The FIT Museum in New York presents Exposed: A History of Lingerie, an exhibition which traces developments in intimate apparel from the 18th century to the present. The exhibition’s timeline also traces the blurring of the lines between underwear and outerwear.
There is an unending obsession with underwear, for the wearer, for the onlooker, for the manufacturer and for the student. Women’s lingerie is representative of so many different facets of the lady who wears them, how she wants to be perceived, what mood she’s in, but also underwear is a technological feat, a bra being not much different from a bridge in terms of engineering, and of course, lingerie is an important subject in terms of sociological history and the history of gender, as well as fashion.
Exposed features over 70 of the most delicate, luxurious, and immaculately crafted objects from the museum’s permanent collection, many of which have never before been shown. Each piece illustrates key developments in fashion, such as changes in silhouette, shifting ideals of propriety, and advancements in technology.
The earliest object on view is a sleeved corset (then called stays), circa 1770, made from sky-blue silk with decorative ivory ribbons that crisscross over the stomach. Stiffened with whalebone, 18th-century corsets straightened the back and enhanced the breasts by pushing them up and together. While they were essential to maintaining both a woman’s figure and her modesty, corsets also held an erotic allure. The chronological order of the exhibition them moves through airy 1920s garments to full petticoats which enhanced the New Look created by Christian Dior in the 1950s and then of course to modern day underwear.
The exhibition also explores the concept of underwear-as-outerwear that is most commonly associated with the 1980s. The curator however intends to show that lingerie has long served as inspiration for fashion garments pairing objects that underscore that connection.
Exposed: A History of Lingerie is organized by Colleen Hill. The exhibition runs from June 3 through to November 15, 2014. Fashion and Textile History Gallery at The Museum at FIT.
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