Lingerie terminology: A glossary
At Angela Friedman, we receive a lot of questions about language when it comes to lingerie. From customers confused by different terminology for underwear (are knickers and panties the same thing?) to those who can't decide whether they want a corset or a bustier, to those who don't know whether their significant other prefers babydolls or slips... We're here to help!
All of the varied lingerie language can be confusing, but once you learn these definitions, you'll be so much better prepared for future lingerie shopping! Even if you think you already know the difference between a bikini and a brief, read through our glossary to be sure you have every detail figured out.
Our A-Z guide to lingerie terminology:
Babydoll: A loose lingerie top that covers the torso and upper thighs, fitted at the bust and floating loosely through the middle and bottom of the garment, often made in sheer or wispy fabrics like chiffon or lightweight lace.
Balconette / balcony bra: An underwire bra style that is cut more straight across the front of the cups, with a higher center front gore and wide strap placement.
Bandeau: A bra style that has a band of fabric across the entire front, as opposed to a lower plunge-front, such as the Ophelia bralette.
Basque: A shapewear garment designed to smooth the silhouette and support the bust, covering the entire torso. Unlike a corset, a basque is usually made of stretch fabrics and contains plastic boning (not steel), and it will not reduce the waist or dramatically alter the shape of the body, but rather simply smooth.
Bias-cut gown: A body-skimming slip that covers the entire torso and upper legs, structured like a lightweight dress and worn under your clothes or for loungewear or nightwear. The term "bias-cut" specifically refers to how the pattern pieces are cut diagonally on the fabric, which allows for additional, curve-hugging stretch throughout the garment, which molds to fit a variety of body types. Read our full guide to silk slips to learn more about how and why you should wear them.
Bikini briefs: A classic underwear shape with a waistband sitting along the hip bones, and moderate coverage both front and back. Low-rise bikini briefs are a timeless go-to for many because of their comfort and versatility.
Bloomers: Loose, frilly underwear that is often fitted at the waist and gathered around the legs. These were first popularized by feminist Amelia Bloomer in the 1850s, when it was considered a scandal for women to wear anything but skirts! Our silk ruffled panties are a more modern take on this classic.
Bralette / bralet: A bra that doesn't have an underwire or boning, either for style or comfort. Also known as a soft cup bra, a wireless bra, a wire-free bra, or a comfort bra.
Brassiere / bra: An undergarment that covers and supports the breasts, taking many shapes and forms for style and comfort. Bras generally fall into 3 main categories: bralettes (which are un-wired and have less support), underwire bras (which have structure and support), and sports bras (which cover more skin and are made to hold in the breasts during exercise).
Briefs: Any style of underwear that has the classic brief shape, although often used to refer to a style with moderate to full coverage across the waist, abdomen, hips, and bottom.
Bodysuit: A stretch garment that covers the bust, waist, and hips, all in one, cut similarly to a dancer's leotard. Bodysuits are often made of sheer mesh and stretch lace, and can feature a variety of different necklines and leg cuts, as well as sometimes containing closures in the gusset (crotch area) for ease of dressing.
Brazilian knickers: Also known as cheeky briefs or tangas, this form of underwear has full coverage across the front, but a skimpier back than a bikini or brief. Tangas reveal most of the cheeks, with a wider fabric band across the top of the derrière.
Bustier: A torso shaping garment, designed to smooth the silhouette and support the bust, like a girdle and bra combined. Unlike a true corset, a bustier is usually made of stretch fabrics and contains plastic boning (not steel), and it will not reduce the waist or dramatically alter the shape of the body, but rather simply smooth. Bustiers are usually strapless and have underwires and hook and eye closures at the back, and can sometimes be worn as outerwear.
Styles of underwear:
Camisole / cami: A loungewear top that covers the torso, usually with narrow or spaghetti straps. Camisoles are often layered under blouses or sweaters for an extra layer of warmth, modesty, or for a peek of pretty lace under a low neckline. Camisoles can also be worn as loungewear and sleepwear, especially when paired with tap pants.
Cheeky knickers: Also known as tangas or Brazilian briefs, this underwear has full coverage across the fron, but a skimpier back than a bikini or brief. Tangas reveal most of the cheeks, with a wider fabric band across the top of the derrière.
Corset: A corset is a heavily structured undergarment covering the torso, made from high-grade and non-stretch fabric, with many shaped panels designed to contour and reshape the bust and waist. Genuine corsets are handcrafted by specialty artisans, boned with steel, and usually have a front closure called a busk (the metal studs that allow for easier dressing) and back closure that laces with 2-part metal grommets. Unlike bustiers or basques, corsets do not stretch and dramatically reduce the waist size immediately, and they can be worn as lingerie, outerwear, or for fanciful costumes.
Demi-cup bra: A revealing underwire bra with a low profile, featuring a plunge neckline at the front and half coverage of the breasts.
Dressing gown: A decorative robe, often warm with full coverage, that is layered over lounge or sleepwear while the wearer is getting dressed or styling their hair.
French knickers: Also called tap pants, French knickers are a loose-fitting type of underwear that are similar to shorts. They have a fitted waist and looser fabric over the leg lines, without leg elastics like more fitted briefs would have. French knickers are often worn for sleep or lounging, but can also be worn as practical underwear beneath fuller dresses and skirts.
Full slip: A loosely-fitted undergarment that covers the entire torso and upper legs, structured like a lightweight dress and worn under your clothes or for loungewear or nightwear. This is different from a half slip which only covers the lower half of the body. Read our full guide to silk slips to learn more about how and why you should wear them!
Fully-fashioned stockings: A traditional-style pair of legwear with all the bells and whistles! Fully-fashioned stockings feature that quintessential back seam that you'll recognize from vintage films, a keyhole shape along the top welt, a reinforced heel and toe, and tiny picot lines (stitch marks from the knitting machines where the garment is shaped). You can find some wonderful suppliers of these on our stockings information page.
Garters: Not to be confused with garter belts, individual thigh garters are elasticated bands that are worn encircling the upper leg, either for decoration or to hold up stockings.
Garter belt: The same garment as a suspender belt, consisting of a waistband with 4-6 straps that connect to the top of your stockings. Garter belts are often part of a full 3-piece lingerie set. They're a great way to transition a lingerie set from day into sexy nightwear, as well as being practical in themselves. Read our full guide to garter belts to learn more about how to wear and style them.
Girdle: A retro shapewear garment designed to smooth the abdomen and hips, made of firm stretch materials and generally with a hook and eye closure along the back. Traditional girdles usually feature suspender or garter straps at the bottom edge to clip to your stockings.
G-string: A skimpy style of thong underwear that rests between the cheeks, with only a thin "string" of elastic at the back.
Gusset: The crotch area of your underwear, usually lined with an extra layer of natural fibers like cotton or silk.
Half slip: A loosely-fitted undergarment that covers the lower abdomen and thighs, structured like a lightweight skirt and worn under your clothes or for loungewear or nightwear. This is different from a full slip which also covers the chest. Read our full guide to silk slips to learn more about how and why you should wear them!
High-waisted knickers: An underwear style that extends up to around the navel, hitting the body at the natural waist. (The natural waist is usually the smallest part of the midsection, or where your body creases when you bend side to side.) High-waisted knickers stand in contrast to mid-rise and low-rise styles that are much more revealing of the abdomen.
Hosiery: A catch-all term for any legwear, including tights, pantyhose, stockings, thigh-highs, and even socks.
Knickers: Any form of underwear or panties, of any style at all.
Lingerie: A catch-all term for any undergarments - not just the sexy stuff! Lingerie comes from the French word for linen wear, because originally European undergarments were made of linen textiles. Nowadays, lingerie can include garments of any fiber, including bras, panties, shapewear, boudoir accessories, and more, whether they are practical, decorative, sexy, modest, or anything else!
Longline bra: A brassiere that extends below the underbust to cover part of the upper ribs, literally a long bra. Sometimes these are soft cup bralettes and sometimes they may have underwires and boning for structure, similar to a bustier.
Loungewear: Soft, comfortable undergarments that are worn at home for relaxing or sleep. These can include bralettes and tap pants, camisoles, slips and night dresses, robes and dressing gowns, pajamas, and more. Read our full guide to loungewear for more recommendations on how to style these pieces for working from home.
Low-rise knickers: Any briefs or underwear style that is cut lower across the tummy, revealing more of the abdomen. Low-rise knickers are skimpier than full briefs and are best worn with any low-rise trousers or skirts to avoid a peek of your undergarments accidentally showing.
Molded cup bra: A brassiere whose cups are each formed out of a single piece of foam that mimics a rounded breast shape. They are seamless across the cups and are often also called t-shirt bras because they don't show under fitted tops.
Negligée: Any nightwear, generally decorative with lace and trimmings and often of the sexy or sheer variety. A negligee can include a top (like a babydoll or slip), a bottom (like French knickers or a half slip), or both (like a peignoir set), but definitely is the sort of word you would use for something that's meant to be seen!
Nightgown / nightdress / nightie: A loosely-fitted undergarment that covers the entire torso and upper legs, structured like a lightweight dress and worn for loungewear or nightwear. Read our full guide to silk slips to learn more about how and why you should wear them.
Nursing bra: A specialty brassiere intended for nursing infants, with adjustable clasps above each cup that allow the fabric to be lowered for easy feeding access. Nursing bras can be structured underwire bras or soft cup bralettes, and they can be exclusively functional, highly-decorative, or both.
Nylons: Any legwear made in nylon fabric, but generally referring to the sort that come as a pair of 2 separate pieces, unlike pantyhose which are combined.
Styles of loungewear:
Ouvert knickers: Underwear that features a peek-a-boo opening through the derrière, the gusset, and/or the front of the panty. Ouvert knickers sometimes also feature a closure like a row of buttons, allowing for a sultry striptease.
Overbust corset: A boned, structured corset that covers the entire torso, including the bust, waist, and upper hips. An overbust corset does cover the chest, so it does not need to be worn with a bra.
Panties: Any form of underwear or knickers, of any style at all.
Pantyhose: Combination legwear that includes both a panty and hose (stockings), created together all in one.
Pajamas / Pyjamas: Soft, comfortable undergarments that are worn at home for relaxing or sleep. These can include camisoles and tap pants, slips and night dresses, robes and dressing gowns, and more. Learn more about styling loungewear for working from home.
Pasties: Adhesive nipple covers, either worn for the functionality of masking the nipple when going bra-less, or for decorative purposes such as for a strip tease or burlesque performance.
Peignoir set: A 2-piece set consisting of a robe and nightgown, made in sheer, floaty fabrics like chiffon or nylon tricot. This term comes from the French word "to comb" because this traditionally a garment worn while styling your hair.
Plunge bra: A brassiere that has a low neckline at the center front, revealing most of the sternum and cleavage.
Push-up bra: A brassiere that is engineered to push the breasts together and upwards. Push-up bras are heavily structured and include underwires, side boning, strong straps, and often pads to enhance the effect.
Quarter-cup bra: A highly revealing bra that features the band and cradle of a traditional underwire bra, but with only 1/4 the amount of cup coverage. Quarter cup bras generally reveal the nipple and most breast tissue and do not offer any significant support to the bustline.
Robe: A loungewear outer garment covering the arms and torso, which may be any length from thigh length to the floor. Robes are also called dressing gowns, and they can be made of any textile from silk to sheer tulle to terrycloth toweling to thick velvet. They provide an extra warm layer on cold nights, a nice in-between outfit while styling your hair, or a sultry reveal for a strip tease.
Romper: Similar to teddies or playsuits, rompers are 1-piece loungewear garments that cover the bust, abdomen, and bikini line. They're usually made of soft, loose fabric, sometimes cinched in at the waist. Rompers can be worn for lounging around, sleep, and even a little private garden picnic!
Shapewear: Any lingerie item that compresses, smooths, and shapes the silhouette. Shapewear includes stretch bustiers and corsets, vintage style girdles, control top pantyhose, waist cinchers, and more. They can be made of soft stretch fabrics like mesh, firm and more rigid ones like corsetry coutil or powermesh, and even rubberized materials and latex.
Sleep mask: A fitted, padded mask that covers the eyes to block out light while sleeping. Sleep masks are often made of fancy textiles like silk and lace and feature pretty detailing like ruffled edges to block out extra light.
Slip: A loosely-fitted undergarment that covers the entire torso and upper legs, structured like a lightweight dress and worn under your clothes or for loungewear or nightwear. Read our full guide to silk slips to learn more about how and why you should wear them.
Soft cup bra: A bra that doesn't have an underwire or boning, either for style or comfort. Also known as a bralette, a wireless bra, a wire-free bra, or a comfort bra.
Stay-ups: Pairs of legwear that have bands of elastic and sticky silicone grips along the top of the thigh, so that they remain in place on their own, without requiring suspender straps to hold them up.
Stockings: A hosiery term referring to pairs of individual leg coverings. Stockings are generally made of nylon but can also be other fibers like luxurious silk. They may have bands of elastic and sticky silicone grips along the top so that they stay up on their own, or they may be plain at the top and require a garter belt to hold them up. Read our full guide to garter belts to learn more about how to wear and style stockings.
String briefs: A style of underwear with narrow sides extending around the waist or upper hips. The "strings" refer to the narrow elastic bands, as opposed to briefs that have full coverage around the sides of the body.
Suspender belt: The same garment as a garter belt, consisting of a waistband with 4-6 straps that connect to the top of your stockings. Suspender belts are often part of a full 3-piece lingerie set and are a great way to transition from day to nightwear, as well as being practical in themselves. Read our full guide to suspender belts to learn more about how to wear and style them.
Tanga: Also known as cheeky briefs or Brazilian briefs, this form of underwear has full coverage across the front and gusset, but a skimpier back than a bikini or brief. Tangas reveal most of the cheeks, with a wider fabric band across the top of the derrière.
Tap pants: Also called French knickers, tap pants are a loose-fitting type of underwear that are similar to shorts. They have a fitted waist and looser fabric over the leg lines, without leg elastics like more fitted briefs would have. These are thought to have been popularized in the 1920s by American tap dancers, who wore them to show off their fancy footwork and legs! Tap pants are often worn for sleep or lounging, but can also be worn as practical underwear beneath fuller dresses and skirts.
Teddy: Similar to rompers, teddies are 1-piece lingerie items that cover the bust, abdomen, and bikini line. They're usually made of soft, loose fabric, often with low necklines and high leg lines. These are most often worn for sexy, nightwear use, rather than as day wear.
Thigh-highs: Legwear that comes in a pair of two, with each piece reaching to mid-thigh height. They can either be stockings (which are loose at the top and require garter or suspender straps to hold them up) or stay-ups (which are elasticated at the top with a silicone grip, so that they stay in place on their own).
Thong: A pair of underwear with a narrow back resting between the cheeks. Thongs may be high-waisted or low-rise, so long as the back is cut to reveal most of the derrière. A variation on the thong is the G-string, which has only a thin "string" of elastic at the back.
Triangle bra: A bralette that has 2 triangle-shaped cups that plunge low in the center front, generally unstructured and wire-free.
Trousseau: An assortment of undergarments purchased specifically for a wedding. In the modern usage, it often refers to the collections of lingerie worn under a wedding gown, for the wedding night, and for the honeymoon. But the original French term also included a set of linens, sheets, towels, and handkerchiefs that a bride would bring into a marriage. Read our Wedding Lingerie FAQs to learn more about trousseaux and bridal lingerie.
T-shirt bra: A molded-cup brassiere, crafted of a single piece of shaped foam that seamlessly contours over the bust, especially popular for casual and everyday wear, usually in neutral colors.
Underbust corset: A boned, structured corset that covers the entire abdomen from the ribs down over the upper hips. An underbust corset begins at the underbust, meaning that it does not cover the chest and is often worn with a bra.
Underwear / undergarments / undies: Any undergarment worn on the lower half of the body, including knickers, panties, briefs, thongs, etc. Underwear is also a catch-all term for any garments worn directly against the skin.
Waist cincher / waspie corset: A boned, structured corset that only covers a small portion of the abdomen in order to cinch the waist. Waspie corsets are often worn as a part of a lingerie look or worn over a dress for a retro, innerwear-as-outerwear style.
Wedding garter set: A special pair of garters (or single garter) worn around the leg as part of a bridal ensemble. Garters are decorative elastic bands, often covered in fancy silk or lace materials, that encircle the thigh. Sometimes one of them (a toss garter) will be removed and given away, with the other (a keepsake garter) is kept by the bride. Read our Bridal Lingerie FAQs to learn more about trousseaux and wedding lingerie.
Wireless bra / wire-free bra: A bra that doesn't have an underwire, either for style or comfort. Also known as a bralette, a soft cup bra, or a comfort bra.
Are there terms that are still unclear to you? Have we missed a word that you're wondering about? Send us an email through our contact form, and we'll be sure to clarify any of these terms and add more!