La mécanique des dessous, une histoire indiscrète de la silhouette

The exhibition on view in the Fashion and Textile galleries, from 03 July until 24 November 2014, takes a detailed look at male and female underwear, including stays, panniers, corsets, crinoline, bustles, padding, waist cinchers and other sartorial scaffolding used to shape the body with baleen, hoops and cushions according to the fashion dictates of the day. While taking the notion of shaping the body to extremes on occasion, these “mechanical garments” provided everybody with the possibility of attaining the ideal of beauty of his/her own era.

The exhibits in this show are not, as one might have expected, limited to the 19th century. Bringing together carefully conserved exhibits rarely seen in public, the exhibition is intended as a continuous “behind the scenes” history of clothing and fashion as seen through this unexpected range of mechanisms. Throughout the history of fashion, forms evolved and techniques were refined, but the aims of mechanical garments remained more or less unaltered: to flatten the stomach, draw in the waist to the extent of making it hollow, to provide support for the chest, uplift the breasts or flatten them on occasion, and round out the hips. In other words, comfort was sacrificed to appearance until, around 1900, Nicole Groult, Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet created a fashion for the natural line. The exhibition continues with the brassière and the girdle, including versions for men.The story of corsets, crinoline and bustles is not, however, over, as designers like Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Comme des Garçons continue to come up with glossy or playful versions that are less constraining than their predecessors. The 20th and 21st centuries have made underwear into experimental over-garments.


For any further informations, please contact Stéphane Perl:

Phone: +33 (0)1 44 55 58 62
E-mail :

Exhibition space
1200 sqm

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