Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear

What goes on beneath beautiful designer fashion creations is sometimes even a more sensual, fascinating harmony of sumptuous materials and colours. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London explores the personal, fashionable journey of underwear’s roles in Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear.

Installation view from Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear
Installation view from Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear

More than two hundred examples of underwear for men and women are featured – from the homemade to the fabulously luxurious. On display are corsets (top image), hosiery, lingerie and nightwear, plus contextual fashion plates, photographs, advertisements and packaging.

Comfort at home: Loungewear
Comfort at home: Loungewear

Rare 18th Century  hooped petticoats are also featured alongside crinolines and bustles. Long cotton drawers worn by Queen Victoria’s mother; floral embroidered stockings worn by Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII; and Schiaparelli nylon stockings from 1953 emphasise the practical, as well as the alluring. Designer pieces by Rigby and Peller, La Perla, Stella McCartney and Paul Smith are also highlighted. The exhibition also demonstrates how underclothes and nightclothes morphed into loungewear, with the continuing desire for comfort at home, and a blurring of the line between underwear and outerwear, public and private.

Cage Crinoline The Princess Louise Jupon patent 1871
Cage Crinoline The Princess Louise Jupon patent 1871

Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Textiles and Fashion at the V&A curated Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear. The intriguing presentation reveals how underwear can be created to transform or provoke, and it is impressive. The exhibition, sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Revlon, continues through 12 March 2017. www.vam.ac.uk/undressed JG

Photos: All images courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum