Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Video: Underwear in the V&A: From Corsets to Bullet-Bras and Back

Friday, April 10, 2015

Isabella reporting,

Corsets, stays, and underwear in general are always popular topics here on the blog, and the use of corseting to achieve a fashionable body shape is once again back in the news under the guise of "waist-training". In this video, Eleri Lynn, fashion curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, shares some of the highlights of the collection as well as her thoughts on the ever-changing ways that undergarments have been used to enhance, modify, and support the female body.

Ms. Lynn is also the author of one of my favorite books on historical underpinnings, Underwear: Fashion in Detail. The latest in the gorgeous series of fashion histories featuring the V&A's collections, this over-sized book is filled with page after page of beautiful images and stunning details. You'll find almost everything here, from a 16thc. boy's shirt to 18thc. stays to a 19thc. whalebone busk, Queen Victoria's bloomers to Calvin Klein's briefs. Highly recommended!


Lauriana said...

I own and love that book too!
The video is quite interesting and I loved that they also showed my favorite corset shop.
I don't quite agree with the end though, "underwear doesn't really do that job anymore, you're just supposed to be that shape".
In recent years, we've seen a new surge of shape wear, mostly using new fibers and new methods of knitting in shape without seams and it has become almost impossible to buy bras which don't have completely smooth foam cups (in small sizes, it's even hard to find just the normal foam cup, without extra push-up).
Yes, you are "supposed to be that shape" but cheating is still, or again, allowed and that "that shape" doesn't seem to include nipples.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Lauriana, I agree about the "supposed to be that shape" comment. There is still plenty of change possible through Lycra and strategic padding. I understand what she's saying, but it also doesn't take into account all the other ways that the body can now be modified (and permanently, too) through plastic surgery, implants, and injections.

Most modern women shake their heads over whalebone-enforced stays and corsets, but I can only imagine what women who wore those would say about breast implants, knee-to-armpit "shapers", or a pair of booty-enhancing skinny jeans....

Hels said...

I don't know what Horace Walpole was thinking when he had Strawberry Hill designed. But the blog nailed it, saying the Gothic style he chose to embrace "was not at all fashionable in the 18th Century, when grand homes tended to be constructed in the Palladian style". His structure was irregular and anachronistic.

Yet architectural historians don't need to comment very much on mainstream structures where everything is as expected. Only when someone creates a shocking structure do historians need to explain the decisions made. Cool post.

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