Our Brief Review Of 'Undressed At The V&A'

Posted by David Moore on

What great timing for the V&A to host their Undressed exhibition...
...I'm saying this since the trend to wear underwear as outer wear is one of the biggest high street trends for Spring / Summer 2016.
The show takes you on a journey back in time to around 1750, covering both ladies & mens under garments from huge frilly bloomers through to more basic base layers and  explains in great detail what drove the development & evolution of our most private attire.
Interestingly we're told how it should be worn and whether it was appropriate for any of our underwear to be shown publicly throughout the ages.
The corset exhibits are to 'die for', and it must have felt like you were when wearing some of them, the tighter the better was no doubt the order of the day as ladies competed, much as they still do to this day, for that perfect figure...ouch!
Obviously it was all worth the effort, the styling of some of these instruments of torture is just exquisite and the detail mind boggling but to understand it, a ladies reputation and social standing rested on wether you wore your corset properly!
The exhibition moves on through the decades displaying many staple items including vintage stockings, slips and of course the famous or probably more apt, infamous Y-Front underpant, enough said about that!
Also represented are the less fashion led items such as maternity wear, with a breastfeeding gown from 1820, a mastectomy bra, which is another great piece, proving that the exhibition addresses other issues and isn't all about glamour & sex.
A particular favourite garment, which made me smile was a 'Shelter Suit' from WWII which was essentially a jumpsuit that you quickly pulled over your nightclothes when the air raid signal sounded. I couldn't help but wonder if this may have been the forerunner to today's onesies?
Surprisingly the loungewear section isn't all contemporary and mainly covers 20th century lounging pieces and clothes inspired by underwear. There's an eye popping Dolce & Gabbana crinoline style dress and a 1930's black velvet pyjama jumpsuit that would look fabulous even if worn today, style never goes out of fashion as they say.
In contrast there are far less elegant exhibits devoted to the 'falling down trouser' trend which, as we all know (unfortunately) was / is all about showing off your Calvin Klein's and then on to the thong which was popularly worn under your Juicy Couture bubblegum pink tracksuit..ahem ...totally fabulous back in day some thought but compared to the other exhibits from more sophisticated eras, in hindsight I can assure you they were clearly not! ;-)
The Agent Provocateur video is a great watch, giving you a sneek peek behind the scenes and also the Carine Gilson video giving an insight as to how lace appliqué is sewn & hand trimmed on her silk nightgowns in order to create beautiful, timeless pieces.
The Undressed exhibition is like a journey through time, evoking memories or even glimpses of bygone times and then bringing in the present, i can highly recommend it and even if you're not an underwear geek like me, hopefully you'll see why it's worth making a fuss about.
Paulette Roberts
Creative Director, Headen & Quarmby (UK) Ltd.


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