‘Behind the Seams’ exhibition, Paris

My French Lingerie: ‘Behind the Seams’ exhibition, Paris – passion, corsets & codpieces
August 12, 2013 By Kathryn Kemp-Griffin

My French Lingerie:

While the 17th century French philosopher might have cautioned against the veneer of narcissistic pride, his mathematical faculties would have had to appreciate the engineering prowess underneath the surface of fashion.

Nearly two hundred undergarments on display at the current exhibition ‘Behind The Seams: An Indiscreet Look at the Mechanics of Fashion’ at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs reveal how and to what extent we have contorted our bodies over the centuries. Vanity continues to thrive, both above and below the surface.

The exhibition explores the complex structures that twist, push, tighten, raise, flatten and manipulate our bodies from the 14th century to today. Undergarments such as iron corsets, caged crinolines and fake derrières have transformed women in their pursuit of the perfect silhouette, while codpieces and padded everything have enhanced men’s virility.

Melanie owns ‘Lace Embrace Atelier’ in Vancouver, Canada and I had the pleasure of chatting with her while she was in Paris. Effortlessly charming and, of course, perfectly poised in one of her own handmade corsets, Melanie shared her knowledge and passion. (Said Kathryn Kemp-Griffin)

What come to mind instantly when you think of the ‘corset’?
Love, curve, color;  a powerful, sexy confidence.

What’s so special about French corsets? 
My favorite corsets are French. They are beautifully designed and delicately made with the finest lace, silk and intricate flossing. While synonymous with style, there is also a sense of playfulness and coyness to French corsets. I find myself asking questions and wanting to know more about the women who wore them.

 3 misconceptions people have about wearing corsets:

1. Corsets are uncomfortable

2. Corsets are bad for your health

3. Why would you want to wear that?

I get great pleasure from lacing people up and watching as they discover their newly-shaped bodies; their tummies flatten, their height increases and their busts lift without any discomfort.

As our conversation comes to an end, I realize that talking about corsets has made me sit up straighter. Melanie smiles knowingly and we agree to meet for a fitting next time she’s in Paris. We say goodbye and as I watch her glide out of the room, I understand the timeless elegance and subtle power of corsets.

Behind The Seams: An Indiscreet Look at the Mechanics of Fashion
4 July – 24 November

(Complete article here)
Musée des Arts Décoratifs,
107 rue de Rivoli, 75001, Paris
Métro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre

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