NATASHA HOPPNER and RHEA ANTHONY
Queensland Museum in collaboration with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is exposing the secret history of fashion in its latest exhibition Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion.
The exhibit features more than 80 pieces from the renowned rare undergarments collection of Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), some of which have never before been seen by the public.
Undressed explores the history of all the knickers, bloomers, boulder holders, pantaloons and other intimates on show, along with their functionality and contribution to fashion.
The exhibition features both practical and couture, male and female pieces with designs ranging from the quirky to the sublime.
A number of the unmentionables on display are characteristic of the historical period they were worn in. This includes a rare orthopaedic iron corset worn by women who had done lasting damage to their spines from lacing their corsets too tightly.
Undressed also explores political and cultural developments in Western societies by discussing the changing attitude to underwear.
Queensland Museum Network CEO Professor Suzanne Miller said the showcase highlights the cultural and historical developments relating to society’s perceptions of underwear.
“It is only relatively recently that people have been expected to achieve the fashionable ideal through diet and exercise without the aid of foundation garments, so underwear’s role in fashion has really mirrored our changing attitudes to sex, beauty and gender,” Professor Miller said.
“It may not be an obvious indicator, but underwear can tell us a lot about our history and our changing cultural norms”.
“Put in that context, as well as the sheer beauty of many of the pieces, it really will be a wonderful exhibition”.
The exhibition features advertisements, fashion photography and artwork to illustrate society and industry attitudes about sexuality, femininity and sensibility throughout history.
“Images of underwear usually present idealised visions of the body and show us how the desirable body shape has changed,” reads a wall placard for the Body Image section of the exhibit.
“In these images you can see the body being shaped by underwear into various fashionable silhouettes – in the 18th century a conical, hard torso was desirable, whereas in the early 1990s, a matronly and curvaceous figure was all the rage.”
From the modesty of Queen Victoria’s drawers to the satin revolution of the Wonderbra, the ultimate constriction of 17th century iron corsetry through to the avant-garde freedom of Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, the exhibition stands testament to Western societies evolving ideas of beauty.
Undressed will continue until February 1, 2015.
For more information and tickets click here.