Friday Lingerie Lust: ‘The Mechanisms of Underwear, A History of The Figure’ at Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris

Bras 1950

In this Friday Lingerie Lust I hand over to my Paris Fashion Correspondent, Anne from Ritournelleblogto tell us about a wonderful exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs looking at the history and architecture of female underpinnings:

Undergarments in all shapes and forms have taken over the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. La mécanique des dessous, une histoire indiscrète de la silhouette (The mechanisms of underwear, an inquisitive history of the figure) leads us through the fascinating history of underwear with 200 looks ranging from the 14th century to today.

Mécanique des dessous Arts Décos

What struck me throughout this exhibition was how women’s bodies were deformed artificially, exaggeratedly and sometimes painfully by fashion to attain the beauty ideal of their time. Breasts pressed, waists strangled by corsets, legs imprisoned by panniers, bottoms adorned with bustles… Even though these “instruments of torture” hold a certain beauty of their own, you will leave the museum with a renewed love for your bras and panties.

History of Underwear Iron Corset Armour

Just look at this iron corset from the Renaissance. Can you imagine spending a whole day with your torso in a heavy metal cage? As for Monsieur, it was of utmost importance for him to show off his virility with protruding codpieces. I have to admit this armor made me smile and is very popular with visitors.

Stays 1

Stays 2

The figure of the 18th century woman was entirely remodeled. The stays created a V-shaped upper torso with breasts raised and midriffs tightened. Meanwhile, panniers restrained their liberty of movement and could reach ridiculous widths.

Robe à la française 1760

Robe à l'anglaise 1785

Pannier extreme

These undergarments were worn by women of bourgeois and noble class. After the 1789 French Revolution, they became symbols of a shameful past and disappeared from fashion. Napoleon took the reins of the country and so did the much more fluid Empire silhouette.

Puff sleeves

In the 1820s, puff sleeves came in fashion. I naively thought they were just big sleeves but it turns out women wore these underwear for arms to make them extra puffy.

Silhouette sablier


Monarchy returned to power in France, and so did the corsets and panniers.

Corsets blue and red Musee des arts decoratifs

These beautiful corsets from the 1860s-1870s allowed women to have an hour-glass figure with raised breasts and round hips.


Bustle 1881

Bustle support

In the 1880s, the bustle gave women a “right angle” silhouette (or if you want to be mean, a goose silhouette). This shape combined with the corset accentuating the bosom and waist created a highly idealized representation of female sexual identity both exaggerated and concealed by the undergarments.

Bras 1910

The 1910s saw the rise of the active woman compelled to change her role in society by World War I. Great designers such as Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel liberated the female body from the corset. And that’s when bras entered the stage. But they did not enhance the breasts yet. On the contrary, they tended to compress them. In 1947 Christian Dior created a New Look that enhanced a thin waist and torso with round hips. Underwear then became much more structured.

Vivianne Westwood

The history of underwear as a deforming item inspired contemporary designers such as Vivianne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana just to name a few.

Alexander McQueen Dolce e Gabbana

The exhibition runs through November 24th. If you’re interested in knowing more about the history of fashion, I recommend you have a look at the Arts Décos’s past exhibition Fashioning Fashion which really completes this one.

Merci Anne!  Have a lovely weekend Blog Reader – next up on StyleOnTheCouch I have some prints from Emma Louise London, and a little fitness styling for you.

Friday Lingerie Lust: Karolina Laskowska

Karolina Laskowska bra and briefs

Body harness fashion lingerie

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie high waist harness brief

Karolina Laskowska harness

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie StyleOnTheCouchI get very excited when lingerie-loving friends let me know about their new finds! My friend and fellow blogger Lindsay, who you may recognise from her guest posts before on StyleOnTheCouch, told me about Karolina Laskowska earlier this year.  A wonderful synergy between fashion and lingerie, Laskowska told me this about her brand:

“I adore blending concepts of eroticism, luxury and lingerie as outerwear.  Most of my pieces can add an edge to outerwear, whether worn on top of a vest top or visible under a sheer blouse.  They’re equally as stylish but a lot more naughty in the bedroom!  I adore bespoke work too – designing one-off pieces for individual customers, using the finest French couture laces and silks. I’d like to introduce those sorts of materials and more colour into my ‘ready-to-wear’ line and I’m planning to develop that this Summer”

What I particularly admire about Laskowska’s designs are the way in which they blend elements of the fetish with feminine accents and materials.  For example, the soft ribbon on the Wiktoria harness and the ivory lace trim on the Kaja leather cuffs.

Laskowska’s collection includes a playsuit and accessories (cuffs and garters). You can view more images and read more about the brand HERE.

Photo credits:  Top image, photography – Steve Kraitt, model – Nathalie Hers. Second image, left: photography – Catherine Day, model – Vicki Blatchley. Third, photography – MSD productions, modelling & styling – Sundal Roy. Final image: photography – Nadia King, model – Alivya Free, styling – Tess Daly.

Friday Lingerie Lust: Fred & Ginger Arabian Delight

Fred & Ginger‘s luxurious new collection, inspired by the classic tale Arabian Nights, is a delightful line of draping, ruching and volume in soft peachy hues.  A little of Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine, the semi-sheer body suit with lattice gold ribbon trim and centre tie (above) is a lovely piece.

As enchanting as the Arabian Nights tale itself, the Isa baby doll dress (below) is my favourite piece.  I love the styling of the lingerie in the images here.  Chain mail adornment and Swarovski crystal jewels lend some holiday sparkle to the collection.  A perfect Christmas gift*.

‘Arabian Delight’ by Fred & Ginger launches soon. Keep on eye on their website for further details and to view the entire collection.

You can also find Fred & Ginger in London’s Selfridges department store.

Happy weekend, Blog Reader!

*Note: gift to self or friend :)