Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Unmentionables: Foundations of Fashion"

In the spirit of embracing my move back to Memphis I am seeking outlets of history and fashion history in my dear ole hometown to not only continue my own education of the subjects but also to learn more about the place in which I was born and raised. So it was my delight to learn that The Pink Palace was opening a display of fashion undergarments titled "Unmentionables: Foundations of Fashion." As every other broke post-grad does in this situation, I looked up when the museum offers free admission :) So last Tuesday in between 1-5 I trekked over to check it out. (I will be writing a separate post about the general history of The Pink Palace and the other textile and garment pieces I encountered while on my visit there.)

The emphasis of the display is on silhouette and how fashion's history has been defined greatly by shape and the undergarments that create said shapes. The display includes 12 examples of women's undergarments spanning from the 1880s to the 1960s and 4 examples of men's undergarments. The display also includes 6 women's dresses, including one wedding dress, that exemplify the type of garment that would be worn with their counterpart understructure, all spanning from the 1880s to the 1960s. The study of silhouette has always been an area of interest of mine, especially in relation to corsetry and the women's movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I complain when a belt or a pair of pants is too tight so I can only imagine the discomfort that these women dealt with daily because of tight corsetry. On the other hand, today's woman will walk around in 4 inch heels all day giving herself blisters all for the sake of beauty and fashion, so is there really that big of difference? All I can conclude is that I am thankful that it is no longer considered in vogue to wear those type of garments under my clothes everyday and to thank designers like Chanel, Poiret, and Fortuny for setting the trend on a mainstream level in the 1910s and women like Ameilia Bloomer, Annie Oakley, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for starting the trend among women at the grassroots level in the 19th century.

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