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Camisoles, sometimes called camis, are usually short sleeveless shirts worn as underclothing by women. They tend to cover the bust to the waist and may be used to provide a little extra weight, or under tops that are see-through. Camisoles used to provide minimal bust support, but now many have built-in bras.
Some camisoles are simply worn as outerwear, following fashion trends set in the 1990s. They may have thin spaghetti straps and may be made in a variety of fabrics. Silk and polyester are typical fabric choices. However, stretch camis made of cotton knit, or a combination of lycra and cotton are becoming more popular too.
Because of their thin straps, most outwear camisoles are typically worn without a bra. This makes some people reluctant to wear them since they may provide inadequate support for the bust. The type with built-in bras may be a little challenging to fit, since bust size does not always correspond with waist or body size. In particular, women with a C or D bra size or higher may find it challenging to find well-fitting garments.
One of the more popular ways to wear camisoles presently is underneath a suit jacket or matched shirt. This allows women to wear bras under the tops, since the jacket or shirt will hide the straps. This works in most cases, unless the covering shirt is very sheer. Some tops could more rightly be called tank tops, since they provide wider straps, which allow one to easily disguise bra straps.
Camisoles and teddies were a typical replacement for more ironclad undergarments used in the early 20th century and before. Flappers often discarded bras and wore teddies, a combination of camisole and underwear together. Alternately, the tops might be worn with coordinating underwear called tap pants. These tended to be wide-legged underpants that began at the waist and ended at the top of the thigh. Alternately, the tops could be worn with a matching half-slip. This was an improvement on the full slip, which was camisole and slip combined in one garment, since each piece could be worn separately as needed.
Camisoles as well as being undergarments, or outerwear, are often worn as pretty lingerie. They may come in prints, have the necklines edged in lace, and are typically either silk or polyester. One can still find a variety of styles of camis sold with tap pants. More informally, camisoles and shorts are quite a popular variant on pajamas, or pajamas come with camisole tops. Some confuse the camisole with the chemise in purchasing lingerie. The chemise has a camisole type top, but ends at about mid-thigh. Chemises are often sold with robes in a set. In a pinch, a chemise makes a good substitution for a slip if one is wearing a sheer, relatively short, dress.