La Mécanique des Dessous : Underwear Makes the Show!


This exhibition explores the “underworld” of female and male undergarments and the artifices used to model the body from the 14th century to today. This original project retraces the long history of the metamorphoses that the dictates of successive fashions have imposed on the body.
With what mechanisms were women’s figures constrained to obtain the asphyxiating hourglass waist, uplifted breasts counterbalancing equally exaggeratedly uplifted buttocks, widened hips and flattened breasts and stomach? And how did men enhance their virility by artificially swelling their torsos, adding forms to their calves and of course the pre-eminent codpiece?
All these structures, composed of whalebones, hoops, lacing, hinges, straps, springs and elasticised fabrics concealed beneath the overgarment are displayed in an exhibition design by Constance Guisset.


For the first time, some two hundred silhouettes from public and private collections in France and abroad, ranging from panniers, crinolines and cummerbunds to bustles, girdles and push-up bras, give a fascinating insight into fashion’s hegemony over the body.

You can also try out specially made replicas of corsets, 18th-century panniers and crinolines, so that you can wear and understand how these structures played such an essential role in the history of fashion and vestimentary customs.

From 5 th july to 24 november 2013 at Les Arts Décoratifs – Mode et textile – 107 rue de Rivoli – 75001 Paris
Métro : Palais-Royal, Pyramides ou Tuileries

Image source: Les Arts Décoratifs
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