Last week the V&A politely declined the kind offer of a collection of Margaret Thatcher’s clothing. Following on from the news of the museum’s understandable decision, it’s announced its next exhibition. Titled Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, the show promises to “tell the story of underwear design from the 18th century to the present day, considering the practical and personal, sensory and fashionable and exploring underwear’s roles of protecting and enhancing the body.”
However the exhibits are a little more unexpected, such as a women’s pink Juicy Couture tracksuit from 2004 and a pair of “long cotton drawers” worn by Queen Victoria’s mother. Other exhibits include a sheer sweet-wrapper-like dress designed by Liza Bruce which was famously worn by Kate Moss (see below), as well as iconic designs by Antonio Berardi, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Elsa Schiaparelli, Elie Saab, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano (for Givenchy haute couture) and Vivienne Westwood.
This exhibition isn’t just a surface-level survey of underwear design, but a much deeper exploration into how the cut, fit, fabric of undergarments can reflect the cultural zeitgeist and broader ideas surrounding gender, sex and morality. A corset made from paper during World War One, for example, is a vivid depiction of wartime austerity, while a pair of gender neutral briefs by Acne demonstrates our contemporary rejection of conventional ideas of masculinity and femininity.
‘Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear’ runs at Victoria and Albert Museum in London April 16, 2016-March 12, 2017.
Follow Ted Stansfield on Twitter here @ted_stansfield