AKA: foundation garment, bodysuit, corselette
How to say it: awl-in-wuhn
- combines bra and underpants in one piece
- can be strapless and/or have underwires
- normally made from stretch fabrics
- often includes garter straps
- can be a form of shapewear
Origins of the style: At its most basic, the all-in-one is just that, an undergarment that combines underwear and a bra into one piece. While various versions of camilsole/underpants combinations have existed since at least the 1900s, the all-in-one as we know it today evolved from the corset in the 1920s.
The 20s saw the fashionable female figure change from the exaggerated S-bend of the turn of the century to a boyish, boxy shape. For some women this meant the end of uncomfortable, boned corsets in favour of large, loose underpants and bras that flattened the bust. But for those women with curves, an all-in-one foundation garment was required to achieve the desired silhouette. Essentially a flattening bra attached to a girdle, the all-in-one hid womanly curves creating a straight up-and-down shape. The all-in-one started out with boning to to provide the shape, much like a corset, but as the women of the decade gradually began to move more, the stiff boning was replaced with elasticated fabrics which successfully smoothed the body whilst allowing for ample movement.
In the 30s a more shapely figure came back into fashion and the all-in-one of this decade supported the breast rather than flattening it, cinched the waist and smoothed over the hips to create a slender, hourglass silhouette.
Despite strict fabric restrictions during WWI, all-in-ones continued to be a popular underwear choice throughout the 1940s. Garments of this decade were usually made from cotton or rayon with a small amount of elasticated fabric (which was heavily rationed during the war) in the front and back to provide some stretch. The 40s also saw the introduction of the ‘panty’ style all-in-one which was created in response to the increasing number of women wearing pants.
The hourglass silhouette continued to be popular after the war, but evolved into a more glamorous version of itself in the 1950s with smaller waists and higher busts the desired look. The all-in-one of this decade came in various versions, from lighter, elasticated roll-on garments, to more sturdy and structured pieces. All-in-ones also often featured a strapless, structured top, sometimes with a plunging v between the breasts to allow for the dress fashions of the decade.
In the 1960s and 70s the fashionable silhouette focused more on a ‘free’ or natural body, and the all-in-one became less of a foundation garment – the girdle was no longer part of the construction and the bra often had no underwire. The legs of the garment raised up to more closely resemble modern underpants and it was often made of soft, stretch fabrics or laces, moving the all-in-one into the realm of lingerie – where it pretty much stayed for the remainder of the 20th century.
The fabrics used in all-in-ones became more luxurious and decorative in the 1980s which saw a rise in popularity of lingerie style underwear for the everyday. All-in-ones were often made from satin in a swimsuit style, often without even underwires in the bust, acting as a covering rather than a foundation or support system for the body.
In the 21st century, the all-in-one is still mainly worn as a form of lingerie, although it has reclaimed a little of its foundation ancestry, with versions available in shaping fabrics that smooth the bust, waist and stomach. They have generally retained their swimsuit shape, but longer line versions do exist for those who want them. With underwear separates well and truly the norm for the modern woman, all-in-one underwear is by no means a popular choice in the 21st century, yet despite this there continues to be a healthy selection of pretty and utilitarian versions of the style available for those who want them.
Origins of the name: the style is an all-in-one undergarment, hence the name.
21st Century All-in-Ones
While girdles aren’t really worn in the 21st century, there is plenty of all-in-one lingerie on the market. Whether they are made from pretty lace or body-shaping fabrics, there is lots of variety, at lots of price points for the girl who wants it all in one.
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