Thursday, January 11, 2018

Day 261 The Frick-“Undressed” -An Underwear Exhibition

In this empty- nest period, I have made experiencing art a staple in my life (see Days 88 and 188) but I never  envisioned that I would be viewing undergarments as the subject of an art exhibit! The Frick Art and History Center always brings interesting art shows to this town and Undressed, about the design of underwear, seemed too unique to pass up especially when The Frick Art and History Center is the exclusive North American venue for this exhibition organized by London’s Victoria & Albert Museum!   When you think about it, an undergarment is the closest thing to our body and wearing "granny panties" or "a lacy something" from Victoria Secret says something about you, so why wouldn't  the evolution of underwear design say something about our society?

Big turn out for Undressed 
 We all seem to be fascinated with fashion. Just look how much money we spend on clothing and even how much many of us are willing to spend on it when it's made by "a name designer ". Although I am not one to buy anything because of a name, I am intrigued by history and Undressed illustrated how underwear reflected the change or surprisingly the unchanged, views in our society about body image and  beauty.

History of underwear -left is the band used by men
The 4 rooms in the show started with "The history of underwear" displaying  undergarments from 17th century. Corsets that squeezed a woman's anatomy  produced a desired small waist even if it resulted in health issues and fainting for women. I did not know that men had similar bands to hold in their stomachs. The "man band" did not prevail  over time. Too bad because I know some men that would benefit from using one. Yet today, women still seem to be  trying to get that small waist as illustrated in modern burlesque artist, Dita Von Teese’s  sparkling gold corset garment  which was displayed in the collection.  

the cage 

In the 1800's women wore “cages” made of ribs to accent the swaying of their hips and bustles to accent the buttock. In fact, cloth puffs and metal extenders were used to produce the desired backside protruding silhouette in women. This all looked quite uncomfortable but when you think about it, women today still go to extremes with the use of silicone butt injections. Societal pressures for women to have a certain  “desired” outward appearance really has not changed much.

The show had sections dedicated to the evolution of the bra and the girdle. It was not until 1930 that undergarments separated the breasts like the modern bra. Today we have the push- up bra but there was  even a “bra extender” in 1913!
Undergarments as Temptation and Relaxation

Undressed illustrated how underwear for both men and women, was designed for athletes, staying warm, relaxation and temptation.  I enjoyed viewing the 1860 goose down petticoat, ornate silk stocking from the World Fair, and the section on undergarments used as outerwear. My favorite piece in the show was of course the Sicilian crafted  2013 basket dress from designer Dolce and Gabbana which reminded me of the  "cage".

Dolce and Gabbana 

I sure  underestimated (no pun intended) the beauty, craftsmanship and thought provocation of underwear.  It does say something about us!  

(Undressed  at the Frick Art and History Center runs until January 14, 2018, tickets  here)

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