Collections > Lingerie ABCs

We meet many people with questions about the garments we sell and some of the history behind their evolution. Please note the follow glossary of lingerie terms in case you too have questions. And as always, please feel free to phone us at your convenience at 508.420.9660 for a direct response.

Be sure to check out the true definition of Pasties, a Wrapper & Cookies below...



Appliqué – lace, embroidery or additional fabric sewn or bonded onto the base fabric to create a three-dimensional finish.


Baby Doll – a short and lightweight nightgown named after Elia Kazan’s film “Baby Doll.”

Balayeuse – a removable ruffle attached to the inside hem of a skirt. It can be taken off and cleaned. The term comes from “balayer”, the French word for “to sweep.” (1880s)

Bandeau – a strapless bra that offers a straight silhouette, some times with detachable straps and comes with or without an underwire.

Basque – a corset with attached garters (1880s); or section of bodice below waist, shaped to hip (late 20th-century name for corset).

Belt – a late 19th-century term for a strap that constricted the stomach, hips and upper thighs, similar to today’s concept of a girdle.

Bloomers – baggy, Turkish-style drawers launched in 1851 by Amelia Bloomer. The fashion lasted only 6 months. Then emerged several decades later to describe drawers with closed legs.

Bodies (pair of) – a 16th-century term to describe a corset-like covering for the upper body. It was made out of two halves laced together and worn over the chemise.

Body (bodysuit) – a one-piece figure-hugging stretch garment that extends from the shoulders to the crotch, usually with snap closures at the crotch. Offers a smooth look under clothing.

Bosom Friends – padding worn to increase the size of the chest or to add warmth.

Brassiere (Bra) – a basic bra consists of two cups which cover the breasts and provide support through shoulder straps and an elastic strap across the back; invented around 1912 by a Paris couturiere, Madame Cadolle.

Bra Sizes – a cup size system (A, B, C, D…) developed by Warner that would provide women with more individualized coverage and fit by taking into account that the measurement of the bust and size of the breasts needed two different scales.

Brasselette – a strapless, garterless bustier.

Bretelles – French for “suspenders.”

Bridge – holds bra cups together. The higher the bridge, the greater the shaping and support.

Briefs – full panties that go up to the waist.

Bum Roll – a pillow-like roll worn under skirts and tied to the waist to give the appearance of a protruding posterior. See Bustle.

Busk – a piece of wood, ivory, steel or horn inserted into the bodice to keep the torso erect.

Bust Bodice – a late 19th-century term used to describe a covering for the bust that had straps and was slightly boned in the front and on the sides to give the breasts a mono-bosom effect.

Bustier – a bra that extends to the upper waist and often has detachable garters.

Bustier Top – a bustier designed to be worn as outerwear.

Bust Improver – a mid-19th-century term used to describe padding that was inserted into special pockets in corsets or in dresses to make the breasts look bigger.

Bustle – crescent-shaped “pillows” of glazed cotton or silk taffeta padded with straw or cotton wool that were attached to the waist in order to accentuate the posterior or the hips.


Camibra – a bra in which the area between the cups is joined by a piece of fabric that makes the bra look like the top of a camisole.

Camiknickers – a one-piece undergarment from the early 20th-century combining camisole with knickers (the term for women’s underpants at the time); later to be known as “the teddy.”

Camisette – a bustier designed to hug the figure rather than shape it.

Camisole – introduced as corset covers in the mid-19th-century, the camisole then became an item which provides bust to hip coverage. Combined with knickers, it became “camiknickers” (later to be known as “the teddy”) and with the petticoat, it became the slip.

Cavalieri Maillot – a topless corset made of elastic material (1930s).

Charmeuse – Silky smooth lingerie fabric, different on each side.

Chemise – a plain garment worn under the dress at the beginning of the 19th-century. Its purpose was to add a layer of warmth and to keep the dress clean from the skin’s dirt and oil. Today it is more commonly referred to as an article of sleepwear.

Chemisette – in the 19th-century, a pared-down underbodice that showed at a low-cut neckline.

Cleavage – Emphasized bust shape usually created by a push-up bra.

Cookies – removable pads in padded bras.

Combinations – a term used to describe a garment which combined two separate pieces of lingerie such as a chemise and drawers, popular in the early 20th-century.

Combing Jacket – a term used to describe a woman’s late 19th-century-early-20th-century loose jacket, usually waist-length, worn in the bedroom when brushing hair or applying make-up.

Corselette – a corset designed to provide figure-shaping with the use of plastic stiffeners and elastic material; a one-piece garment combining brassiere and girdle (1930’s).

Corset – a boned or stiffened garment, which is meant to support and shape the upper torso; equivalent to the 18th-century “stays” or the 16th-century “pair of bodies.”

Corset-Cover – the layer between the corset and the dress. See also camisole.

Cotte – an old-French term meaning “close-fitting garment.”

Cotton – Natural fiber from the cotton plant that’s easy to wear and care for. Cotton textiles are soft, cozy, fine and breathable, absorb moisture and don’t become ‘static’. Different qualities are dictated by how long and how fine the fiber is spun. The longer and finer, the more valuable cotton becomes.

Crinolette – a cage crinoline with hoops only at the back.

Crinoline – derives its name from crin, the French word for horsehair and lin, the French word for linen. The horsehair was threaded through the petticoat to stiffen it. Later cane, whalebone, and steel were inserted into graduated hoops for a similar effect.

Cuirass – derived from the French word for “body armor,” this 1870s bodice-like garment was boned, lined and fit closely to the upper body and hips.

Cup – The part of the bra that covers and supports the breast.

Cuties – a 1950s term for false breasts.


Demi-bra – a bra, which does not cover the upper portion of the breasts; intended for use with low necklines.

Dessous – French for “worn underneath”, now the fashionable description for ladies’ fine underwear.

Dickey – a bib-like detachable shirtfront.

Directoire Knickers – an early 20th-century term for loose-fitting coverings for the upper leg, gathered at the waist and at the knee, and held in place with buttons or elastic.

Drawers – originally a term reserved for men’s underwear, became popular with women in the 18th-century for use under their crinoline.

Dress Improver – the frame that formed the bustle.


Elastane – Generic name for every synthetic stretch fiber, all extremely elastic with great shape retention and a long life.

Embroidery – Stitches embroidered onto a background fabric by a knitting machine.

Eyelet Embroidery – Also known as Madeira embroidery. An awl creates holes in the fabric, and then knitting machine needles embroider around the edges of each hole.


Falsies – removable bust pads.

French Knickers – short knickers with elastic waist; especially popular in the 1930s and 1940s.

Front-Closure Bra – a bra that closes in front.


G-String – Also known as a string brief, assumed to be named after the finest string on a violin, g-string refers to any brief with a ‘string’ or thong back.

Galloon Lace – Narrow lace scalloped on both edges. Can be woven, knitted or embroidered, stretchy or rigid.

Garter – a band or ribbon worn around the thigh to keep the stocking up before the invention of the garter belt.

Garter Belt – an elasticized belt with four elasticized straps (garters) suspended from it; a rubber stub and loop at the end of each garter are fastened to the stockings to keep them up.

Gay Deceivers – the first “falsies” or pads ever made whose purpose was to increase breast size when placed inside the cup.

Gestation Stays – a 19th-century maternity corset meant to be worn during maternity and afterwards to restore the figure.

Girdle – a lightweight corset extending from waist to upper thigh, usually elasticized or rubberized.

Gourgandine – a laced corset, partly open in front; very popular during the reign of Louis XIV.

Guepiere – known as the “cincher” in the United States, this new style of corset designed by Marcel Rochas in 1945 had a boned waistband of 5 to 8 inches which hooked at the back and gave the thinnest woman curves.

Guipure Embroidery – Created by covering the base fabric with stitching to form a continuous pattern then, using chemicals, heat treatment and washing, the background fabric is dissolved so that only the embroidery remains. Very time consuming and labor intensive, Guipure is very expensive.


Habit Shirt – similar to a chemisette with a stiffer collar, a habit shirt is meant to peek out from under outer bodices; popular in the early 1800s.

Half Slip – a slip that goes from waist to knee, meant to reduce static between pantyhose and skirt.

Halterneck – Fastened by a single strap at the nape of the neck.

Hidden Wire – The underwire is hidden within the fabric, so it’s absolutely invisible and hardly be felt.

Hold-ups – Lycra-based stockings that stay up on the thigh on their own.

Hook-and-Eye – a type of metal closure now common to most bras, bustiers, and corsets.

Hook side – a side-fastening corset or girdle.

Hoop – a bell-shaped understructure to carry petticoats in a wide circumference around the body from waist to feet; usually made out of linen with whalebone or cane.

Hose – originally referring to rough-fitting or knitted trousers, hose eventually lead to the creation of pantyhose and stockings.


Invisible Underwear – Perfect fitting seamless underwear designed to be invisible under clothing.


Jacquard – Fabric with beautiful woven-in patterns. Using different yarns the pattern can be lifted for a textured effect, a very time consuming and labor-intensive process.

Jumps – an 18th-century term for an underbodice or a looser garment worn for informal undress.


Knickerbockers – voluminous drawers (then open at the crotch), gathered at the waist and knee.

Knickers – drawers that were fastened under the crotch.

Knitted Fabrics – Produced on a knitting machine, they have a natural stretch.


Lace – The first laces came from Italy in the 15th Century and were quickly distributed throughout Western Europe, which became a global centre for lace-making that still exists, though on a much smaller scale, today. France is famous for woven laces, embroidery laces come mostly from Switzerland and Austria, while Germany became famous after the war for burn-out-lace. Before then, laces were made by hand which was so labor intensive; they were only available to the rich.

Leavers Lace – The first lace produced on machines, uses a twist or weaving technique resulting in an elegant finish. These machines are no longer made and those that still exist work slowly and are costly to run, so this luxurious lace is now very expensive to manufacture.

Liberty Bodice – a popular camisole-like garment that fastened up the front with rubber buttons and included extra buttons for petticoats or suspenders.

Lingerie – the French word for linen draper and items that came to mean luxury undergarments in the 19th-century.

Long-line Bra – a bra that extends to the waist and is often used for figure shaping.

Lycra – The registered brand for elastane threads from DuPont.

Lycra Soft – A development from DuPont, used for figure shaping styles.


Maximiser Bra – A bra that makes the bust appear bigger – usually a push up style that enhances cleavage.

Mercerising – Super combed Maco cotton is treated with a cold caustic soda solution. The fibers expand and become tight so their profile becomes rounded and the surface smooth.

Merry Widow – a strapless corset with attached garters introduced by Warners in 1951.

Micro Fiber – Threads made from polyester and polyamide. Finer than the finest silk thread. Light, superfine fibers that are particularly soft, pliable and pleasant on the skin, offering maximum comfort.

Micro Modal – Am extremely fine-spun cellulose fiber approximately 40 times finer than a human hair so that a 10,000 meter continuous fiber can weigh just one gram or less.

Minimizer – a bra that reduces breast size by one-cup size.

Modal – Modified cellulose fiber made entirely from plants, feels similar to cotton.

Molded Cups – Also known as seamless cups, cups without seams, invisible under clothes. A heat and pressure process molds fabric permanently into shape.

Morning Dress – an informal 19th-century dress taking its name from the time of day it was worn, prior to formal ceremonies and social engagements.

Multi-way straps – also know as variable or convertible straps, use of a single set of straps in a variety of positions. A number of shapes can be achieved, for example halter, cross-back, standard and strapless.


Negligee – comes from the French word “neglected;” a light dress or light-weight gown, usually comes with a matching robe.

Nylons – the popular term for nylon stockings from the 1940s to the 1960s.


Panier – from the French for “basket,” the French term for 18th-century side hoops.

Panty – an undergarment designed to cover the lower torso; includes briefs, bikinis, string bikinis, G-strings, tap pants, and thong bikinis.

Panty Corselette – a full body corselette with undercrotch fastening; popular in the 1960s.

Panty Girdle – an elasticized waist girdle with crotch piece or panty to separate thighs to prevent it from riding up, popular in the 1940s.

Passion killers – women’s pants, especially thick and voluminous wartime service knickers elasticized at the waist (c. 1840s).

Pasties – decorative nipple coverings.

Petticoat – worn in the 15th century as an outergarment and in the 19th-century as an undergarment, it is a term used to describe an ankle-length skirt.

Petticoat Bodice – an underbodice or camisole worn with or attached to a petticoat.

Petti-Knickers – a term to describe the combination of knickers and a waist petticoat.

Princess Petticoat – the combination of a camisole and a waist petticoat designed for wearing under the close-fitting princess-line dresses named after Alexandra Princess of Wales.

Push-up bra – Visibly increases the size of the bust, creating a cleavage and therefore guaranteeing a beautiful neckline. A bra with a low-cut front, removable pads, and underwire support.


Racer-Back Bra – a bra that has a more solid back or straps that form a vee, designed to provide more support for larger breasts.

Raschel Lace – Made using a special process that creates knitted stitches. The more thread systems used, the more impressive the pattern. Can be stretchy or rigid lace.

Ribbon Corset – an early-20th-century corset worn for sport or relaxation; it was made of horizontal strips of elastic mounted on a vertical side frame and was meant to encircle the waist and top of the hips for abdominal support.

Robe Volante – an 18th-century gown with a fitted bodice and box pleats at the back.

Roll-on – the 1930s early prototype of the girdle.


“S” Silhouette – a silhouette with a full overhanging bust arched into a small waist below with rounded hips (early 1900s).

Satin – Smooth fabric, shiny on the outside and with a silk drape. Can be stretch or non-stretch.

Seamless – innovative circular knitting techniques have allowed seamless production of briefs and tops that fit like a second skin.

Silicon – used as a gripper band to prevent slippage, especially in strapless bras and thigh hi stockings.

Shift – a loose garment worn next to the skin. See Smock and Chemise.

Simplex – reversible warp knit fabric that looks the same on both sides. Without elastine, so non-elastic.

Slip – an undergarment suspended from the shoulders and extending to the hem of the skirt; usually worn over undergarments and under the outer layer of clothing.

Smock – an 11th-century term for what was later to be called chemise.

Soutien-Gorge – French word for “bra.”

Soft-Cup bra – a bra with no underwire.

Sports bra – The breast is under extreme stress during sporting activities and as it has no muscles, can easily become stretched – this is why it is vital to wear a sports bra. A dedicated sports bra is cut in such a way that the breasts are completely enclosed so that they do not move. Straps won’t restrict movement and at the same time won’t slip.

Straps – A key feature of the bra that offers support often an integral part of the design of a pretty bra, straps have become a fashion statement, even when they’ve ‘disappeared’ by becoming invisible.

Stays – a term for a boned underbodice previously known as a “pair of stays” (17th and 18th-centuries).

Step-In – a type of girdle from the 1930s that was made with elasticized siding, vertical boning and no fastenings so that it could just be “slipped-on.”

StockingsSee Hose.

Strapless Bra – a bra designed to be worn with strapless dresses or tops, substituting boning or tight elastic for shoulder straps.

Suspender – holds up stockings, sometimes detachable.


Tactel – Fine fiber from DuPont, made from 100% polyamide, extremely king to the skin, soft and breathable. Tactel aquator also regulates moisture.

Tai – Brief that fits to the waist.

Tanga – Also known as a thong, a brief with very narrow fabric, elastic or ribbon side panels.

Tango Corset – a short lightweight corset for dancing in.

Tango Knickers – ultra wide-leg knickers for maximum leg movement.

Tea Gown – an informal, uncorsetted gown that in the 1920s was appropriate for garden parties and afternoon teas.

Teddy – a one-piece undergarment combining camisole and panties.

Tights – a woven one-piece stretch garment covering the feet, legs and waist.

Trenslo Stays – Pliable stiffeners sewn into the side of a bra known as the wing – for strengthening and shaping, prevents the breasts from moving sideways or the wing of the bra rolling or going out of shape. Also used in bustiers.

TorsoletteSee Corselette.

Tournure – French word for “bustle” for extending the hips or the posterior; popular in the mid to late 19th-century.

Tulle – A fine open base fabric with a honeycomb structure. Can be woven or knitted.


Underbust width – Measured in centimeters or inches that gives the bra size i.e. 70, 75, 80 or 32, 34, 36…The difference between the upper and underbust width gives the cup size i.e. A, B, C…

Underskirt – a petticoat worn directly under the outermost layer and usually meant to show through; tends to be more ornate and colorful than underlying petticoats.

Underwire bra – An underwire is sewn into the bra to lift and shape the bust. Particularly suitable for larger cup sizes.


Viscose – Made from cellulose, usually from beech or pinewood trees. This synthetic fabric has a particular sheen and soft feel.


Waist Cincher – a type of corset that looks like a belt and is designed to narrow the waist with plastic stiffeners and elastic materials.

Waspie – 1940s and 1950s term used to describe belt-like corsets designed to create a small waist.

Wasp Waist – a term used to describe a small waist obtained by tight-lacing and corsetry; the term was popular in the 1820s and 1890s, and then again in the 1950s.

Wings – material that runs along back and sides of torso for extra support for large breasts.

Wrapper – a housedress or housecoat.

Information compiled from various sources, but credit to be given to “Lingerie: A history and celebration of silks, satins, laces, linens and other bare essentials” by Catherine Bardey and the Triumph International web site.


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