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‘High Line’ CC41 Cotton Bra By Kestos, c. 1941, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

The Kestos lingerie brand has long been one of my favourite in the grand scheme of lingerie history; the ‘Kestos’ bra is an iconic design that arguably revolutionized women’s underwear, with the same silhouette produced from the 1920s through to the 1950s. Even today, contemporary intimates designers regularly reference the striking design lines.

Underwear history as a general rule is scarce, with few resources available. Many of the sources and references available are often poorly researched, or offer straight up misinformation. This can make it extremely challenging to research particular objects or design figures. Indeed, for many years, I was under the impression that Rosamond Lilian Klin, the designer behind the iconic Kestos bra, was of a woman of Polish origin that resided in London.

The reason that I thought this was that a number of sources referenced Klin as being Polish; whilst Wikipedia and personal blogs can hardly be trusted as accurate sources, there were also a number of museums and archives. When I first began to write up Kestos pieces for The Underpinnings Museum, I was under the impression that this information was correct.

Silk Crepe With Lace Appliqué Girdle By Kestos, c. 1930s, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

Over the years, I wanted to learn more about Rosamond L Klin. As a British lingerie designer of Polish origin, I couldn’t help but be curious about such an iconic designer sharing a vaguely similar heritage! Yet every source that I found that referenced this Polish heritage… led nowhere. I started to question the validity of this information. Eventually, after many hours of trawling international patent databases, birth and death registers, the London electoral register and more… I had answers. Rosamond Lilian Klin was not Polish, but firmly British… born in London to British parents. Below is a summary of my extensive research.

Rosamond Lilian Klin was born as Rosamond Lilian Thompson, to parents Agnes Lilian Thompson and Stephen Thompson in Marylebone, on 7th November 1899. She had a younger brother, George Stephen Thompson. She married George Holden Kennedy (born 15 January 1895) in April 1920. The pair had two sons, John Benson Kennedy (born 1921) and Michael Benson Kennedy (born 1923), both now deceased.

‘High Line’ CC41 Cotton Bra By Kestos, c. 1941, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

The patent for the iconic ‘Kestos’ bra was first filed on November 25th 1926, with the patent granted in 1928 in Great Britain, the USA, France, Germany and Belgium. The British patent document can be viewed here.  

Rosamond married for the second time in July 1934 to Leo Klin (also known as Lev Mikhailovich Klin born 11 March 1887), a painter originally from Volkovysk, Belarus, who studied in Odessa, Ukraine, and St Petersburg, Russia, before moving to London in 1920.

‘Gain And Retain The Kestos Figure’ Advertisement, 1931, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Musuem. Illustration by Leo Klin.

In the 1935 England & Wales Register, the pair are registered as the managing directors of Kestos Ltd., with Leo Klin’s occupation also listed as ‘Artist (painter)’. Numerous Kestos brand advertisements featured the artwork of Leo Klin; the earliest example in our collection that contains his artwork and signature dates to 1931, 3 years before the pair married.

Rosamond Lilian Klin passed away in London on 26 June, 1949, aged 49. The Kestos brand continued to be run by her husband Leo, but it is not clear for how long the brand survived. We have a number of Kestos branded pieces in the collection that date from the mid-1950s, but it is challenging to assign an exact date. Leo Klin passed away 8th November 1967 in London.

All of the information provided here can be found in a variety of death, birth, marriage and electoral registers, held in a variety of British archives (most notably The National Archives, situated in Kew, London). They cannot be accessed for free online, so have not been linked here, but can be corroborated should you have the inclination to search for the names listed above. Unfortunately due to copyright conflicts, I am not able to share images of these archival documents here.

I’m sharing this in a blog post in the hope that people who search the Kestos brand name or designer’s name on the internet will take on board the correct information, rather than further convenient misinformation.

‘For All Sports’ Brassiere Advertisement By Kestos, 1933, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Illustration by Leo Klin.

In the course of my research, I also came across this Spectator article about Rosamond’s second husband, Leo Klin. Rather irritatingly, the article incorrectly attributes Leo as the inventor of the Kestos bra, and calls him an engineer. There is no evidence to suggest that Leo ever trained as an engineer (rather than he studied art in Odessa and St Petersburg), and the patent for the Kestos bra was filed by Rosamond years before the pair ever married or worked together. This isn’t just upsetting for the fact that it further perpetuates misinformation… but also because it attributes the achievements of a woman to a man, a phenomenon that has been far too common over the course of human history.

The internet has been an incredible tool, and without it The Underpinnings Museum would never be possible. Nevertheless, it is frightening how easily it can spread misinformation, and how quickly that misinformation can be construed as fact.

To end on a slightly more positive note, you can explore our online collection of Kestos related objects over here. We still have a long way to go until our full Kestos collection is documented for the online archive (most notably, we have yet to photograph a c. 1930s Zoma suspender belt, as shown in one of the advertisements above, underwired bras and a corselet, and a Kestos style bra with horizontally seamed cups), but this handful of beautiful pieces is still a decent start.

The post Rosamond Lilian Klin: The Inventor Of The Kestos Bra appeared first on The Underpinnings Museum.

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Another installment in our blog series ‘Favourite Things’, where we ask lingerie industry professionals to pick a favourite object from our collection. Today’s selection comes from Ayten Roberts of Ayten Gasson. Ayten Gasson is a luxury lingerie and sleepwear brand, specialising in fine silks and vintage Nottingham laces with all products hand made in the UK. 

Ayten’s pick is the Black Silk & Lace Ribbonwork Step In:

Black Silk & Lace Ribbonwork Step In, c. 1920s, USA.
The Underpinnings Museum
Photo by Tigz Rice

I frequently feature silk teddies and playsuits in my collections and find inspiration in the traditional sewing methods and detailing used in vintage nightwear.

Black Silk & Lace Ribbonwork Step In, c. 1920s, USA. The Underpinnings Museum Photo by Tigz Rice

This teddy is one of my favourite pieces because of the attention to detail. The beautiful silk ribbon binding and carefully applied ribbon work is breathtakingly beautiful, especially when you think how time consuming these hand sewing techniques would have been in the 1920s.

Black Silk & Lace Ribbonwork Step In, c. 1920s, USA.
The Underpinnings Museum
Photo by Tigz Rice

You can see Ayten Gasson’s lingerie designs here. If you had to choose a favourite piece from our online collection, what would it be?

The post Favourite Things: Ayten Gasson appeared first on The Underpinnings Museum.

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Earlier this year, The Underpinnings Museum ran its first major fundraiser since 2016’s Kickstarter (the crowdfunding campaign that helped us to launch this website). We took to social media to ask our followers to donate towards an incredibly rare garment: an early, c. 1830s corset.

The campaign was a runaway success, and in a single week we raised over $1000 to add this incredible piece of history to our collection! A huge thank you to every person who helped, be it through donating or sharing the campaign on social media; it’s your support that makes this entire project possible, and allows us to keep growing.

c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum

Although it will be some time before we’ve raised the funds for another photoshoot, we thought we’d share some ‘preview’ photos of this incredible garment for your enjoyment. Although the photography isn’t up to our usual calibre, you can still appreciate some of the incredible details!

The corset is completely hand sewn, with the most exquisitely tiny stitches. Unlike corsets from the mid-19th century onwards, and the earlier stays of the 18th century, this corset relies purely on cording to support and shape the body. The garment would have originally had a single bone to offer structure: a wide busk at the centre front, which has now been removed. The garment needs closer study to verify, but it appears as though this centre front channel has been cut upon and carefully repaired at some point in its life.

  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum
  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum
  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum
  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum
  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum
  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum
  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum
  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum
  • c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum

The corset would have originally fastened with lacing through the eyelets at the centre back of the garment. It is noteworthy that these eyelets are made of metal. Metal eyelet technology is believed to have been invented in the late 1830s, dating this garment as either late 1830s-1840s. It is also possible, however, that the garment was made earlier with hand stitched eyelets, and that these were re-enforced at a later date with the sturdier metal style.

Decorative and functional embroidery is used throughout the corset, with dense cording at the bust gores offering particularly effective lift and shaping.

c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum

The interior of the corset reveals a name stamp, presumably that of the original owner. Although it has mostly faded due to the passage of time, The Underpinnings Museum’s team has deciphered it as ‘Julia A. Hobbing’. If any of our readers can see another name or knows something about this individual, we would love to hear from you!

c. 1830s corset – The Underpinnings Museum

The post New Acquisition: c. 1830s Corset appeared first on The Underpinnings Museum.

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Initially developed in Canada in the 1930s, lingerie manufacturer Canadelle first registered its Wonderbra name as a Trademark in the United States in 1955. In 1963 the Wonderbra brand introduced Canada’s first push-up bra, the ‘Dream Lift’ style number 1300, which remained on sale relatively unchanged for many years. In 1968, Canadelle granted the UK licence for the Wonderbra to Courtaulds Textiles whose subsidiary, Gossard, manufactured and distributed the bra for over two decades.

Susanna Hailstone, writing for the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in 1994, summarised Wonderbra’s status at the beginning of the 1980s, stating that Gossard was selling a steady but uninspiring 11 million Wonderbras per year in the UK. The main reasons for this were:

  • The fact that it was seen as a functional ‘niche’ product (a problem solving bra).
  • The bra itself, and the shape it created, had fallen out of fashion by the 1980s and was seen as out-of-date and unattractive by most women.
  • Advertising support for the Gossard Wonderbra had been negligible over that period.

However, despite its perceived unfashionability in the 1980s, it was the extremely low centre front and additional padding of this style which proved to be very popular with the changing fashions of the early 1990s. A classic case of something coming back into fashion if you wait long enough! A 1992 surge in sales – which resulted from an increased interest in displaying cleavage due to the plunging necklines of fashionable outerwear of the time, and was also fuelled by the ‘underwear as outerwear’ trend – led to renewed interest in the brand by the Sara Lee Corporation, who had acquired Canadelle and the rights to the Wonderbra name in 1991. They decided not to renew their agreement with Gossard when it expired in 1994 and instead kept the Wonderbra brand in house as part of their Playtex division.

Forced to let go of a well known and popular branded product, Gossard developed an extremely similar style, which it called the Ultrabra, and both manufacturers announced their publicity campaigns to the trade press at the start of the year. Thanks to its early 1990s success with the Wonderbra name, Gossard had become a high profile brand with a fashionable sexy image and, during the licence changeover period there was more interest from the media and the trade for the apparently new Gossard Ultrabra because the Playtex Wonderbra was viewed as an unchanged product.

It is worth pointing out here that advertising would have been seen as vital for both brands as, in the early 90s, the majority of British women purchased functional low-priced bras with little concern for brand names. The average price of a bra was £6.84 whereas the Wonderbra was retailing at £14.99. Around 40% of bras were purchased from Marks & Spencer at this time and, historically, lingerie brands had very little advertising support in the UK.

In the issue of trade publication Drapers Record dated 08 January 1994, journalist Lucy Ryder Richardson informed retailers that Gossard planned a six week television advertising campaign, beginning on 14 February, to be broadcast on ITV and Channel 4 with press advertising restricted to trade magazines. Playtex also had television campaigns planned, for brands like Superlook Secrets and Cross Your Heart, but were taking an alternative approach for their newest brand:

Wonderbra, meanwhile, will be backed with a print and 48-sheet poster campaign breaking in mid February. There will also be a Vogue advertorial in the February issue, shot by David Bailey and a lot of p-o-s [point-of-sale promotional material] to tie in with the campaign. Playtex is pushing window displays: its Wonderbra package, for instance, comprises five or six items. (Richardson, 1994: 23)

Closer to the Valentine’s Day launch date of these campaigns, Drapers Record reported in more detail that the relaunch of the Wonderbra in the UK would feature ‘a press and poster blitz using top fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth and rising star Eva Herzigova’. The following week, the trade journal announced that ‘the battle of the bras continues as Gossard strikes back at Playtex with a £2.5 million advertising campaign for its answer to the Wonderbra, the Ultrabra’, revealing that the commercial was to star Danish model Maya Ottensen and would be accompanied by a series of fashion shows across the UK to promote the brand, beginning in March with a show at a London department store featuring a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. However, the Ultrabra was competing against far more than an image of a buxom blonde.

The iconic 1994 Wonderbra billboard poster, featuring Eva Herzigova photographed by Ellen von Unwerth

The now-iconic billboard and double page magazine advert for Wonderbra consists of a monochrome photograph of model Eva Herzigova wearing black lingerie alongside the Wonderbra logo and the text “Hello Boys”. She looks down and appears delighted by the sight of her own cleavage but, when viewed as a billboard poster, this could also be viewed as her delight at the gaze of the passers by. The text “hello boys” could be read as referring to Herzigova addressing her breasts or the male viewers, and its ambiguous nature combines well with the striking image.

The only other text on the advert states that Wonderbra is “the original push-up plunge bra” and states the sizes it is available in. The manufacturer’s name does not feature – perhaps because the brand Wonderbra was always associated with Gossard and Playtex wanted to avoid confusing consumers, or maybe because the Playtex name was not seen as fashionable. Either way, with waif-like Kate Moss claiming that even she gets cleavage when wearing one, by this time Wonderbra was a product that stood on its own merits. In the year 2000, author and broadcaster Stephen Bayley wrote of the campaign:

Perhaps only in Britain with its specially complex attitude to the bosom could the recent Wonderbra poster campaign have become a national phenomenon. […] It was in Britain that an extremely pretty, but in fact rather skinny, Czech model was translated through an adman’s fetish into a symbolic figure as resonant of the bosom as Diana of Ephesus. […] But it wasn’t simply the picture of the delightful model. It was the copyline too. The ‘Hello Boys’ was very revealing in the use of the masculine diminutive. This was an imprecation both enticingly erotic and, of course, utterly maternal. (Bayley, 2000: 16)

The bold approach of the “Hello Boys” billboard campaign had been tested by the advertising agency who showed nearly 4,000 female lingerie sales assistants across the UK a preview in advance of its launch. The self-assured confidence of the model and the fact that no men were shown helped to give the advert’s humour a strong appeal amongst women as well as men. Susanna Hailstone commented that:

The key to the past and future success of the Wonderbra lay in sex and sexuality, and women clearly found this attractive, as long as it was not offensive or demeaning. Humour was used as a way of reducing this risk. Extensive research showed that the ‘One and Only’ Wonderbra advertising campaign was seen as clever, enjoyable, appealing, motivating and relevant. And as well as appealing to women, no-one could disagree with the fact that ‘sex sells newspapers’, and that journalists would respond very positively to a bold, raunchy advertising campaign for the Wonderbra. However, where the advertisements were finally placed would ensure their impact and the generation of publicity. (Hailstone, 1994)

Looking for maximum exposure on a limited budget, the agency (TBWA) chose to speak directly to customers, via ads in women’s magazines, and also to address the press via the impact of billboard advertising. This impact was heightened due to the fact that outdoor sites were an extremely unusual medium for lingerie advertising at the time. This two-week poster campaign, costing £130,000 generated 386 features and a total of three hours of airtime, which was estimated to have been worth a massive 13,664% more than the posters alone had cost. Even when you factor in the cost of the magazine adverts, it would seem that Wonderbra got over 5,000% more coverage than they paid for, due to clever targeting.

The month after the launch of the Wonderbra and Ultrabra campaigns, Draper’s Record reported that Gossard planned to re-run their Ultrabra television campaign in October before the launch of an embroidered ‘designer’ version of their bra in time for Christmas. According to Tim Green, writing for the 2 April 1994 issue of Drapers Record, both companies had spent £2.5 million on their initial advertising campaigns – Playtex had 1,000 billboard sites and double page adverts in women’s magazines for an initial two week period, while Gossard had a pan-European television commercial running for six weeks – and the UK media were eager to cover the story in whatever way they could.

Alongside the bold and perhaps risqué advertising campaign, the Vogue advertorial for Wonderbra – mentioned by Richardson in her Draper’s Record article – sought to appeal to a more stylish fashion conscious consumer. “The Look for 1994”, a British Vogue promotion for “The One And Only Wonderbra”, ran in the February 1994 issue and featured full-page photographs of four Wonderbra styles: a front-fastening Wonderbra; the original Wonderbra; the ‘Wonderbody’; and a balconette bra, with matching stretch lace briefs.

All the photography was by David Bailey, and the shoot was styled by Nikki Brewster with minimal make up and slicked back hair, plus a luxurious cashmere shawl and cashmere cardigan. All shots of the uncredited model show her, unlike Eva Herzigova in the billboard adverts, making eye contact with the viewer and only showing the faintest hint of a smile. The minimal styling, background and text mean that these images stand out when the reader is quickly flicking through the magazine’s pages, however, this is not an entirely unusual format for the time. By making the name of iconic fashion and celebrity photographer David Bailey a large part of the promotion, Wonderbra manages to convey a high fashion or high art cool that the images on their own do not possess. The only other lingerie advert in the February 1994 issue of British Vogue is a single page for Hanro, a brand stocked at high-end department stores such Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fenwick and Selfridges.

A close look at a 1996 black lace Gossard Ultrabra Perfection held in the V&A’s Clothworker’s Centre shows how similar to the classic Wonderbra style this supposedly new competitor was. This push-up plunge underwired style has the same construction, with the main noticeable difference from the 1991 Gossard-made Wonderbra being that the wings are part lace, part powermesh. The packaging, however, informs the consumer of additional benefits to the ‘new’ Ultrabra. Text on the back of the box highlights three important features: ‘soft cushioning on the straps and centre of the bra provide all day comfort’; ‘specially designed close-fitting pockets hold pads firmly in place’; and ‘a multi-filament fabric for ultimate softness, protects sensitive areas of the bust and provides all day comfort.’ There is also a diagram showing the number of elements that go into the making of the Ultrabra Perfection Miracle System – I counted 41 – and another showing the two configurations of the adjustable straps.

Although a Google image search for the word Wonderbra still returns the ‘Hello Boys’ poster in its top results, in contrast, the only 1994 UK television commercial for Gossard’s Ultrabra that is currently available on YouTube is the ten second version rather than the full advert. On the heritage page of the Gossard website, it is briefly mentioned that the commercial was considered ‘too racy for British television’, so perhaps this is why. The lingering appeal of the “Hello Boys” poster suggests that the Playtex Wonderbra adverts were more successful in capturing the nation’s attention and so it would appear that, on this evidence, Gossard didn’t do enough to win the battle against what has now become one of the most iconic advertising campaigns of the late twentieth century. However, the success or failure of both campaigns in sales terms is not quite so easy to determine.

Two months after the launch, Drapers Record reported: ‘it seems that the advertising has done a brilliant job of making the push-up hot again, but failed to establish brand loyalty’ as many women did not know which manufacturer owned which brand and they often had no preference as to which push-up bra they purchased. It appeared that the advertising campaigns, rather than creating a winner of either Playtex or Gossard, had a generic effect on overall lingerie sales with February 1994 showing an increase of 370 per cent over the previous month.

The similarities between the surviving bras in UK archives supports this theory that the major advertising campaigns of 1994 did little to promote brand loyalty at the time as, other than the name, there would appear to be hardly anything to differentiate the two bras. However, the strong and ongoing brand recognition that Wonderbra has enjoyed since 1994 has ensured its survival and highlights the extraordinary power of a carefully planned and well executed advertising campaign.

References
Beckwith, A. (2012) Channel 4 Adverts 1994 (16), 21 May. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne8rCABYe2w
Drapers Record (1994a) ‘News’, 29 January: 5
Drapers Record (1994b) ‘Gossard starts push to win battle of the bras’, 5 February: 5
Drapers Record (1994c) ‘Vital Statistics: Sales Support’, 26 March: 13
Farrell-Beck, J. and Gau, C (2002) Uplift: The Bra in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
Green, T. (1994) ‘Glandular Fever’, Drapers Record, 02 April: 20-21
Hailstone, S (1994) ‘The Wonderbra – How thinking big ensured the survival of the fittest’, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. Available at: http://www.warc.com/fulltext/ipacases/4537.htm
Moberg, M., Siskin, J., Stern, B. and Wu, R. (1999) Sara Lee: Wonderbra. Available at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~afuah/cases/case15.html
Richardson, L.R. (1994) ‘On the Campaign Trail’, Drapers Record, 08 January: 20-23
Sutherland, J. (1994) ‘Fit and Flair’, Drapers Record, 19 March: 27
United States Patent and Trademark Office (2006) Wonderbra, US Registration Number 612231. Available at: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/
Voyce, M. (1994) ‘Sara Lee plunges into US bra wars’, Drapers Record, 28 May: 9
Wonderbra (2013) Our Story – Wonderbra Canada. Available at: https://www.wonderbra.ca/shop/en/wonderbraca/our-story
‘Wonderbra’ (2014) Wikipedia. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonderbra

The post ‘Hello Boys’: How Wonderbra Survived the Bra Wars appeared first on The Underpinnings Museum.

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Another installment in our blog series ‘Favourite Things’, where we ask lingerie industry professionals to pick a favourite object from our collection. Today’s selection comes from Stephanie Bodnar of Evgenia. Evgenia specialises in luxury lingerie inspired by 1930s lingerie silhouettes and the 1920s embellishment technique of lace insertion. The brand’s ‘Night Garden’ set is part of the museum’s collection. 

Stephanie’s pick is the Overlocked Floral Jacquard Weave Ribbon Corset.

Overlocked Floral Jacquard Weave Ribbon Corset, c. 1900, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Photo by Tigz Rice

I had such a difficult time picking my favorite piece from The Underpinnings Museum’s catalogue. There are so many wonderful examples of vintage and antique lingerie, and all of them spoke to me in some way. From insertion lace bows to meticulously corded corsets, I am in love with everything!

Overlocked Floral Jacquard Weave Ribbon Corset, c. 1900, Great Britain.
The Underpinnings Museum.
Photo by Tigz Rice

That said, the piece that has probably the most special place in my heart is the Overlocked Jacquard Ribbon Corset. The finishing is so unlike any other ribbon corset I’ve seen (I didn’t even know overlock machines existed in the teens). I have a similar antique ribbon corset that is in terrible shape, which was the foundation for my own Evgenia Ribbon Corset. The version I make was redrafted for a modern silhouette, offering a gentle cinch (something I call “corsetry lite”), perfect for first-time and casual corset wearers.

Overlocked Floral Jacquard Weave Ribbon Corset, c. 1900, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Photo by Tigz Rice

I have always loved the ribbon corset style because it is so resourceful – whoever came up with the idea was an absolute genius. The idea of using separate ribbons for shaping is just so interesting. Usually the panels that make up a normal corset are vertically oriented – and I think it’s pretty amazing that the traditional S-curve was able to be achieved with this unique approach. And it’s a beautiful, feminine style to boot!

You can see Evgenia’s lingerie designs here. If you had to choose a favourite piece from our online collection, what would it be?

The post Favourite Things: Stephanie Bodnar of Evgenia Lingerie appeared first on The Underpinnings Museum.

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Running an online museum has its own special rewards and challenges. Although we have lots of visitors, we don’t get to meet you all in person and chat about what you liked or didn’t like in our exhibitions. Although costs are lower than for a museum with a physical location, there are still many outgoings (including new acquisitions, photography, and web hosting).

Learning how to share our collections to help inspire and increase knowledge is something that we’ve mostly been doing so far by drawing on our own experiences of other museums and then thinking “what would I like to see on the Underpinnings Museum’s website?” This is why we decided to join the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), which is an organisation that was set up to support independent museums in the UK. They offer advice and networking with other museums and heritage sites, access to grants, and practical information on museum operation.

We support and champion independent museums, galleries and heritage organisations in the UK – helping them to achieve their purposes and ensuring their needs are recognised and addressed by policy makers, funders and other organisations working in the sector.

AIM helps heritage organisations prosper. We believe that museums must prosper – grow fit and healthy – to fulfil their purposes and demonstrate the relevance and importance of our heritage to everyone, so that it is preserved and inspires all our futures.

Hopefully membership of AIM will allow our little museum team to expand our knowledge and find new ways to pay for all the exciting things that we’d love to do with this project, whilst also inspiring new directions. Here’s to another two years of underpinnings joy!

The post The Underpinnings Museum is now a member of AIM appeared first on The Underpinnings Museum.

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Clothing and textile archives are fascinating places. Although, as a fashion historian, you might expect me to visit archives as part of my research, they’re also very useful places for designers to look for inspiration. Even more so now that many museums have extensive online catalogues with images, available from anywhere in the world! But it’s not always easy to know how to make best use out of these resources; when faced with a massive online archive and an empty sketchpad, where do you even begin?

For the last two years, researchers at London College of Fashion (UAL) have been working with institutions in Belgium, Italy and Greece on a project called ART-CHERIE which ‘aims to promote and explore the use of digital fashion archives and heritage by shaping vocational training and developing e-curricula to train EU fashion designers to work with online archives to improve their designs.’ The first two units of this online learning tool are now complete, and they will be launched and demonstrated at a lecture afternoon in central London next month.

“These units will help designers to explore and use digital archives effectively and creatively in their design process. Both units illustrate how to access digitized collections for inspiration, and gaining skills for technical know-how and historical information.”

The Underpinnings Museum was asked to be a part of this lecture afternoon and so I shall be going along to explain how (and why) we created an online museum dedicated to the history of underwear. In addition to my presentation, there will be an introduction to the ART-CHERIE research project, a talk on the heritage of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, and a pilot testing of the womenswear and embroidery online units. If you’re at all interested in fashion/textile design, online archives or dress history, I do hope you can come along!

The ART-CHERIE lecture afternoon is taking place on Thursday 13th December 2018, 3.00-6.00pm, at London College of Fashion, 20 John Prince’s Street, London W1G 0BJ. You can reserve a free ticket via Eventbrite.

The post ART-CHERIE: Inspiration from online archives appeared first on The Underpinnings Museum.

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Another installment in our blog series ‘Favourite Things’, where we ask lingerie industry professionals to pick a favourite object from our collection. Today’s selection comes from  Maude Nibelungen, a knitwear designer whose creations blur the boundries between outerwear and underwear. The brand’s ‘Alice’ set is part of the museum collection. 

Maude’s pick is the Monowire Heart Padding & Lace Bra By Belligne.

Monowire heart padded lace bra by Belligne, c. 1950s
The Underpinnings Museum shot by Tigz Rice Studios 2017

I was scrolling through the numerous and most gorgeous items on The Underpinnings Museum and I have to be honest here; bras are generally not the item that interests me the most in terms of lingerie. They’re harder to fit and even though there are tons of lovely designs for all shapes out there, they have never appeared as fun as knickers for example. Maybe they’ve also always felt like a bit of a chore, even in the best circumstances. But this bra… This bra caught my eyes in the most surprising way possible.

Monowire heart padded lace bra by Belligne, c. 1950s
The Underpinnings Museum shot by Tigz Rice Studios 2017

First of all, even without the knowledge about the construction, it looks fantastic, dark and romantic. If I were to see this bra in store today, I would buy it without a second thought. The fact that something made so long ago can still appeal to the modern eye and not necessarily just to a crowd of vintage enthusiasts is fantastic.

Monowire heart padded lace bra by Belligne, c. 1950s
The Underpinnings Museum shot by Tigz Rice Studios 2017

Of course, the amount of details and care put in the construction of this piece are notable. The hearts (!), the materials used and the monowire are all connected together in the most attractive way. Also, the ability of wearing this bra with or without shoulder straps adds to my interest  – this piece has to be the modern/ vintage unicorn!

You can see Maude Nibgelungen’s knitwear here. If you had to choose a favourite piece from our online collection, what would it be?

The post Favourite Things: Maude Nibelungen appeared first on The Underpinnings Museum.

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This blog post details the Underpinnings Museum Twitter conference presentation from Cassidy Percoco, entitled Hold On and Suck In: 20th Century Views of the 19th Century Corset.

Since the early twentieth century, ‘modern’ society has been distancing itself from the Victorian era. One of the major methods used has been the mainstreaming of the once-fringe view that wearing corsets was an incredibly dangerous and painful practice done for the purpose of appealing to men. In this presentation, I will explore the ways that this tendency has manifested and how it distorts the actual women who wore corsets on a regular basis in the nineteenth century.

Cassidy Percoco is the author of Regency Women’s Dress: Techniques and Patterns, 1800-1829, and a graduate of the Fashion and Textile History, Theory, & Museum Practice master’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Currently, she runs the blog and podcast A Most Beguiling Accomplishment.

1 #UPMTC One of the most popular images today of the Victorian woman is of her being laced by a maid as she clings to the bedpost – the perfect representation of repression. I’m exploring how this trope was deliberately used to distance “modern” mores from the past! pic.twitter.com/jGU3qdy2Iw

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

2 #UPMTC In the early 20th century, opinions on the Victorian era tended to polarize: some were nostalgic for the quaint, “innocent” past (Victorianism), while others saw the period as backward and repressive (anti-Victorianism). One battleground of the latter was the corset.

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

3 #UPMTC Historically, corsets were criticized by moralists and physicians, but otherwise taken for granted; in the 19th century, criticisms that *most* corsets were unhealthy were used to market “healthy” ones, a trend that continued into the 20th. pic.twitter.com/rCleIdCG1U

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

4 #UPMTC 20th century corset ads made much of the healthiness of their products’ “natural” shape, their flexible boning and elastic material, their “perfect comfort”, and the “scientific” planning that went into them. These were seen as new and better garments. pic.twitter.com/bPRCWMKDRL

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

5 #UPMTC The modern woman didn’t care about artificially shrinking her waistline (though she often dieted) and hated the idea of having her body trapped by unyielding whalebone. She was enlightened! She wore a corset – later girdle – for posture, health, and smooth lines. pic.twitter.com/ymxmxssODN

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

6 #UPMTC The old-fashioned hourglass corset can be found in plenty of fiction from this period as a freakish oddity representing the oppression women had to put themselves through. Judy Garland’s Esther was debilitated by a corset in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) … pic.twitter.com/is4bxur0iA

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

7 #UPMTC Scarlett O’Hara, the most famous corset-wearer onscreen, was depicted as intent on getting a tiny waist in two separate scenes, fetishistically focusing on the specific measurement and being angry that she couldn’t get down to an 18.5” waist after having given birth. pic.twitter.com/mTWvu2tj16

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

8 #UPMTC In Two Weeks with Love (1950), Jane Powell’s Patti’s corset (and lack thereof) is a big plot point. The Tall Men (1955) shows Jane Russell’s Nella transformed from rough settler to fine lady by dressing up with a corset that prevents her from breathing as well. pic.twitter.com/JefdySqslV

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

9 #UPMTC The major telling anachronism here is that the corset is treated as something adult women only wear as sexual marketing, choosing to sacrifice breathing for “allure”. To the post-Victorian, it had no place as a piece of supportive underwear worn by most women and girls.

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

10 #UPMTC In reality, Patti and Esther would already have been wearing corsets from childhood to promote good posture, and even a country woman like Nella would’ve worn one on an everyday basis. A realistic shift in these scenes would be to a fancier corset or a more shapely one. pic.twitter.com/3pVzLNgCR7

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

11 #UPMTC The corset was Othered as a barbarity society had moved past (and also used as commentary on the supposed female tendency to put fashion/appearance before comfort and sense). Contributing to the trope showed that you too were enlightened.

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

12 #UPMTC This trend in representation helped to reinforce the view of the corset in the public’s mind, divorced utterly from “normal” shapewear like the girdle/corselet and brassiere, as something dangerous, unnecessary, and sexual – a view that is alive and well today! pic.twitter.com/ma0qmqZ231

— Cassidy Percoco (@mimicofmodes) January 12, 2018

We will share each of the conference presentations via its own blog post over the coming weeks. If you’re on Twitter, you can join the discussion via the Underpinnings Museum’s account and the conference hashtag #UPMTC

The header image for this post is of a red midbust corset with flossing and gores (c.1860s) from the Underpinning Museum collection. Photography by Tigz Rice.

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