Worn next to the skin, there is no more intimate a garment than underclothes.
Shaping the body, and thereby the wearers behaviour, perhaps the most contentious example is the corset. It is hard not to be drawn to the craftsmanship that has gone into creating these pieces, whilst being aware of the physical restriction they brought. Quintessentially Victorian, a corset was felt essential to enable the appropriate demeanour, yet paradoxically it sexualised the female body.
The piece I have chosen to use from the V&A collection dates from the beginning of the 20th Century, a time when the women’s suffrage movement was gaining momentum. Sculpted through an intricate whalebone construction and adorned with delicate red embroidery, the side lacing lent itself well to being placed on an X.
Since attending the screen printing course at Putney School of Art one of my focuses has been working with decorative lettering, especially the diverse and contradictory 24th letter of our alphabet. Its employment can vary widely from: definitively “marking the spot” to the alien or algebraic unknown factor, denoting adult rated content to a shorthand for Christ, a chromosome in genetics to indicating a wrong answer, an abbreviation for a kiss to marking a ballot paper.
The V&A exhibits tell a host of stories. The object I chose was a nursing corset, and one considers not only its craftsmanship but the women wearer as she holds her baby close.
England (possibly, made) Germany (possibly, made)
Embroidered cotton, and metal and boning
V&A collection reference number(s):