‘Undressed’ at the V&A

An exhibition that, unfortunately, left me a little deflated.

First of all, the problem of where to start. Literally, where to start. The exhibition appeared to be loosely organised in categories but the lack of chronological ordering and an obvious starting point made me somewhat uncomfortable and confused. It left me with the niggling feeling that I’d paid for an exhibition that I (looked at through rose tinted goggles) could have organised better.

Sure the artefacts were engaging. The influence of technological developments on underwear is amazing, and of course the developing social connotations of underwear are ever interesting (although I do wish this had been explored in a bit more detail). I also can’t deny the beauty of many of the more famous pieces in the upstairs exhibition space, despite it seeming like a bit of an excuse to look at famous people’s panties. However, no amount of dresses worn by Kate Moss could cure my disappointment at the lack of information with any depth. Now, I’m not an art snob and I certainly don’t have a better knowledge of fashion than anyone else willing to pay £35 to look at some old fashioned underwear. Yet the text just seemed a little dry. It appeared to assume that the exhibition’s attendees would have short attention spans and little to no knowledge of fashion history. Of course, basic information is essential in an exhibition and no one wants to stand around reading reams and reams of text in a gallery, but it seems the word ‘brief’ was taken just a little too seriously in this case.

Would I recommend this exhibition? If you have an interest in fashion history and fancy a trip to London, it’s definitely a good enough excuse to go. However, if I were to go again I’d make sure I gave myself a good extra hour to decipher exactly what’s going on, and most importantly, where to start.

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