Undressed: 350 Years of Fashion in Underwear (touring)
The international premiere of this most revealing exhibition is now on at Bendigo Art Gallery. Intimate garments that have decorated and manipulated the body – from the historical to the contemporary – have been drawn from the renowned collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, as well as from private collections.
Enticing highlights include Queen Victoria’s drawers and one of the earliest known bras, as well as strikingly contemporary pieces by world famous fashion designers who have drawn on the wealth of history to reinterpret underwear into outer wear, including Christian Dior, Gianni Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, with a show stopping couture gown by Bottega Veneta (worn by Emma Watson on the red carpet).
Fashion’s own hidden history is alluringly explored in this exhibition that includes corsets, crinolines, bustle pads, petticoats and brassieres, as well as a select display of men’s undergarments, and photography and works on paper from the V & A’s own archive.
The role of underwear in fashion is pivotal. The majestic shapes of 18th century court dress, the distorted hourglass shapes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and Dior’s cinched ‘New Look’ were all dependent upon elaborate corsetry, technologically complex petticoats, hoops, and padded underpinnings. It is only since the 1960s that women have been expected to embody the fashionable ideal by way of diet and exercise and without the aid of foundation garments, so understanding underwear is fundamental to our appreciation of fashion history. It is also important for cultural and social historians, to whom it provides a symbol of changing social mores and attitudes to morality, sex, beauty and gender.
This exhibition is organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.