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18 May 2016

Undressed

The sun has been shining in London! We've had a glorious couple of weeks {albeit with a few showers here and there - well it is Britain, come on} and it appears that summer is finally on its way.

One of my favourite places to soak up some sunshine in the city is the John Madejski Garden at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and so as the weather improved, my grandmother and I found ourselves taking a trip to the V&A one afternoon.

Our timing couldn't have been better, as we realised on arrival that a very special exhibition is currently running...

Silk satin, lace and whalebone corset, 1890 – 5, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear has taken London by storm, with its fascinating, frank and somewhat humorous account of  underwear through the ages, from the 18th-century right up until now {even David Beckham's H&M pants are there.}

Honestly, we didn't quite know what to expect as we stepped inside.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Brixton Boyz, Jennie Baptiste, lith print, 2001, © Jennie Baptise, Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We began with the plain, practical designs of the 18th-century; simple shift dresses for women, and undershirts for men - a nice, tame start. But as we continued along the displays, we were exposed to the full range of lingerie and underwear from the last few hundred years - literally surrounded by bras and knickers!

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

These aren't just any old undies; they're beautiful pieces of art, from the recent luxury designs of Rigby & Peller, to silk chiffon knickers from the 1930s.

Detail, Silk chiffon knickers, possibly Hitrovo, 1930s, © The Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

What started out as a light-hearted tour soon became more educational, as the exquisite skills of corsetry were unveiled, and the evolution from simple 'stay' to corset. The shock of seeing maternity and nursing corsets was one which affected us both, as you could see the restricting shape produced by the tight laces around a pregnancy bump.   

Having examined the ground floor in great depth, we made our way upstairs to find out more about the interesting relationship between underwear and fashion.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It was amazing to see how our favourite designers have incorporated various elements of underclothes from history to create striking pieces, from Elie Saab's stunning lavender lace dress {worn by Mila Kunis to the Academy Awards in 2011} to the trompe l’oeil corset dress designed by Berardi and worn by Gwyneth Paltrow.

The exhibition leaves no stone unturned, with a variety of nightwear to feast your eyes on too.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

^  My grandmother and I were slightly taken aback by that number second in from the right...

Undressed is something so very different to shows I have been to before - as a huge fan of the Fashion section of the V&A {I thoroughly recommend just popping into this part of the museum if you have an hour to kill in South Kensington}, this was a fantastic treat, and a lot more thought-provoking and exciting than I was expecting. 

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Revlon, runs from 16 April 2016 – 12 March 2017. www.vam.ac.uk/undressed
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