism and sentimentality, mourning the dead became an important ritual in society.  If a close family member died, a woman could be in mourning for up to 2.5 years, and was expected to wear dark clothes, accessories, and of course, undergarments.  Due to shorter life expectancies, a woman could be in mourning, and therefore black fashion, for years.

As with all things Victorian, there was a bit of a paradox to the ‘widow’s weeds.’ A woman was expected to live a cloistered, celibate life after her husband’s death (much like a nun), yet a widow, if she chose, could move much more freely in society than an unmarried woman.

Some widows, while observing the mourning ritual by wearing black, wore elaborate up-to-date fashions and accoutrements .  It’s quite deviant to think of these women indulging in sensual silks and laces at a time when one should be mourning the dead!  Black clothes, and therefore the black corsets and under things worn with them, became fetish objects loaded with ideas of sexual provocation deviance, and death.

The silver screen starlets of the early twentieth century further added to the sinister allure of black knickers.  The ‘vamps’ of the twenties and thirties, and the film noir ‘femme fatales’ of the forties were sexual vampires, feeding off the weakness of men.  These dangerous  sirens were often dressed all in black : think of Ava Gardner “setting the world on fire” in The Killers from 1946.

These spider women were bold, empowered predators who used their bodies to entwine men into their devious plans.  It’s no surprise that black lingerie was an essential part of their seduction; their dark knickers were a visual reminder of the source of their dominance, and their sexual power. The poor men never stood a chance…..

Triumph Lingerie 1932 Lace Sensation Padded Bra

Of course, we can’t forget about the fifties!  By this time black lingerie took on a refined and chic . The 1950s is the decade of the Little Black Dress after all, and it was necessary to wear black undergarments underneath your Dior or Balenciaga LBD!  There was still a naughtiness to fifties lingerie. Warner’s released a bestselling corselet in 1955 aptly named ‘The Merry Widow,’ which brings us back to the beginning!

Info sources:

Jill Fields, An Intimate Affair: Women, Lingerie and Sexuality

Ava Gardner, Ava: My Story




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