Friday, March 12, 2010

The Evolution of Underwear

Not all museums are buttoned-up. Some have snaps. And hooks. And little satin bows. In Undercover, a new exhibit at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, the evolution of women’s undergarments is chronicled across the past century, from practical girdles and anti-cellulite knickers to Wonderbras and the finest La Perlas. Displayed on the (remarkably unmodest) mannequins are designs by Stella McCartney, Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, and Elle Macpherson, who helped unveil the exhibit. “I have been passionate about underwear since I was a little girl,” Macpherson said at the exhibit’s opening.

From the shape-defining to the risqué, the history of women’s unmentionables in many ways parallels the history of women's role in society. “Developments in underwear have moved with the social and economic times,” the exhibit’s curator Alison McCann notes, “and this exhibition charts how female underwear has evolved over the past century from a functional item to a thing of beauty.” The beautiful things in Undercover (which runs until September 27) include an original Merry Widow corset inspired by Lana Turner, a stunning gown made from bras and briefs by designers Vin & Omi, and a La Perla bra encrusted with Swarovski crystals.

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