Author Guest Blog – Rosemary Hawthorne

Rosemary Hawthorne’s histories of Bras, Knickers and Stockings & Suspenders are key books for anyone interested in the fascinating history behind things we take for granted.

Did you know…

  • that the first patented bra was designed from two handkerchiefs?
  • that the inflatable bras of the ’50s were rumoured to explode at high altitudes?
  • that the very first garment resembling a bra was worn by Greek and Roman women in need of special support?
  • that the eighteenth-century corset elevated and pushed out the breasts like two dumplings on a shelf?
  • that a bust-improver of 1905 consisted of two cup-shaped, perforated metal discs like twin tea-strainers?
  • that sixteenth-century women wore a ‘body’ of steel and wire very like the high-fashion bodies of today?

All this and more can be found in Rosemary’s wonderful books. Below, Rosemary explains how the books came about:


KNICKERS An Intimate Appraisal


For years I’d collected women’s antique and vintage clothes, 18th century to the present day and showed them at various talks. I found old underwear, particularly knickers, always grabbed audience attention. A former professional actress, I realized old knickers’ were comic material. People said ‘You ought to write a book!”. So I did. Once published, I was dubbed the ‘Knicker Lady’. Being married to a C. of E. clergyman, inadvertently helped…… ‘Vicars’ and Knickers’ trip well together. I’m glad he wasn’t a bishop.

9780285638228_JKT.pdf, page 1 @ HotFolder

BRAS A Private View


This book was joy to write. It had structure. Knickers’ were flip-flop by comparison! Body shape is vitally important to women in any century. Breasts have been exposed, covered, shoved up, flattened, extended, enlarged and generally ‘managed’ to gain desirable effect. Products’ that help – or hinder – were and are numerous. The corset was not the progenitor of the bra. It’s parenting came from a demure, distant relative high-jacked into ‘helping out’ in the early 1900s.

Bras cover



Stockings are historically unique in that, for centuries, they were unisex but worn outwardly – to show a fine leg – only by men.   For women, stockings developed slowly from under to outerwear.  Fine stockings were/are prized – often more than jewels.  Romantic silk hose to sexy, black-seamed nylons, a super pair of stockings could always rock a thrill-machine from Jane Austen to James Bond…and, still does, for many mortals’ who treasure a faded, lavender sprinkled, bridal garter…. or recall the jolly ‘ping’ of a snappy suspender.  Yep, my research was….er……very thorough.

Stockings cover

Check out Rosemary Hawthorne’s books below:



Stockings and Suspenders:


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