We were excited to learn that a new exhibit visiting the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York is displaying one of our favorite subjects: shapewear, as it has been used through history.
In modern times we have manufactured materials that are extremely effective at helping women achieve that timeless look: the hourglass figure. But did you know that the ideal shape has been culturally influenced and fashioned for hundreds of years? The exhibit entitled "Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of the Silhouette" explores the different ways women (and men!) have been reshaping their figures since the 1600s.
Curator Denis Bruna says in the Wall Street Journal, "The body is a reflection of the society that presided over its creation." This is evident in the history of shapewear. For example, wealthy women at the turn of the seventeenth century sought to make their figures look like an inverted cone from the waist up using multiple linings of stiff linen. Nobody naturally looked like a cone, but this shape of silhouette represented beauty at the time.
As the centuries passed, the "cone" transformed, but generally the waist stayed narrow and the posture stayed very straight. In the 1700s a flattened chest and a V-shaped torso was in vogue, made possible with whalebone stays.
By the 1800s, women's shapewear had evolved to the corset, which stayed popular for a century. The bustle went in and out of style, giving women a voluminous lift at the backs of their skirts.
The twentieth century and onwards has seen a variety of styles, including the rectangular style of the flapper, the girdle and bullet bras following World War II, up to current day in which body shapes are largely influenced by diet, exercise and shapewear constructed from high-tech material.
It's a fascinating journey through time to take, and this exhibition beautifully displays what is indeed a very intimate history.
Have you seen the exhibit or do you plan on visiting it? We'd love to hear what you think of it – let us know via our social media channels! Catch it while it's available, until July 26 this year.