New online exhibition & Victorian underwear film: The Female Form Through Time

A new online exhibition by Newcastle’s Discovery Museum charts how women’s bodies have been artificially changed from the Victorian period to the early 2000s.   

The Female Form Through Time, available now to view on Google Arts & Culture to coincide with National Women’s Month, shows how the female silhouette has changed through time, due to changes in fashion and evolving attitudes in society.  

The clothing items displayed are from Discovery Museum’s extensive Costume collection. The exhibition is accompanied by a film on the changing intricacies of Victorian underwear, featuring a boned corset from the 1860s and other items which can be viewed here.

The film shows Helen Vasey, Assistant Keeper of History behind the scenes in Discovery Museum’s Costume stores as she shares the complexities and layers of various fabrics and underwear types that Victorian women would have worn.  

Assistant Keeper of History Helen Vasey said:  

Women have been artificially changing the shape of their bodies for centuries to follow fashion. Body sculpting undergarments, padding and optical illusions have all been used to create the desired silhouette.  

“Our Costume Store tours were amongst the most popular events at Discovery Museum before the pandemic. This exhibition and film allow a glimpse into this collection, and show to what lengths women – in relatively recent history – went to when dressing, and how attitudes to fashion were shaped by society and events.”  

From Victorian crinolines and the liberations of post-World War One through to the power dressing of the 1980s and the shell suits of the 1990s, The Female Form Through Time offers a fascinating snapshot of women’s fashion though the collections.  

More of Discovery Museum can be explored online at Google Arts & Culture, with a Virtual Tour and exhibition Colourful Discoveries, delving into the collections through a kaleidoscopic lens of colour.  

We protect and preserve 1.1 million items in our collection. Now more than ever we believe art, culture and heritage sits firmly at the heart of the North East, help us keep it there. Donate today.  

Discovery Museum will reopen at stage three of the government’s roadmap (from 17 May) and will confirm opening dates and details nearer the time.  

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