Vintage News | Undressed at the V&A

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All photos from vogue.co.uk



"Women's underwear had two functions in the 18th century: hygienic and structural," so begins Undressed, the Victoria & Albert Museum's new exhibition, opening this Saturday - and some would say not much has changed since those days, at least in terms of intention. 

The showcase - which is loosely chronological but also thematic - charts the evolution of that most personal of garments and our relationship with it. How it has helped us for centuries portray our best self to the outside world; how it has shifted with changing body ideals; how it helps us to conceal or subvert; and even how it has trickled into our everyday wardrobe.

Separated into sections including Fashion, Health and Hygiene; Volume; Performance Underwear; and Support: Bras and Girdles, the downstairs section of the exhibition explores how we have used underwear to "shapeshift", to improve or disguise what nature gave us, and to allow us to do, or be, that little bit more - encompassing bustles and corsets as well as relatively modern padded bras and 21st century shapewear.

Reflecting the changing body ideals of the times - the exhibition moves from elaborate padding and wiring, to simple bras of the Thirties that aimed to "separate and define" breasts for a "slim and feminine" shape, to the padded bras of the Fifties, made to create "alluring, feminine curves".

At times it is difficult to tell which era a piece originates from. One waist-trainer-style corset, made from a cellular cotton called "aertex", could be seen today on any Kardashian Instagram, but was actually made in 1888 and sold with the tagline "clothed with air", whilst a Stella McCartney lace bodice has a 19th century nostalgia.

It's not just women's smalls that are being dissected and celebrated; the 18th century men's shirts, that make up a gentleman of the time's "fine and functional" undergarments, are a thing of beauty - and something that Alexa Chung would happily wear with a pair of high-waisted jeans.

Click here to read the rest of this article on vogue.co.uk >


Undressed at the V&A, sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Revlon, is open from this Saturday, April 16, until March 12 2017. For more information visit Vam.ac.uk/undressed


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