Thursday, May 29, 2014

Underwear research begins

There is a trend brewing in the museum world for underwear exhibits, it seems!  And happily, we are part of the buzz.

I schedule Keller Gallery exhibitions three years in advance (sometimes longer!), so I've been thinking about an underwear exhibit for a long time. 

After setting the dates for 2014, I discovered our neighbors to the north, the Kent State University Museum, did a marvelous exhibition called Undress: Shaping Fashion and Private Life.  My volunteer Kathy and I went up to check it out in 2012, where we discovered Fosshape for mounting textiles.

Around the same time, a Google search revealed another fascinating exhibition at the Missouri History Museum called Underneath It All

Today I found yet another underwear exhibition at The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) that opens soon called Exposed: A History of Lingerie.

Lest you think I've gone off my rocker with this idea, we are in very good company with our upcoming Mentioning the Unmentionables exhibition!

I am starting "official" research today.  Our archivist has been gathering materials from our research library for months, and I am finally ready to dive into the box.

Yesterday we started preliminary fittings of some of the undergarments in our collection.  We have discovered that they are not as easy to mount as we thought they would be!  The dress forms are small busted, likely for flexibility in display (you can always pad them up, but you can't cram something on a dress form that is too big!).  But with so much lace, stuffing the bust line has become...problematic.

We are working on solutions to this issue.  In the end, it will all work out!

Most underwear exhibitions seem to be organized chronologically, and that's my plan, too, for the Keller Gallery.  I am envisioning some independent sections as well, such as nightgowns, liberating undergarment fashions, and perhaps (gasp!) menstruation and maternity garments.  We also have some of Ida McKinley's undergarments that have never been on display! 

This summer is going to be a lot of fun as I immerse myself in this most interesting branch of fashion history.  Mark your calendars now for the opening on September 5.  It's going to be a hoot!

I would like to thank our sponsor for Mentioning the Unmentionables:

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