Undressed at the V&A and other London stories

One of the best things about London is how you can walk around and see so many different things going on in the space of just an hour.

That’s exactly what happened to Cat & I on Sunday when we accidentally stumbled across a Mods festival in Carnaby Street, followed by 50 roller skaters (including one carrying a massive boom box) zipping along Regent Street, and then a huge group of protesters around Trafalgar Square.

The Mods!

The Mods!

And none of that was even why we were in London in the first place. We’d decided to pop in and see the V & A’s latest exhibition, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear.

The exhibition is a fascinating look at how underwear has changed since the 18th century, moving from something purely practical into a statement on fashion, gender and morality.

Undressed Exhibition. Photo credit - Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Undressed Exhibition. Photo credit – Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The area which interested me the most was the corsets – I just can’t believe women used to wear these every day. There was one which had a particularly tiny waist (I think it was around 44cm and the average size 12 woman is about 75cm today) and a series of x-rays showing the impact corsets had on a woman’s rib cage. I found it so interesting to read that there were medical professionals who argued against women wearing corsets because of what it did to their bodies. It’s crazy to think of something as basic as underwear being a real political issue.

There were also maternity corsets, and having a few friends who are currently pregnant, it made me shudder on their behalf!

Undressed Exhibition. Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Undressed Exhibition. Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

I also found it interesting how underwear is so intrinsically linked to gender. We think of the type of underwear a man wears, and a type a woman wears, and they’re generally quite distinct but actually that hasn’t always been the case, with some men wearing corsets in the Victorian period, and androgynous underwear also being mentioned as part of the exhibition. One thing which stood out for me was a cartoon of dandies in corsets, mocking their clothing choice, and it just startled me that someone could be ridiculed for something like that. Again something so ordinary as underwear is made something so much bigger.

As well as the historical side, there was also some impressive visual pieces to look at, including the gold slip dress Kate Moss wore in 1993 (which exposed a lot when photographers used their camera flashes on the red carpet) and a glittering corset made for Dita Von Teese. And there was a nod to more niche underwear, like a rubber corset, which led me to say to Cat, ‘I bet that’s a right pain to get on, all *squeak* *squeak* *squeak*.’ Apparently you’re never too old to have a giggle at undies.

The Cape Town - spicy sausage, green chillies and sour cream

The Cape Town – spicy sausage, green chillies and sour cream

After the V & A we walked to Covent Garden where we stopped at Fire and Stone for pizza, and lovely non-alcoholic cocktails. I had a Lavender and Elderflower Pink Lemonade and Cat had an Acai Berry and Pomegranate Mojito – both of which were perfect for a sunny May day.

Fruity mocktails

Fruity mocktails

With the weather so nice we decided to keep on foot, rather than getting the tube, and walked to Liberty, via Carnaby Street where we met all the Mods.

Lightbulbs in Carnaby Street

Lightbulbs in Carnaby Street

After a look around Liberty (which may have involved us both getting something from the new Uniqlo for Liberty range, we walked to the Southbank and climbed the stairs to the top of the National Theatre.

This fun street art was on the Southbank just before The National Theatre

This fun street art was on the Southbank just before The National Theatre

Neither of us knew they had a garden up there, but when we saw the sign we figured it would be a nice place to soak up the sun.

Sunshine happiness

Sunshine happiness

And there the first Pimms of the year happened. Bliss.

Summer is coming!

Summer is coming!

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