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.
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)
Breaking News: @hedislimane joins @celine as its new artistic, creative and image director. One of fashion’s preeminent image-makers and trendsetters, Slimane is to join the LVMH brand on Feb. 1 and unveil his first fashion proposition for men and women next September during Paris Fashion Week. It marks a major homecoming for Slimane, who cemented his reputation – and influenced men’s tailoring for more than a decade – as the designer of Dior Homme between 2000 and 2007. He went on to reinvent and ignite the house of Yves Saint Laurent, which he rechristened Saint Laurent, between 2012 and 2016 – all the while maintaining a close relationship with the Arnault family, which controls LVMH and Dior. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
“Personally I believe the Eighties have been the richest and more vivacious period for international fashion,” Giorgio Armani said when asked what his favorite decade of fashion is. It was a moment of disruption and experimentation and only thinking back to the first years of that decade is always an emotion for me, for what they have meant to me and my work.” The influence is clear in @giorgioarmani spring 2018 collection, pictured here, which was full of bright colors and unexpected prints. Read more about which decades designers loved most on WWD.com #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
For Lady Gaga’s only Italian show on her “Joanne World Tour,” the singer wore a range of @versace_official outfits. The standout piece: this custom-made bodysuit inspired by the brand’s spring 2018 collection. #wwdfashion (RG: @ladygaga)
@_camillaruth_ is expanding on the wellness-craze concept with @westbourne – a new NYC restaurant that’s both a healthy-minded café as well as a business that gives back to the community. Marcus works with the Robin Hood foundation to give back to The Door, a non-profit providing youth development services, and also hires employees through The Door. Read our full interview with Marcus on giving back through food on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)