In the second half of the 18th century, the inventions of multiple spindle machines and the cotton gin, made cotton fabrics extensive. Allowing factories, for the first time, to mass-produce underwear. As a result, people began purchasing undergarments in stores instead of making them. The “union suit” was the standard undergarment for men, women, and children was, of the 19th century . It was like a “second skin” providing coverage from the wrists to the ankles. Today it is more commonly known as long johns. Usually made of knitted material, union suits, had a drop flap in the back.
Women began wearing something called a stay, this would be worn under the clothes and would wrap around the upper body from behind and tie closed in the front. In the 1750s and 1760s, stays were often stiffened, becoming known, as the corset. Eventually they became available in different colors with white linings. It remained popular, into the 19th century, with aristocratic women. At this time the design was changed to fit much more tightly. The corsets were laced with whalebone or steel, to make a woman waist appear to be smaller then it was. This was in a time when a tiny waist was seen as a symbol of beauty. As a result, many woman were caused great pain. Some of these woman even suffering internal damage. The newer corsets did not wrap around the breasts as the corsets before them had done. This newer corset gave a slight up-lift to the breasts.
A shift was usually worn over the corset. This was a thin shirt-like garment made of cotton or muslin. Pantalets or pantaloons, were long drawers made of the same material as the shifts. Their purpose was to keep the covered, as skirts styles got shorter.
Another major female undergarment that came about during this period was known as the Crinoline petticoat, similar to the farthingales of the Renaissance. One difference was the stiff fabrics and numerous layers, were used to keep the skirt looking full, instead of hoops. Another difference was that it was fairly inexpensive, and could be worn by commoners as well as the aristocrats. Although the petticoats of wealthy women were usually made of finer materials and had more elaborate design.
The bustle, was a short lived garment of the period. It was a pad worn over the buttocks to enhance their shape, It was used off and on by women for two centuries, it hit the peak of its popularity 1880, and went out of fashion for good in the 1890s.