Historically, camisole referred to jackets of various kinds, including overshirts (worn under a doublet or bodice), women's négligées and sleeved jackets worn by men.
A young woman in a vest top. Lycra led to closer fitting vest tops in the late 2000s and the 2010s.
In modern usage a camisole or cami is a loose-fitting sleeveless woman's undergarment which covers the top part of the body but is shorter than a chemise. A camisole normally extends to the waist but is sometimes cropped to expose the midriff, or extended to cover the entire pelvic region. Camisoles are manufactured from light materials, commonly cotton-based, occasionally satin or silk, or stretch fabrics such as lycra, nylon, or spandex.
A camisole typically has thin "spaghetti straps" and can be worn over a brassiere or without one. Since 1989, some camisoles have come with a built-in underwire bra or other support which eliminates the need for a bra among those who prefer one. Recently, camisoles have been known to be used as outerwear.
A variety of sleeveless body shaping undergarments have been derived from the camisole shape, offering medium control of the bust, waist and/or abdomen. Such control camisoles are the most casual of shaping garments, covering the torso from above the chest to at or below the waist. They look similar to tight-fitting cotton or silk camisoles, but the straps are usually wider, the hems longer, and the stretchy, shiny fabric provides a smoothing touch.
Barbier, Muriel & Boucher, Shazia (2003). The Story of Lingerie. Parkstone. ISBN 1-85995-804-4
Saint-Laurent, Cecil (1986). The Great Book of Lingerie. Academy editions. ISBN 0-85670-901-8
^Little, William G.; Coulson, Jessie Senior; Fowler, H.W. (1975). Onions, C.T., ed. The shorter Oxford English dictionary on historical principles. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 272. ISBN0-19-861126-9. "1816.... 1. Formerly applied to jackets of various kinds. 2. A woman's underbodice 1894."|accessdate= requires |url= (help)
^"camisole definition: Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)". Random House Unabridged Dictionary. Random House. 2006. Retrieved 2009-01-15. "1. a short garment worn underneath a sheer bodice to conceal the underwear. 2. a woman's negligee jacket. 3. a sleeved jacket or jersey once worn by men. 4. a straitjacket with long sleeves."
^"AskOxford: camisole". Compact Oxford English Dictionary of Current English. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2009-01-15. "a woman’s loose-fitting undergarment for the upper body. — ORIGIN French, from Latin camisia ‘shirt or nightgown’."
^Scott, Lucretia M. (1987-09-22). "Camisole underwire bra garment description - US Patent 4798557". Retrieved 2009-01-15. "Up until the present time when a woman wished to wear a camisole due to its loose fitting nature and she still required support for her breasts, she was required to wear a bra underneath her camisole to achieve the desired results."
^Thatcher, Virginia S., ed. (1970). The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of The English Language. McQueen, Alexander. Chicago: Consolidated Book Publishers. p. 116. ISBN0-8326-0021-0. "A short light garment worn by ladies when dressed in negligee;strait jacket for lunatics or criminals condemned to the guillotine."|accessdate= requires |url= (help)
^US patent 4798557, Lucretia M. Scott, "Camisole underwire bra garment", issued 1989-01-17