UNDRESSED: A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERWEAR

Monday to Friday pants © cheekfrills

This year, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London opened its doors to Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, an exhibit that takes us on a journey of our intimates.

Perfect for lovers of fashion and history, visitors are able to explore a carefully curated show that examines the intimate relationship between underwear and fashion. The cut, fit, style, fabric, decorative quality and role in molding our figures is a key foundation to the way the pieces are exhibited. Issues of sex, gender and morality are key aspects of this show.

The exhibition boasts over 200 different examples of male and female underwear, ranging from 1750 to the present; a combination of sensory, fashionable, practicality and personal to embrace our bodies as well as protect them. It showcases how designs have shifted from underwear to outerwear, from Royal underpants to butt enhancers. This is a complete tour through time. The curator, Edwina Ehrman encourages us to question these underwear choices while illuminating what it has meant for self worth, body image and fashion.

There are some particularly interesting aspects of the exhibition. One example from the Georgian age, where men wore ‘double pants’ and women wore none at all! Well, except for the predecessor to the corset, being ‘a set of stays’ which created the ideal posture at the time, said to be that of a ballerina. However, when Victorian corsets came into fashion, it was not only for women but men too. Men would wear it for their posture and women primarily for aesthetics. Another great piece is the Duchess of Kent’s underpants! These look like trousers, and are the oldest piece in the collection.

Taking it further, we have 1920s flapper-style underwear and the introduction of the bandeau. This was worn to minimize the appearance of breasts as was the style at the time. The pieces in the exhibit not only reflect and question our ideas of comfort, style and the trends, but larger issues such as gender roles, sexuality and social class.

Sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Revlon, the exhibition is sure to catch your eye and educate you on all the beautiful—and often curious evolution of our intimates.