by Annette Kellow

I have always been a huge fan of corsets and vintage inspired shape wear so I was excited to view the Victoria and Albert's new Undressed exhibition, kindly invited by designer royalty herself, Fifi Chachnil.

The historical fashion of underwear has often been kept firmly under wraps and since it's introduction, the names and styles have changed dramatically.
For the first time in history underwear of many era's takes centre stage as the museum's curator, Edwina Ehrman illustrates a collection that spans from the Regency period to the modern day.

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On arriving we were whisked into the show and discovered that originally men were the first to wear underwear (which looked sort of like a nappy if I'm honest!), whilst women's first under garments were bustles and muslin petticoats.

The show is loosely chronological and focuses mainly on pieces from Europe and American culture. My favourite cabinet was the one that held different styles of corsets, from Victorian hunting attire to more modern waist cinchers. They even has an x ray of a women's ribs in 1908 which were severely squished! And it was well known that women sometimes fainted from the tight lacing.

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I was very interested in the way women's shapes have changed, influencing a different style of underwear for each period. Sometimes it was favoured to make the waist smaller, sometimes bigger, the 20's being kept relatively waif and the 50's more voluptous..

My magpie eye went into overdrive when I spied a corset made by the Parisian designer Mr. Pearl for Dita Von Teese's vintage show. It was covered in hundreds of Swarovski, which sparkled under the lights and showed his craftsmanship of intricate labour.

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Other famous items included Kylies showgirl costume and Kate Moss's revealing silver dress which was worn at an Elite Models party in 1993.

The exhibition is sponsored by Agent Provocateur and also shows some of their more recent pieces, including vintage style stockings and shape wear. This exhibition is perfect for fans of fashion and history and so good we went around twice to view!

Vam.ac.uk