This week the V&A will open its doors to a brand new exhibition – Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear. It explores underwear design from the 18th century to the present day and looks at the plethora of styles incorporating practicality, personality, sensory and fashion that protects and enhances the wearer’s body and enhances the viewer’s eye. The exhibition incorporates pieces from designers such as Stella McCartney, La Perla, Rigby & Peller, Spanx, Chamaux, Juicy Couture and Paul Smith. Aiming to explore the complex relationship between underwear, fashion and what constitutes the ‘ideal body’. It looks at methods of fabric, fit and cut emphasising issues of sex and morality. The exhibition features countless examples of corsets, boxer shorts, bras, hosiery and loungewear, complimented with photographs and advertisements of the era.

The exhibition explores the path of design that underwear has travelled along, that illustrates the wearer’s continued desired for comfort at home and a blur of the line between public and private. Examples include how underwear morphed into lounge garments, such as dressing gowns that were transformed into hostess gowns. Also featured is the more practical examples of underwear and how these are developed alongside changing availability and costs of fabrics throughout history.

Examples of lingerie made from luxury fabrics will be showcased at the exhibition and features to look out for are the exquisitely detailed pair of 1930s silk chiffon knickers decorated in lace with a hunting scene. Other items such as floral stockings from 1953 worn by Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII.

Corset 1890-1895 Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum London

Silk Satin, Lace and Whalebone Corset 1890-1895 Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum London

The exhibition explores the ongoing debate about corsets and their effect on the wearer’s body. A whalebone corset will be on display with a 19 inch circumference waist that is shown alongside an X-ray detailing the dramatic impact on the human body when wearing such a piece. On the contrast the show looks at maternity clothing and again how these are made with form that is designed to support the wearer. Highlights include a homemade bust bodice from the 1820s.

It is not all women that the exhibition focuses on either, for David Beckham has made an appearance amongst many others. His H&M briefs from 2012 focuses on design that showcases the importance of fit and there is also a pair of Y-fronts from the 1920s.

For all of you that are interested in style and lingerie should definitely check out this exhibition now.


Advertising Poster designed by Hans Schleger for the Charnaux Patent Corset Co. Ltd c. 1936 Courtesy of the Hans Schleger Estate

Advertising Poster designed by Hans Schleger for the Charnaux Patent Corset Co. Ltd c. 1936 Courtesy of the Hans Schleger Estate


Tickets are currently on sale. Admission £12 (Concessions available). V&A members go free. Advanced booking is recommended.

The exhibitor in the V&A Fashion Gallery runs from 16th April – 12 March 2017.


Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear Sponsored by Agent Provocateur & Revlon


Victoria & Albert Museum,

South Kensington

London, SW7 2RL

020 7942 2271




Open daily 10:00 – 17:45 and until 22:00 every Friday.


Cover image: 

Title: ‘Tamila’ lingerie set from the Agent Provocateur Soirée collection
Artist: Photographer: Sebastian Faena, Model: Eniko Mihalik
Date: S/S 2015