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"Undressed": The Victoria And Albert Museum’s Brief Encounters

A contemporary latex corset by House of Harlot, on display at the current
A contemporary latex corset by House of Harlot, on display at the current "Undressed" exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London
I had been waiting for some cheek and shock at "Undressed: A Brief History of Lingerie" at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. That title was already a pun, for men's "briefs" are included in the selection of underclothes, from Victorian "stays" (made at home from sewing whale bones together in vertical strips) to today's heat-treated vests from Uniqlo.
Detail of men’s cotton underpants, c. 1890s
Detail of men’s cotton underpants, c. 1890s
There is not much "wink, wink, nudge and giggle" at the show, which curator Edwina Ehrman has put together skilfully in the awkward space the Victoria and Albert (or V&A) allocates to its fashion exhibitions. For once, the condensed lower level, with its display windows cheek by jowl, has the right sense of intimacy for its subject.
Satin and ostrich feather bed jacket by Rosa Pichon, France, 1930-1935
Satin and ostrich feather bed jacket by Rosa Pichon, France, 1930-1935
A Bust Improver by Dickins and Jones, London 1910
A Bust Improver by Dickins and Jones, London 1910
Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Textiles and Fashion at the V&A, has drawn a deliberate line between downstairs and upstairs - the latter being the 20th-century period when underwear came out into the public arena, either as a deliberate sex toy or as part of fashion stripping down and revealing the body. The curator also includes casual pyjama-party home wear. 
Satin and lace corset, 1890-1895
Satin and lace corset, 1890-1895
Legendary corset-maker Mr Pearl’s creation for burlesque artist Dita Von Teese
Legendary corset-maker Mr Pearl’s creation for burlesque artist Dita Von Teese
Jean Paul Gaultier bustier dress, 1989

Jean Paul Gaultier bustier dress, 1989

Mary Quant nylon body stocking, late 1960s

Mary Quant nylon body stocking, late 1960s

Sequin snake stocking, c. 1910

Sequin snake stocking, c. 1910

Vivienne Westwood’s nude leggings for men, with mirrored fig leaf

Vivienne Westwood’s nude leggings for men, with mirrored fig leaf

The Peter Pan Hidden Treasure bra, from the 1950s
The Peter Pan Hidden Treasure bra, from the 1950s
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