Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear at the Victoria & Albert Museum | SENATUS

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Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear at the Victoria & Albert Museum

18 November 2015
Start: 16 Apr 2016
End: 12 Mar 2017

Location: Victoria and Albert Museum
Address: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom

By Natalie White

The Victoria & Albert Museum is set to host an exhibition titled Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, which addresses the practicalities of underwear and its role in the fashionable wardrobe whilst highlighting its sensual, sexual appeal.

Taking place from 16 April 2016 to 12 March 2017, the showcase tells the story of undergarment design from the 18th century to the present day, exploring the relationship between underwear and fashion, notions of the ideal body, and the ways that cut, fit, fabric and decoration can reveal issues of gender, sex and morality.

The exhibition will explore dress reformers and designers such as Paul Poiret, who argued for the beauty of the natural body, as well as entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators who have played a critical role in the development of increasingly more effective and comfortable underwear.

On display will be over 200 objects for men and women together with fashion plates, photographs and film, advertisements and packaging to introduce changing concepts of the ideal body.

On display are homemade solutions created by the working women of England in the 18th century, alongside sexier examples from Stella McCartney, La Perla, Rigby & Peller and Paul Smith.

The current debate about the safety of corsets, which have developed from restrictive 1890s whalebone contraptions with a waist under 19 inches in circumference to the waist-training slimming tools endorsed by today's celebrity figures such as Kim Kardashian, will also be examined. The development of the bra will be traced throughout the 20th century with 1910 examples and 1950s Playtex rubber girdles on show.

Additional highlights will include a 1960s Mary Quant body stocking, a pair of gender neutral briefs by Acne, a sheer dress worn by Kate Moss and a pair of flesh-colored leggings by Vivienne Westwood. A remarkably detailed pair of 1930s silk chiffon knickers, floral embroidered stockings worn by Queen Alexandra, and a display figure for Y-front pants dating from the 1950s will round things out.

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