Undies Through The Ages: A Brief History Of Lingerie

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From the whalebone corset to the Wonderbra to the extravagant Angel wings on the Victoria's Secret catwalk, what we wear underneath our clothes has changed vastly over the years. Click through for a guided tour through popular styles in lingerie history.


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Associate Digital Features Editor

Today, the word "lingerie" may conjure images of a bronzed and bed-headed Candice Swanepoel in a push-up bra, but that hasn't always been the case. It was only through technological developments, changes in women's bodies and shifting tastes that the rigid steel corsets our great-great-great-great-grandmothers wore evolved into the perky lace thongs and pretty bras that stock our shelves today.

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology chronicles this evolution in their latest exhibit, "Exposed: A History of Lingerie", and last week I stopped by to check out the wares, which wind their way from a tightly-laced pale blue stay, or sleeved corset, from the 1770s to a luxe and lacy cut-out set by contemporary designer Chantal Thomass. I also asked associate curator of accessories, Colleen Hill, who organized the show, to elaborate on some of the key developments in the history of intimate apparel.

After all, our underthings, too, are subject to trends—just think of the made-to-be-displayed bedazzled g-strings that girls hoisted above their Juicy Couture track pants a decade ago, or the petticoats that gave Christian Dior's New Look designs their exaggerated volume. The pieces had practical purposes, to be sure, but the whims of fashion were also clearly at work.

Click through the slideshow above for a look back at some of the best, worst and most revealing trends in lingerie history. Fair warning, though: depending on your boss' stance towards the #freethenipple movement, this may be NSFW.

"Exposed: A History of Lingerie" is open through November 15 at the Museum at FIT.

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