Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear – Exhibition Review

This weekend I headed into London to visit the V&A’s latest exhibition, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear. I enjoyed the pun in the title of the exhibition, thinking that is was just a pun, but after seeing the exhibition I can only agree that it was in some places cut quite short.

The exhibition was centred around the progression of design and technology in the development of underwear. There were a LOT of corsets, as this was a dominant underwear  piece for over a century. It was clear that the V&A tried to include mens underwear throughout the decades on display, but this was much harder to do, as there has been less development in the mens wear department.

I didn’t realise that there were so many different types of corsets, and within them different manufacturing techniques. For me this was useful and interesting, but in my opinion I would have liked to have seen more of, or an equal amount on, the development of the modern day bra.

Upstairs was a collection of modern pieces, that show how the line between private and public has been blurred, and that modern underwear has taken on more than simple structure, but now enables the wearer to present themselves more confidently to the world, whether or not their underwear can be seen.

For £12 you definitely get to see a brief history of underwear. I however would have like to have seen more information, displays and even video demonstrations of how the modern day bra has been developed and is constructed.

Lingerie is something most women either do or wish they could have a good relationship with. For women who are confident, average sized and have money to spend on expensive underwear the relationship is generally good. For those of us who lack even one of those I just mentioned the relationship can wain a little.

The relationship between underwear and wearer wasn’t really touched on, and I personally feel that the development in design and technology of any product, is usually driven by personal desire and need, again something missed in the briefness of the exhibition.

If you are studying costume design, or want to focus on corsets from a fashion point of view, it’s well worth a visit, equally for those of you who may have lived through a lot of the changes in underwear you will enjoy laughing about the old style items. If you are hoping to glean some information about making your own underwear I’d probably head to an underwear making course or blog like madalynne.com.


What were your thoughts on the exhibition?


4 thoughts on “Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear – Exhibition Review”

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