If you will be in or around London this summer, consider stopping in at the Fashion and Textile Museum for a unique lingerie exhibit. The exhibit, which began June 12 and will run until September 27, looks at lingerie’s shifting role in fashion and culture. The exhibit examines everything from the first bra to Christian Dior’s “New Look” to contemporary designs from La Perla and Stella McCartney.
Curator Alison McCann has worked with lingerie merchandising and product-development for 14 years with brands like Pleasure State and Calvin Klein Underwear. She begins the timeline with Mary Phelps Jacob, who patented the first bra in 1915. During World War I materials were scarce, and women had to find ways to cut costs. “The resources going into the corset manufacture were in decline, so they had to look at other methods of undercover. … A bra is far more cost-effective to produce than a corset,” McCann said.
The exhibit explores lingerie construction through themes such as enhancement, control, and research and innovation. Lingerie’s growth spurt between the 1980s and today is studied, featuring brands like Triumph, Rigby and Peller, Spanx, The Lake & Stars, and Victoria’s Secret. It looks at the celebrity influence on the lingerie scene, how underwear is advertised and where its place is in our culture and our media.
“Now there isn’t one particular style or shape that is the real defining thing,” McCann said of the contemporary lingerie featured. “It’s about bra wardrobing: having the right bra for the right outfit. It can be the case of having five bras in your wardrobe to accommodate the shape changes.”