Tuesday was the London launch of the French Lingerie Exhibition
at the London Film Museum, Covent Garden.
It finishes on the 7th October so don't miss it
Opening hours: 10am-6pm
Late night: 5th October 10am-9pm
It was a cosy place to be on Tuesday evening for the launch party as the rain cleared the Covent Garden piazza of even the most hardcore tourists.
Catherine Orman is the curator of this exhibition, a fashion history scholar and founder of the Museum of Fashion in Marseille she knows a thing or two about the development of lingerie through the years.
Catherine talked us through the decades displayed at the exhibition and explained how the shape and style of French underwear was influenced by many things from world events, celebrities and fashion even breakthroughs in medicines.
Black lingerie was only worn by rich women or prostitutes before the 1950s, because the dye came out after washing.
The rich women could afford to throw their underwear away and the prostitutes never washed their underwear I guess.
The 1960s was a busy time.
Elastane was invented, and therefore stretchy elastic, so knickers as we know them today appeared and bras could be comfortable. Nylon also arrived in the 60s so lingerie became colourful as nylon could be safely dyed to any shade.
Tights were created in 1965 and the shorter lengths and miniskirt could be worn with security.
At the end of the 60s contraception was now available to woman and they had abortion rights creating a major moment for womens liberation. By all accounts there were a few conflicting opinions about what this new found freedom meant to lingerie. Some women sought freedom from the bra considering it a symbol of control but others felt protected by their bra, it was an important layer between them and an increasing disappearing volume in clothing fashion.
Every girl wanted Pink gingham like Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s
Then came the 1970s when the film Emmanuelle inspired a trend for naive white cotton underwear with embroidery eyelets which is still popular today.
At the end of the 70s until the mid 1980s women became more conscious of the fitness and shape of their bodies and wanted to show them off. Lycra was invented so new fashions could be more body conscious. Aerobics became popular, plastic surgery was available and food became a diet to be controlled.
The Body and the thong appeared in lingerie to give the body a smooth and sleek look.
In the mid Eighties two young girls in Paris noticed that their friends were buying mens boxers to wear as underwear/outerwear so they created the brand Princess Tam Tam which was about fashion rather than 'lingerie'. This marked the used of much more print and colour in underwear.
Recovering from the rollercoaster of the 1980s we wanted to cocoon ourselves in our lingerie. We wanted smooth, simple moulded cups that were comfortable and invisible,the T-shirt Bra. Microfibre had became available and these first microfibre bras were twice the price of previous styles but were incredibly popular. Nude appeared as a colour that could provide further invisibility (allbeit for paler skintones only)
The famous Lejaby nuage bra was created at this time and over 10 years 10 million were sold. It is still sold to this day.
The end of the 1990s saw a focus on skin and Chantelle launched its incredibly successful tattoo embroidery collection which remains in their collection today, updated each season in a new colour.
At the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s it was about intelligent lingerie, lace and fabrics that supported and shaped you in particular areas only. Paving the way for the shaping garments we have today.
Finally in the 2000s we see couture type lingerie being created. Very expensive and unique lingerie that is as much a statement as a designer handbag.
Goodie Bag Treats
Here's a flick through of the French Lingerie book to accompany the Exhibition