Hanky Panky is honored to be included in the Missouri History Museum’s current lingerie-themed costume exhibition, Underneath It All. This exhibition explores the undergarments required to create the fashionable silhouettes of the late eighteenth through twenty-first centuries.
As a lingerie designer and student fashion historian, I was thrilled to hear about this show. I find the foundations used to create the fashionable silhouette to be one of the most interesting aspects of fashion. And tracing the changing ideals of what a fashionable body is supposed to look like is, to me, one of the purest ways of studying the underlying forces of fashion. Fashion has always distorted the body in one way or another to make it “more attractive,” within the lens of its time. These largely unattainable ideals are reflected in how people dress—to create the illusion of whatever the current ideal shape happens to be.
As I am unable to travel to St. Louis, the curatorial staff at the Missouri History Museum were kind enough to send these fabulous photographs of the show. If you live in the area, I heartily encourage you to check it out. The exhibition is up through January 27, 2013.
Bustles and cage crinoline showing the development of silhouette from the late 1850s through the 1880s.
At left, you can see the firmly shaped hourglass corset of the 1890s, in the center, the softly curving silhouette of the 1930s, and at right, the straight, boyish silhouette of the 1920s.
The softly curved silhouette of the 1930s was achieved with an elasticized foundation garment worn beneath bias-cut silk or rayon slip.
At right, you can see the high, wide-set breasts, exaggerated shoulders and narrow hips of the late 1930s through the mid-1940s. At left, is the corseted and crinolined “New Look” silhouette of the late 1940s through the early 1960s.
Here, we can see the slender, youthful ideal of the 1960s embodied in wildly colorful underpinnings which provide minimal shaping.
At left you can see the “natural look” of the early 1970s. Minimal undergarments were required to achieve this silhouette, and bras were designed to offer support while maintaining a “no bra” look.
At right, you can see the exaggerated shoulders of the 1980s, in the Hanky Panky shoulder pad camisole, designed by Gale Epstein in 1979. The left shows contemporary shapewear styles, and at center, is the Hanky Panky low rise thong paired with adhesive bra cups, representing the tiny, “invisible” underthings of the twenty-first century.