Sunday, August 24, 2014

Colleen Hill

Colleen Hill is associate curator of accessories at The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology. She is the author of Exposed: A History of Lingerie, a book accompanying a show by the same title.

From Hill's Q & A at FIT's blog:

What drew you to the topic of lingerie? Can you talk about your process in putting together the exhibition? With such a broad topic, where does one begin?

CH: I’ve always loved lingerie. As a teenager, I incorporated vintage slips and bed jackets into my wardrobe. My interest in the MFIT lingerie collection began in 2007, when I was organizing an exhibition entitled Seduction. Although I only included a small selection of lingerie in that show, I got a sense of how many important lingerie garments were in the Museum’s permanent collection. More recently, MFIT received several donations of especially beautiful lingerie, such as a 1940s couture nightgown by Juel Park, and a gorgeous bandeau bra from the 1920s.

Since the Museum has such a vast collection of lingerie, I began by selecting some of the most visually striking and intricately crafted pieces. At the same time, I started to conduct preliminary research to determine which garments were most historically important. Finally, I researched each object individually, focusing on primary sources such as magazines, catalogs, and advertisements. These sources also helped our team to determine how many of the garments would have looked on the body, so that our mannequins could be dressed as accurately as possible.

As you worked on the exhibition, did any facts about lingerie’s history surprise you?

CH: One of my favorite research discoveries was a sheer bra, called the “Illusion,” that was designed in 1949. In many ways, it was similar to Rudi Genreich’s “no bra” bra of the 1960s. I discovered the earlier example in a trade magazine entitled Corsets and Underwear Review. At some point, a reader had circled the photograph of the Illusion bra and written “disgusting” next to it. It was fascinating to see such a reaction! It’s likely that some people thought Gernreich’s sheer bras to be distasteful too, of course—but his underwear did sell very well, and it’s essential to lingerie history. There are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue