PRIVATE clothing, or apparel that was not intended for public viewing, includes all types of undergarments, from foundation ware and structural corsets through to diaphanous slips and suspender belts.
Although many of the items displayed in Bendigo Art Gallery’s current exhibition Undressed: 350 years of underwear in fashion were intended for women, there are also a number of objects designed for men’s fashion requirements.
In the centuries prior to efficient heating and insulation, underwear served a vital purpose – to cover the body and insulate it from the cold, as well as ensuring the body was adequately and respectably covered for modesty’s sake.
Shirts, such as the example on display in Undressed from the late 1700s, were an essential for men, protecting outer garments from perspiration at a time in history when washing was less regular, and shielding the skin from coarser fabrics.
These items were the only garments that were regularly laundered.
A well-dressed gentleman wore at least two clean shirts every day, one for day and one for evening wear.
It was not uncommon for a wealthy gentleman to own around 60 shirts. Also on display at the gallery is a rare example of a corset for a man.
Male corsets were not advertised as widely as women’s, but were worn throughout the centuries by dandies, military men, or those wishing to hold in a portly stomach.
They were often known as “health belts” or “health supports” to make them sound more masculine.
In recent decades, male underwear has become a decorative fashion item in its own right, with the modern man often being conscious of styles, brands and luxury.
Of the contemporary garments on display in the exhibition, one of the most luxurious is the Louise Simmonds briefs and dressing gown ensemble.
Inspired by the indulgence of Imperial Russia and the louche showiness of the Playboy Mansion, the briefs are embellished with hundreds of Swarovski crystals.
Join an introductory tour of the exhibition at 11.30am on Thursday, September 21, or October 23.
See the exhibition after hours on Friday, October 17 – tickets via The Capital Box Office.
Buy your exhibition ticket online for just $10 from www.undressedbendigo.com