Lingerie vs Underwear

Have you ever thought about the difference between underwear and lingerie? Many people use these words interchangeably but there is a big difference between since they can serve very different purposes.

According to Merriam-Webster the origin of lingerie comes from the French word ‘linge’ which means linen derived from the Latin ‘lineus’, made of linen or flax. The first use of this word was in 1835 although there is documented use of lingerie before that in the Middle Ages.

Underwear is defined as clothing that is worn next to the skin and under other clothing. Although both lingerie and underwear are usually worn under clothes they serve very different purposes. ‘Underwear’ implies a very functional benefit. Anything from your grandmother’s briefs to a baby’s body suit can be underwear. While I would seriously argue that your sports bra is more an underwear item rather than lingerie, lingerie garments are not exclusively designated for bedroom use.

Underwear focuses on functionality and performance whilst lingerie focuses on aesthetics and design. That is the main difference between these two concepts. Lingerie can also be underwear but it does not work the other way round.

There are different types of lingerie depending on when you wear it. There is special-occasion lingerie, such as bridal lingerie, and everyday lingerie. Additionally there is ‘haute couture lingerie’ that is shown in catwalks, fashion magazines and sometimes store windows; Lingerie editorial pieces that open interesting fashion conversations. From a more commercial approach there is the so-called ‘pret-a-porter’ lingerie usually found at high street stores and it is characterized by being more ‘wearable’.

Lingerie is very related to the intimacy of the bedroom and usually has a strong aspirational and emotional content. It has the power to evoke, seduce and entice.

Beyond the concept of ‘Power Dressing’, lingerie has a dimension very much related to art. The lingerie design process begins with an inspiration that leads to a concept, a statement, or a reflection. Then, it evolves to the stage that becomes information on the body, which is the tangible result. As with other fashion items, when you choose your lingerie you are also making choices about your style and the way you want to look and feel.

I hope next time you buy intimate apparel you think about the distinctions between lingerie and underwear to better help you find what you are looking for.

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