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Undressed: History of Underwear

Posted by Krissy, compiled from CNN, Victoria & Albert Museum on 15th May 2016

Sex, gender and morality: The unseen history of underwear
y Angelica Pursley and Holly Vear, for CNN
Updated 7:42 AM ET, Wed April 20, 2016

London (CNN) -  Why do we wear underwear? Whether for health, hygiene, sensory or fashionable purposes, the evolution of our undergarments is one that directly links with cultural changes in society.

Despite this our bras, underpants and boxer shorts are still regarded as "unmentionables," rarely discussed. Perhaps because even the most practical of pieces can't help but be imbued with eroticism.

A new exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum focuses on this unseen history.

The largest of its kind, with over 200 pieces from the 18th century to present day on display, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear examines the links between underwear and fashion and the ways that changes in fit, fabric and technology have often reflected society's attitudes to gender, sexuality and morality.

Arranged thematically with sections that focus on, for example, performance underwear (such as maternity or activewear), luxury lingerie and underwear in fashion, there's everything from bustles and corsets to thongs and yoga outfits.

There are pieces worn by Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Moss, Dita Von Teese and even Queen Victoria's mother.

The link to fashion is clear, with pieces by designers including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Paul Smith.

Creative director [of Agent Provacateur, a major sponsor of the exhibit] Sarah Shotton explains the role of underwear, and particularly lingerie, to women now and how the launch of this prominent exhibition at the V&A is indicative of society's wider attitudes.

"Only 25 years ago we didn't really talk about sex, people were quite prudish. Lingerie was more about your little secret. I think that is how it's changed. It's saying that this is something we should be celebrating."

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear is open from 16 April 2016 to 12 March 2017 at the Victoria and Albert Museum London