16. April - 12. March 2017 Victoria & Albert Museum London


The history of underwear design

What we war under our clothes, can be as fashionable and meaningful as our clothes themselves. Proof can be seen in the exhibition “Undressed” in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London with about 200 exhibits, which shows how underwear changed since the 18th century.

While underwear was supposed to be mostly comfortable and hygienic in the 18th century, it became more and more erotically charged as time went on. New materials helped with finding new functions for underwear. Nowadays we wear hip trainers and so called “buttlifter”, which is bottom lifting underwear supposed to activate fat burning. In earlier days, women – until the development of the bra at the beginning of the 20th century – wore uncomfortable corsets to stabilize the chest, back then produced from whalebone, or rigid crinolines for the fashion concept of the hourglass figure. Today, the trend goes back to comfortable fabrics, but especially to organic and sustainable fabrics like bamboo.

But underwear triggered hypes over the years. The brand Sunspel brought the first boxer shorts to England in 1948, and virtually triggered a revolution. Shorts became extremely popular. The same with the thong, which was especially popular in the 1990s and was often seen – especially since during that time low-rise trousers became fashionable and offered a more or less wanted look to the underwear underneath. Today it is no longer unusual to show the underwear completely unembarrassed. Underwear, first seen as functional and then as wicked, has become a fashion accessory. The exhibition illustrates that with a variety of designer creations which are worn by models and celebrities, as well as with highlights like David Beckham’s underwear with a Y-front.

The exhibition “Undressed: A brief History of Underwear” shows, in any case, not only an entertaining collection of peculiar clothes from the last centuries, but, with its many exhibits from the collection of the museum, also tells an exciting fashion history, which always shows the close link to the social and cultural development.

The exhibition can be visited from April 16th, 2016 to March 12th, 2017 in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

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