No, not foundation garments. The actual foundations of buildings! (All photos are mine except for the one at Fort Pitt and the last one.)
When we were shopping for our house, being me, I read a couple-ten books on architecture, home building, building materials, and like that. It gave me a great background for looking at houses, but it also helped me know what I was looking at, in places I never intended to buy anything.
We're in an area that's been settled since the 1700s. So it's not uncommon to see a beautifully restored building, but when you take a good look at it, you see stuff like this:
There were fur trappers in the area back in the 1660s, but it wasn't until the French built a fort in the 1750s that the area was stable enough to settle in a serious way. I'm sure the first shelters (I can't call them houses) were relatives of tents or extremely rustic log cabins built right on the ground, and they haven't survived. When first settling an area like this, Europeans were too busy trying to live though cold and heat and panthers and finding food to expend much effort on fancy buildings. The oldest surviving building in Pittsburgh is part of Fort Pitt built in 1764:
Larger, heavier buildings like barns were also built in a 'compound' sort of way - the corners of the foundation are built up with super heavy, solid, dressed stones, and timbers were run from corner to corner to corner. The timbers support the upper portion of the building, and then the rest of the foundation walls were filled in with anything they could find in terms of stones. Most around here (no good pictures, sorry) look like they were done with slate or shale - I don't envy them the job. Even way back, builders realized random rocks weren't enough for load-bearing, and hauled in the good stuff for that. But they didn't haul any more than they had to. Considering they were using horses, block and tackle, who could blame them?
The problem with the 'pile of rocks' building method is the cement. (At least, here where I am. Different parts of the world have different problems.) Because the sides of the rocks aren't parallel, the cement is required not only to anchor the stones, but also to fill in uneven spaces and bear a lot of weight. And this was at a time and place when cement-making was done in people's back yards or a quarry, by people who didn't exactly have PhDs in materials engineering. (I'm talking about actually making the cement, not mixing it together.) So, many of the houses around here have either had entirely new foundations built for them, or have had all kinds of re-mortaring done.
Travel - and therefore shipping any kind of building materials - between civilization (East Coast) and the Pittsburgh area was problematic for many years. You could either go by land in a wagon (through malarial swamps, freezing mountains, and over horrific roads), or by river (also malarial) which required a trip through New Orleans and up the Mississippi. Because of that, building materials were still on-the-spot productions, so everything in this area was stone, wood, and sketchy mortar. In 1834 a canal and rail line went through from Buffalo to Pittsburgh, and in 1854 rail travel from Philly to Pittsburgh became possible. After that, shipping in cement became easier and the quality of buildings went up steadily. I'll bet you this area produced better window glass than cement, for a couple decades at least. It's all in what kinds of raw materials were laying around.
In fact, due to the raw material situation, there was a thing sort of like a cinder block made, that is in fact a type of stoneware/ceramic:
Bricks of course seem obvious to us as a building material. But the problem for a long time was transporting them, not making them. Here in PA, even with railroads, getting the bricks from a rail line into the valleys and hills to a building site was still brutal. Since this area is full of clay and gravel and other brick-making materials, they made a lot of them right on the spot.
So, even though the valleys here are full of clay, bricks were still pretty tricky to make and build with.
Cinder blocks, our current go-to for building foundations, is a fairly new invention. Especially the mass-production of them. But like so much else, the real problem with cinder block isn't really making it - it's transporting the damn things. They came into 'common use' in the 1920s along the east coast, and from the looks of it around here, were used here since about the 1930s. But, just a decade ago, I remember hearing a friend in the building supply biz in Hawaii telling me about a shipment of cinder blocks coming in with a 50% breakage rate. That was about normal. Those suckers are oddly fragile.
Now, with the whole world of building supplies available, people who can afford anything, what do they do?
They build with barely dressed stone.
People are so damn weird.