Starters-“Don’t Say Underwear, Say Munsingwear. It’s More Refined.”-May 2011

A new exhibit traces an iconic Minnesota company from Victorian cover-ups to va-va-voom.
Starters-“Don’t Say Underwear, Say Munsingwear. It’s More Refined.”-May 2011

George Munsing didn’t invent the union suit, but he revolutionized it, as Susan Marks explains in her book, In the Mood for Munsingwear, just released in April by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Marks’ work is also the basis of a new exhibit, Underwear: A Brief History, opening May 7 at the Minnesota History Center. 


Once the world’s largest manufacturer of underwear and one of Minneapolis’s biggest employers, Munsing patented a way to “plate” silk on wool and turned the one-piece union suit from a scratchy winter necessity into renowned “itchless underwear.”

His newly formed Northwestern Knitting Company (later Munsingwear) couldn’t keep up with demand in the 1880s. But from long underwear and loose-fitting “bloomers,” the company moved on to follow—and shape—fashion.

“Foundettes,” made with the new, elasticized yarns of the 1930s, were the Spanx of their day. And by the 1960s, Munsingwear’s luxe Hollywood Vassarette brand was making merry widows, peignoirs, and bullet bras.