Published by V&A Publishing
Published to accompany the V&A’s latest exhibition about the history of underwear, this catalogue perfectly captures the essence of the show.
The book is split into four chapters – Hygiene and Comfort, Shapeshifters, Lingerie & Hosiery and Revelation & Transformation. Much of the book is given over to the photographs and here you get to see a lot of the pieces on display in much finer detail (rather than behind glass as at the exhibition) and sometimes from a different viewpoint.
From the beginnings of underwear as fulfilling a hygienic purpose, each chapter details how its key functions have changed over time. You come full circle by the final chapter where you still have underwear worn as it was originally conceived, for hygiene, support and structure but as “the substructure of the fashion of the day”, these fundamental purposes have, over time, been reinterpreted and redeveloped through fashion and changes in society’s view to give it an aesthetic and genre of its own. You do not see some of the more exciting pieces in the book and so would have to go to the exhibition if you want to see Dita Von Teese’s 18-inch waisted Mr Pearl corset or the fantastic Dress and Knickers designed by John Galliano for Givenchy, which is so much more exquisite in the flesh but this catalogue will give you a concise overview of the progression of underwear from the 1750s and bring you right up to the present day.