Exposed: A History of Lingerie charts how designers responded to feminist demands for better underwear over 300 years of ill-fitting, freeform, and racy lingerie.
“Burn up the corsets!” clothing reform activist Elizabeth Stuart Phelps wrote in 1873. “Make a bonfire of the cruel steel that has lorded it over the contents of the abdomen and thorax for so many years and heave a sigh of relief: for your ‘emancipation,’ I assure you, has from this moment begun.”
We have feminism to thank for making our underwear more comfortable, a truth that’s clearly reflected in Exposed: A History of Lingerie, now on view at the Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). The more than 70 pieces on view, from the 18th century to today—from girdles to the “no-bra” bras of the ‘60s—track the social and sexual mores of different eras through the lingerie that women wore. The show also reveals how designers (thank goodness) responded in very tactile ways to feminist demands for less oppressive underwear.