Exhibit to showcase ‘The Age of Nudity’

Amanda Sowards

Shane Carrico works on hanging a painting for “The Age of Nudity” exhibit opening today in the Kent State University Museum. Carrico, the exhibits coordinator for the museum, is in charge of setting up and tearing down exhibits. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KEN

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Though it may seem shocking by today’s standards, there was once a time when women and men wore lingerie as everyday clothing.

Many of these outfits from the neoclassical period will be on display as part of an exhibit entitled “The Age of Nudity” in the Kent State University Museum in Rockwell Hall. The exhibit opens today.

When the neoclassical period began in 1780, shock was the feeling among many, especially when a portrait of Marie Antoinette in a revealing chemise gown was released, museum curator Anne Bissonnette said in her essay “The Age of Nudity.”

After this portrait, people began to wear fine, soft fabrics like cotton, trying to emulate Greek and Roman costume, art history professor Diane Scillia said.

With the new style, colors became lighter, predominantly white, suggesting a naked look. Women’s wear had a lower neckline and bust line that defined the breasts separately and flowing fabric below that showed off the limbs, Bissonnette said. Previous dress had boned corsets, creating a stiff upper body with a small waist and high bust.

“Women in Paris would even rouge their nipples to make them show through their clothing,” Scillia said.

Want to see what it’s like behind the scenes? See our photo gallery.

This new fashion in the new world symbolized “a return to nature and democratic ways,” according to Bissonnette. The era was in transition from the American and French revolutions, and the clothes were a reflection of that change. Greece was considered a model country for its democratic views, and the designs were based on the fashions of its culture, Scillia said.

The era put more importance on strength and health, and therefore sports, changing clothing in another way. Children’s clothing became less like their parents, with dropped necklines and skeleton suits to allow for ease of play, Bissonnette said.

Men’s riding breeches became tighter and accentuated “the masculine bulge,” according to Bissonnette. As such fashions became more popular, it was acceptable for men to enter town in their casual riding clothes, and lower classes adopted the humble garments.

The styles of neoclassicism stayed in fashion until the mid 1800s but was gradually changed. Napoleon worked to push silks, trying to revive Lyon’s industry. Although the era was short-lived, it made people appreciate the human body, according to Bissonnette.

“The Age of Nudity” will run through Jan. 7, 2007.

Contact fashion reporter Amanda Sowards at [email protected]