Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion

UndressedFashion’s hidden history will be revealed in this new international exhibition that explores the history of private and intimate clothing. Organised by the world’s leading museum of art and design, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Undressed: 350 years of underwear in fashion opens at the Bendigo Art Gallery on 19 July 2014.

Featuring more than 80 garments from the V&A’s extensive collection of underwear, most not seen before, the exhibition explores underwear’s function in decorating and manipulating the body.

From corsets to court mantuas, petticoats to brassieres, boudoir wear to bustles, the exhibition spans 350 years of fashion history, bringing together the garments that secretly and privately reduced, lifted, padded, adorned, revealed and concealed the body.

Over the centuries there have been different visions of the desirable body. It has been variously slim or voluptuous, flat-chested or buxom, androgynous or matronly, or even distorted, with wasp waists and exaggerated buttocks.

It is only since the 1960s that people have been expected to embody the fashionable ideal through diet and exercise, without the aid of foundation garments, so appreciating underwear is fundamental to our understanding of fashion history, and also to our understanding of changing attitudes to sex, beauty and gender.

Largely due to past embarrassment, the study of underwear is a relatively modern phenomenon. Undressed: 350 years of underwear in fashion reveals its history, bringing together a selection of garments ranging in date from 1750 to the present day, displayed alongside images and materials from the V&A’s archives.

Highlights include Queen Victoria’s undergarments, and one of the earliest known bras, in addition to many rare, delicate and beautifully detailed items and a selection of men’s underclothes. Striking pieces by world famous fashion designers, including Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Gianni Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood will be shown alongside everyday essentials by major retailers such as Marks & Spencer.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated V&A publication, Underwear: Fashion in Detail, by the exhibition curator Eleri Lynn, containing extraordinarily detailed illustrations of the objects in the show.

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 2000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform.

Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion
Bendigo Art Gallery, 42 View Street, Bendigo
Exhibition: 19 July – 26 October 2014
Bookings: www.undressedbendigo.com

For more information, visit: www.undressedbendigo.com for details.

Image: courtesy of Bendigo Art Gallery