Times Have Certainly Changed Regarding Women’s Underwear

14th Century Moralist: “Beneath her skirts, a woman’s ass should be naked as God intended!”

I was reading Susanne Alleyn’s excellent book Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders about how NOT to write historical fiction and came across this quote.  It seems inexplicable to me, a woman in 21st century America.

Ms. Alleyn goes through the entire history of women’s underthings and spoke briefly about the briefs Catherine de Medici popularized in the 14th century for horseback riding.  Up until that point women mostly went without–underpants that is–as it was more convenient and private in the times of no toilets.  After all, who wants to reach down beneath yards and yards of petticoats, elaborate whale and metal skirt frames, and then finally untie something (no elastic) before you can go.  It took too long!  It was too complicated! So women for the most part, went without.

However, progressive women like Catherine de Medici wanted to go riding in comfort without the danger of one’s skirt flying up and exposing one to the world. (The horror!)  Most women of her time thought this was a great idea.  But some individuals were scandalized.  A woman wearing trousers like a man! Those moralists were sure that no good could come from women not remaining as “naked as God intended” beneath their clothes.

What do you think? Are underpants morally wrong?

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Aidee Ladnier

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