In the past, women had to make do with home-made undergarments to serve hygienic purposes. Loin cloths (basically pieces of cloth tied together -- without any consideration of support, silhouette and style) were worn in one color and were not really designed for anything except to give comfort and coverage for women athletes and models.
In our modern world, panties are designed and created not just to protect the outer garments from bodily secretions and the body from outer dirt. They are now created to give comfort to the wearer and give enough coverage or less coverage to go with the outer clothes.
For example, low-cut undies must be used to go with hipster jeans (though some may choose to wear a thong and expose that piece of string). At the same time, some thongs and G-string will be of great service to a pair of tight white pants or other sheer pants and skirts.
There are quite a few pantie styles that one can choose from Here are some of the more popular ones:
Pantie briefs differ when it comes to height. Some reach the waist and others are just below the navel. All give full rear coverage and a few inches of side support (some go down to the hips). These are comfortable panties that can be worn for casual days. These are especially popular for pre-teens or prepubescent girls.
Hipsters are ordinary undies but with the waistband at the hips. Like pantie briefs, they are often made from cotton but can also be made from lace, satin and other indulging fabrics.
Bikinis are also worn by the hips. However, the sides are narrower. String bikinis only have a string of cloth to hold the pantie. These are very popular as swimsuit styles also.
The thong has a strip of cloth for the crotch and this extends to the back where there is only small rear coverage. The waistband is mostly like that of the string bikini. On the extreme side, the G-string is a kind of thong that does not have any rear coverage. The narrow strip from the crotch merely extends to the string waistband.
In the United States, panties are the normal term for the lower undergarments. However, in the United Kingdom, undergarments are called "knickers" while the term "undies" is said to be more popular in Australia.
One of the more generic types of pantie is the full cut panties or "granny panties." These are high cut panties that rise above the waist. These are called "granny panties" because you often see them being worn by older people. This cannot be worn under jeans unless you would want to get curious stares.
The classic colors used for undergarments are beige or skin tone and black. While white may seem a classic color, this is seldom used by older women. You can perhaps see them in younger school girls. Cotton is the predominant fabric but other more feminine styles incorporate lace, satin and silk.