I always like to end a visit to a exhibition by walking round swiftly one last time and choosing an object to take home. It doesn’t have to remotely practical – this is Fantasy-land, after all, and I can have anything I like. In the V & A’s exhibition Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear I was spoilt for choice.
Negligée in silk satin and Chantilly lace, 2012
Eventually, I decided that I just had to have Carine Gilson’s seductive negligée, as worn by French actress Bérénice Marlohe playing the femme fatale Sévérine in the 2012 James Bond Film, Skyfall. It’s an absolutely stunning confection in silk satin with Chantilly lace and I deeply coveted it.
Princess petticoat/camisole, 1905
I was also rather taken with the Princess petticoat, dated 1905 (named after Princess Alexandra of Denmark, wife of Edward VII). It’s a combination of petticoat and camisole made of lace and ribbon and it’s pretty. I decided that it’s not always appropriate to do ‘seductive’, especially if you’re royalty; but, sometimes, a really pretty piece of underwear can give one confidence and be just what one needs.
Nightdress and apricot feather boa, 1930s
And how could I possibly resist the delicious 1930s silk and silk crepe duchesse appliqué nightdress with the apricot feather boa above? I love it!
Display figure and advertising card for Y-front pants, 1950s
And then I came across this. The advertising card by the figure’s feet says: THE ONE AND ONLY Y-FRONT. The standing model is deeply bronzed and the message is obvious: Look how fit, attractive and athletic I am. It made me giggle.
Instantly, a scene popped into my head.
Y-front Man to Negligée Lady, admiringly: I say! You look absolutely topping! Would you like to come up to my attic and see my 200 piece 1950s Hornby train set?
(For some reason, Y-front Man seems to have turned into Bertie Wooster.)
Negligée Lady: Quelle horreur!
Will he have better luck with the Princess Petticoat Lady?
Y-front Man to Princess Petticoat Lady: I say! You look jolly pretty. Would you like to come up to my attic and see my Hornby train set?
Petticoat Lady: Can I play with it?
Y-front Man: No! But you can watch me make it go round the tracks.
Petticoat Lady: No, thanks.
Top three photos by Elizabeth Hawksley
Bottom photo of the Y-front model courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum
The V & A Exhibition Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear runs until 12 March, 2017. Sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Revlon. www.vam.ac.uk/undressed
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