The mystique of lingerie and how it strategically conceals and reveals the female form is the centerpiece of “Exposed: A History of Lingerie” at the Museum at FIT.
Curated by Colleen Hill, who serves as MFIT’s associate curator of accessories and exhibition organizer, the exhibit traces intimate apparel from the 18th century to present day and runs through Nov. 15.
Featuring more than 70 beautifully crafted undergarments, sleepwear, loungewear and robes from the museum’s permanent collection, each piece illustrates key shifts in fashion, such as changes in silhouettes and how the ideals of propriety and modesty have changed in the past 250 years. Also important is the evolution of fabrics and the advancement of technology in intimate apparel design, which ranges from cotton, wool, lace and silk to rayon, polyester, nylon and Lycra spandex.
“Many of these pieces have never been shown,” said Hill as she described a key piece — a sky-blue silk sleeve English corset, circa 1770.
Many lingerie and corsetry pieces are flanked by dresses and gowns of the period, showing the fashion link between intimates and apparel. As example, a Fifties nylon nightgown by Iris, an upscale sleepwear label, is shown alongside a Fifties evening gown by Claire McCardell in a similar floral-printed sheer fabric and silhouette.
A 2007 evening gown by Peter Soronen with a corset bodice is flanked by two 19th-century corsets, one of bright-red silk, the other of peacock-blue silk.
The corsets are so petite they appear to have been designed for a child.
“These were about 00 sizes,” said Hill, noting that a number of corsets during that period were constrictive and unforgiving.
She pointed to a whalebone busk from the mid-19th century — an accessory that was inserted at the center-front of a corset and served to straighten a wearer’s torso. The busks were personalized through carving and painting, represented social status and were given as gifts.
“They certainly prevented one from slouching,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hill examined the varying silhouette changes, which became softer, looser and more forgiving as the 19th century approached, such as an embroidered peignoir with tassels and Chinese-inspired frog closures and Mandarin collar from the 1870s. The development of chemical dyes contributed to the popularity of colorful long petticoats which were worn over simple white petticoats, while looser-fitting 20th-century tea gowns could be worn with or without a corset at home, explained Hill
A proto-brassiere or “bust supporter” from 1905 shows ingenuity of design, but not necessarily the comfort factor, with wide straps that can be adjusted like a belt with notches.
The exhibition runs through the Flapper Girl looks and soft bandeaus of the Twenties, the elegant bias-cut styles of the Thirties and the popularity of rayon in the Forties, when nylon use was relegated to the war effort for things like parachutes, not stockings.
“Rayon robes in the Forties became very important for women to wear in case there was an air raid and they had to run outside,” explained Hill.
A key item from the Fifties is guaranteed to generate curiosity: “Gay Deceivers” by Warner’s — cotton-filled falsies of rayon satin that were stuffed into bra cups to create a larger bosom. A focus of the Sixties and Seventies is a baby doll by Vanity Fair, a printed body stocking by Emilio Pucci for Formfit Rogers and an animal-print bra and panty by Rudi Gernreich for Exquisite Form. Over-the-top glamour of the Eighties is captured in a metallic-thread gown by Fernando Sanchez that served as both loungewear and eveningwear. Also on hand is an original Wonderbra from 1994, when the fixation with push-up bras and busty necklines took off.
The exhibition concludes with examples of high-end contemporary lingerie by such designer brands as Jean Yu, Chantal Thomass, La Perla and Agent Provocateur.
The takeaway is a revealing mix of past and present and how lingerie continues to redefine the relationship between dress and the body.
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)