Museum prepares for new undergarments exhibit


Matt Hafley

The “Undress, Shaping Fashion and Private Life” exhibit opened Thursday evening at the Fashion School Museum in Rockwell Hall. The exhibit features garments that show the styles of womens’ silhouette-shaping undergarments. Photo by MATT HAFLEY.

Alicia Crabtree

The newest exhibit to come to the Kent State University Museum is one that is certain to turn heads. The exhibition is titled “Undress: Shaping Fashion and Private Life.”

According to the museum’s website, the exhibit includes garments that give the body structure and shape, as well as clothing worn at night, at home and in informal situations. These are the garments that reveal and shape private life.

Jean Druesedow, director of the Kent State University Museum, is busy at work trying to get the exhibit finished in time.

“It’s all about the undergarments,” Druesedow said. “It goes from the 18th century to Spanx, which is about as recent as you can get.”

Druesedow believes it is a common misconception that all undergarments from the past were simply unbearable.

“Well, if your corset was well-fitted, it was not uncomfortable,” Druesedow said. “Corsetry, traditionally, didn’t have elastic. So it was meant to mold to your frame, and yes, you couldn’t bend at the waist, and yes, it was hot, but it kept your back straight and it kept your breasts up.”

The pieces in the collection range from luxurious to bare-bones basic, but they all have a story.

“Most of the finer things were purchased at auction,” Druesedow said. “But they did come out of attics and stately homes in Europe and large homes in the United States. When people can afford to save things as opposed to using them up, that’s when you get the things from attics and private families.”

Allison Render, junior fashion merchandising major, is a guard at the museum. Her opinion is that the public will take an interest in how undergarments have evolved over the years.

“I guess some people could be put off by it, but overall people come to the museum to see that sort of thing,” Render said. “I think people will still enjoy it and find it fascinating. We even have a pair of bloomers that belonged to Queen Victoria.”

The defining characteristic of any fashion period, Druesedow said, is the shape of a certain silhouette.

“Shape is largely determined by what is worn underneath the fashionable garment and next to the skin,” Druesedow said on the Kent State University Museum’s website. “Why silhouettes have often had so little to do with the shape of the human body is one of the mysteries of fashion.”

“Undress: Shaping Fashion and Private Life” will open in the Broadbent Gallery in the Kent State University Museum Friday, and will run until Sept. 1, 2013. An opening reception was held Thursday night.

Alicia Crabtree is the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. [email protected]

Contact Alicia Crabtree at [email protected].