Thursday, July 24, 2014

Photo: History of underwear goes at Bendigo Art Gallery

Queen Victoria's underwear from the 1860s on display at a Bendigo exhibition. (ABC News)
It is not often old undies are exhibited anywhere other than the hills hoist, but the Bendigo Art Gallery is making a grand display of underwear that dates back more than three centuries.
It is hosting an exhibition called Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion, which focuses on the history of underwear over the last 350 years and how it has shaped our bodies.

It is another first for the gallery, which has hosted a number of popular exhibitions in recent months.
One of the highlights of the show is the underwear of Queen Victoria from the 1860s.

Photo: A bra dress by fashion house Moschino designed in 1988. (Supplied: Bendigo Art Gallery)

The drawers are one of 80 pieces, ranging from corsets to modern day underwear and will be on display over the next three months.

Curator Karen Quinlan said Queen Victoria's drawers are one of the more interesting pieces.
"It was one of the first pieces I wanted to see, it's a bit of a favourite," Ms Quinlan said.

"They're very comfortable, practical, I think she was a practical woman and obviously with all of that skirt she had to wear and everything else the loose draws made sense."

There is a rare metal corset on display, which appears uncomfortable but was used for orthopaedic reasons.

A history of evolving body shapes

The curator of Textiles and Fashion at the Victorian Albert Museum, Edwina Ehrman, said the show documents not only how the undergarments have changed, but also how body shapes have evolved.

"The concept of how much flesh you show and changed body image, what was preferred in the past was a full bosom, a tiny waist and quite full hips and occasionally big bottoms," Ms Ehrman said.

Photo: Model Bridget Bardot wearing lingerie designed by Robert French in the 1960s. (Supplied: Bendigo Art Gallery)

"Today it's very much the youthful fit energetic body, which we achieve through diet and through exercise."

Ms Quinlan said the exhibition is not just about sexy garments, but also how we chose to reveal aspects of our body or conceal.

"If you think back to your great aunties and the sorts of corsetry they were wearing as a little child, I remember looking at it and thinking how weird it was," she said.

"Even today people are still wearing at times very severe foundation garments, so why do we do it?
"Because we want a certain kind of shape and this traces that shape that history and I think that's important."

The show features garments from some of the world's best designers, including Jean Paul Gautier, Vivienne Westwood and Christian Dior.

The exhibition will begin on July 19 and will run until October 27, before it moves to other states


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