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In the s, manufacturers shifted emphasis from durability to comfort. Union suit advertisements raved about patented new designs that reduced the number of buttons and increased accessibility. Most of these experimental designs had to do with new ways to hold closed the crotch flap common on most union suits and drawers.
A new woven cotton fabric called nainsook gained popularity in the s for its durability. Retailers also began selling preshrunk undergarments. Also in the s, as hemlines of women's dresses rose, women began to wear stockings to cover the exposed legs.
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Women's bloomers also became much shorter. The shorter bloomers became looser and less supportive as the boyish flapper look came into fashion. By the end of the decade, they came to be known as "step-ins", very much like modern panties but with wider legs. They were worn for the increased flexibility they afforded. The garter belt was invented to keep stockings from falling. In , Maidenform , a company operated by Ida Rosenthal , a Jewish immigrant from Russia, developed the brassiere and introduced modern cup sizes for bras.
Modern men's underwear was largely an invention of the s. On 19 January , Coopers Inc. Designed by an "apparel engineer" named Arthur Kneibler, briefs dispensed with leg sections and had a Y-shaped overlapping fly. Jockey briefs proved so popular that over 30, pairs were sold within three months of their introduction. Coopers, having renamed the company Jockey , sent its "Mascul-line" plane to make special deliveries of "masculine support" briefs to retailers across the US.
In , when Jockeys were introduced in the UK, they sold at the rate of 3, a week.
In this decade, companies also began selling buttonless drawers fitted with an elastic waistband. These were the first true boxer shorts, which were named for their resemblance to the shorts worn by professional fighters. Scovil Manufacturing introduced the snap fastener at this time, which became a popular addition to various kinds of undergarments. Women of the s brought the corset back, now called the " girdle ". The garment lacked the whalebone and metal supports and usually came with a brassiere now usually called a "bra" and attached garters.
During World War II, elastic waistbands and metal snaps gave way once again to button fasteners due to rubber and metal shortages.
Undergarments were harder to find as well, since soldiers abroad had priority to obtain them. By the end of the war, Jockey and Hanes remained the industry leaders in the US, but Cluett, Peabody and Company made a name for itself when it introduced a preshrinking process called " Sanforization ", invented by Sanford Cluett in , which came to be licensed by most major manufacturers.
Meanwhile, some women adopted the corset once again, now called the " waspie " for the wasp -shaped waistline it gave the wearer. Many women began wearing the strapless bra as well, which gained popularity for its ability to push the breasts up and enhance cleavage. Before the s, underwear consisted of simple, white pieces of clothing which were not to be shown in public. In the s, underwear came to be promoted as a fashion item in its own right, and came to be made in prints and colours.
Manufacturers also experimented with rayon and newer fabrics like Dacron , nylon, and Spandex. Women's undergarments began to emphasize the breasts instead of the waist. The decade saw the introduction of the bullet bra pointed bust, inspired by Christian Dior 's " New Look ", which featured pointed cups.
The original Wonderbra and push-up bra by Frederick's of Hollywood finally hit it big. Women's panties became more colourful and decorative, and by the mids were available in two abbreviated styles called the hip-hugger and the bikini named after the Pacific Ocean island of that name , frequently in sheer nylon fabric.
Pantyhose , also called tights in British English, which combined panties and hose into one garment, made their first appearance in ,  invented by Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina. The company later introduced seamless pantyhose in , spurred by the popularity of the miniskirt. By the end of the decade, the girdle had fallen out of favour as women chose sexier, lighter, and more comfortable alternatives.