All Rights reserved
While underwear usually gets the most attention when it comes off, underwear fashion has enticed wearers and admirers alike for more than 200 years--from fin-de-siecle Parisian corsets to the crumpled Calvin Kleins on your bedroom floor.
Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear goes underneath the petticoats to explore the most fashionable and seductive underwear from the 1800s to today. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is displaying the classy unmentionables--which include 60 newly acquired pieces for the permanent collection--from now until March 12, 2017.
Sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Revlon, the collection is "the largest museum exhibition of underwear ever to go on display," the museum said in a press release.
V&A textiles and fashion curator Edwina Ehrman organized the exhibit and authored a paperback history of underwear to accompany the pieces. "The exhibition explores the relationship between underwear and fashion, notions of the ideal body, and the ways that cut, fit and fabric reflect shifting attitudes to gender, sex and morality," Ehrman told Out.
The exhibition covers boxers, briefs, pajamas, lingerie, thongs, bras and more through the last two centuries. While the display cases glitter with fashionable women's corsets, visitors can equally explore how men's intimate wear has shifted with new ideas of the male figure and how to market clothes to men.
"Men's underwear has always been quite fitted to the figure, but new machine knitting technologies developed from the mid-19th century onwards enabled a gradually more refined silhouette," Ehrman said. By the 1930s, topless bathing suits for men lead designers "to create increasingly revealing and body-conscious underwear" she said.
Ehrman credits gay fashions in particular for postwar changes in menswear design and branding. "There's now widespread acceptance of men's enhancement and shapewear," she said, "as well as branded underwear created by fashion designers which recast underwear as a fashion accessory."
Museum admission is free, tickets to Undressed are PS12 (approximately $17.50). Visit Vam.ac.uk/Undressed for more information.
Pictured: Display Figure and Advertising Card for Y-Front Pants, 1950
All photography courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum