How to say it: cam-i-sole
- traditionally loose-fitting, but can be tight
- thin ‘spaghetti straps’
- generally made of light fabrics, with or with stretch
- shape of neckline varies
- normally reaches to the hips, but can be shorter or longer
…of the style: The camisole as we know it evolved from the chemise ,which originated in the Middle Ages and was a basic, full length, smock-like garment made from linen or cotton. The garment was worn by both men and women next to the skin, under robes and gowns, to absorb sweat and oils, and was the most regularly laundered piece of clothing of the time. When the corset came into fashion in the Renaissance period, women began to look for a less bulky undergarment that they could wear with their corsets. The answer was introduced in the Victorian Era – the camisole. Where the chemise was long and bulky, the camisole was short and light and could be worn without adding the look of extra weight to the female figure or obscuring the ideal shape created by the corset.
Corsets fell out of favour in the early 20th century and bloomers and knickers (the precursors to womens underpants) were introduced for the newly athletic lifestyles of women. During this time the camisole evolved into the ‘teddy’, a combination of the camisole top and bloomer bottoms similar to what now known as a romper or jump suit.
In the 1920s the camisole split with the bottom half and became a garment in its own right again. Teddy’s still existed, but designers also started experimenting with the idea, creating camisole ‘sets’ and marketing them as lingerie, rather than just undergarments.
The camisole remained in the realm of lingerie and underwear until the 1980s; when the underwear-as-outerwear trend, fuelled by the desire to protest against androgynous fashions of the time and aided by Madonna, who was hugely influential in fashion at the time, cemented the camisole as a fashion garment in its own right.
Since then the camisole has enjoyed sustained popularity from the high-end to the high-street. Modern versions range from loose-fitting or tight, printed or plain and made from everything from silk to synthetic. They are worn on their own, layered one on top or the other, or slipped on under a smart jacket.
Whether worn over or under, the camisole has certainly become a fashion staple and will remain a ‘must have’ garment for many, many years to come.
…of the name: The term camisole is taken from the French language and derives from the Old Provençal word camisole. This word in turn is derived from the Late Latin word camīsa, meaning ‘shirt’.
21st Century Camisoles
In the 21st century the camisole can be found in all areas of the fashion marketplace. From lingerie to sleepwear to casual street wear to smart business attire, the look of a camisole can be changed simply by changing the fabric it is made from, making it an infinitely versatile garment.
Michael van der Ham, Paul & Joe