Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear

1950s Peter Pan 'Hidden Treasure' strapless bra

This April sees the launch of a new major exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and one which is of particular interest to me as a lingerie blogger and underwear historian. Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear is an updated version of a V&A exhibition that recently toured museums in Australia and it will cover over 260 years of underwear history – how it has protected, shaped and enhanced the body – through the display of 200 carefully selected objects.

1950s Peter Pan 'Hidden Treasure' strapless bra

1950s Peter Pan ‘Hidden Treasure’ strapless bra. Donated to London College of Fashion Archives by Lorraine Smith.

I am very excited to reveal that two of the bras I donated to the London College of Fashion Archives will be going on display at the V&A as part of the Undressed exhibition. The garments selected by the curator, Edwina Ehrman, are both excellent examples of 1950s innovation in bra design and technology, offering an insight into the options available to women who did not have the fashionable hourglass silhouette of the era.

The first is a Warner’s ‘Merry Widow’ cinch-bra – named after, but not featured in, the 1952 Lana Turner film of the same name – the design of which is heavily influenced by Victorian corsetry, and was intended to support and shape the figure in a similar but more flexible way. The other loan, which will also feature in the exhibition catalogue, is a Peter Pan ‘Hidden Treasure’ strapless overwire bra (pictured above) that was designed for women with a small or uneven bust, adding ‘extra fullness confidentially’.

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear runs from 16th April 2016 to 12th March 2017 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. I will, of course, be reviewing it for Rarely Wears Lipstick, but do also check for updates on the exhibition blog.

UPDATE: My review is now up on the site. Be warned… it’s rather long!

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Pique Lingerie, photography by Maria Vaorin