They’re known for their elegance, style and poise, so it’s no surprise the French are also top dogs when it comes to lingerie.
Charting a century of French underwear, the Lingerie Française exhibition features more corsets, bras, thongs and panties than you can shake a stick at…and will make you think long and hard about those greying cotton briefs lurking at the back of your knicker drawer.
The free exhibition, which opens to the public on October 2, features collections by Aubade, Barbara, Chantelle, Empreinte, Implicte, Lejaby, Lou, Lise Charmel, Passionata, Princesse Tam.Tam and Simone Pérèle.
Scroll down for a gallery of lingerie through the ages
260 pieces of influential lingerie will be on display - dating from the 1880s to today, along with video installations and a life-sized hologram delivering a trans-historic striptease.
The timeline starts with the evolution of the corset – a descendent of the boned basque, which, while sculpting an ideal silhouette, was very constricting.
While the first bra was trademarked in 1889, advertisements for the "breast retainer" did not appear until 1905.
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The bra was to be worn with a shortened corset, which served as a waist-cincher and held stockings in place with garters.
By the 1920s, the girdle had made an entrance and the bra industry began clearly separating the breasts for the first time.
The trend for lingerie sets began after the Second World War and in the 1970s, the release of the soft-porn film Emmanuelle sparked a desire for more sensual lingerie.
The 1980s saw the introduction of the tanga brief and the bodysuit and Lycra fibre came to feature heavily.
Push-up bras, padded cups and nude fabrics characterised the 1990s, and technical innovations - including lingerie sets in molded lace launched by Aubade and Barbara are among the industry creations of the 21st century.
So don your best scanties and come feast your eyes on the most delectable selection of underwear around.
Lingerie Française: The Exhibition runs from October 2 -7 at the London Film Museum.
Barbara Collection of the 1950s, Barbara Patrimony
Advertisement for Lou Bras, 1950s
Advertisement for Lou Bras, 1950s
Chantelle, photo of Deval 1956
Perele’s photo campaign 1986
“Ocyane” model, Barbara patrimony
Model Chantelle, 2004, photo by Thierry Desmarquet, Chantelle patrimony
Advertisement for Simone Perele bras, 1956-1957
Corset in boned, stretch knit, with elastic, adjustable garters. Around 1910. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES Panty in embroidered lace. F/W 2012. LISE CHARMEL ARCHIVES
"Maintien-gorge" (bust supporter) in stretch knit, fastening in front with mother-of-pearl buttons, a laced back, and ribboned straps in cotton sateen. Around 1905-1910. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES Waist-cincher with garter belt, in boned stretch knit. Around 1905-1910. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES
Bust-supporter with open cups, in cotton sateen and fleshtoned lace. 1930’s. LEJABY ARCHIVES Brassiere without underwire in flesh-toned cotton sateen. Adjustable straps. 1939. LEJABY ARCHIVES High-waisted girdle in "fully-fashioned" stretch knit, with reinforced stitching, boning at the hip level, and garters. 1940’s. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES "Pregnancy belt", in stretch knit, with adjustable panel and garters. Fastening in front. 1930’s. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES
Bustier without underwire in flesh-toned cotton sateen. 1955/60. LISE CHARMEL ARCHIVES Bra with underwire, in flesh-toned cotton sateen. 1955/60. LISE CHARMEL ARCHIVES Girdle in stretch jacquard tulle, reinforced with cotton sateen, without boning, with removable garters. 1949. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES
Bra with underwire in navy blue nylon, with upper cup in pleated white nylon. Adjustable back and straps. 1950’s. LOU ARCHIVES Boned bustier in white nylon, including an underwire bra, with stretch back and adjustable straps. 1950’s. LEJABY ARCHIVES Garter belt in navy blue nylon lace, edged with white « perforated » embroidery and navy blue ribbon. Late 1950’s/early 1960’s. EMPREINTE ARCHIVES Garter belt in navy blue nylon lace. 1960. SIMONE PERELE ARCHIVES Merry-widow in navy blue nylon lace on a white ground, and underwire bra. Garter belt underneath the skirt. 1960. SIMONE PERELE ARCHIVES
Balconnet bra in white and silver (lurex) striped cotton, with adjustable straps. 1973. SIMONE PERELE ARCHIVES Underwire bra in grey and pink nylon with flower print. 1960’s. EMPREINTE ARCHIVES Girdle-Garter Belt in floral-printed fabric with doublereinforced front panel. 1960’s. EMPREINTE ARCHIVES Girdle-panty-garter belt in coral-toned jacquard tulle, with scalloped, reinforced front panel. 1950’s. LOU ARCHIVES Open girdle with integrated garter belt, in floral-motif tulle, with white satin insert and boning in front panel reinforcement. Removable garters. 1959. BARBARA ARCHIVES Girdle-garter belt in grey and pink nylon, with front panel reinforcement in grey nylon lace. 1963. LOU ARCHIVES
Underwire bra in pink and white striped cotton. 1988/89. PRINCESSE tam.tam ARCHIVES Bouffant panty in pink and white striped nylon. Early 1960’s. EMPREINTE ARCHIVES Bra without underwire, in pink gingham (cotton), with adjustable straps. 1960’s. AUBADE ARCHIVES Garter belt in pink and white striped nylon. Early 1960’s. EMPREINTE ARCHIVES Panty in pink gingham (cotton), matched with the aforementioned bra. 1960’s. AUBADE ARCHIVES
Underwire bra in printed polyamide, with adjustable straps. Late 1960’s. LOU ARCHIVES Slimming longline panty in stretch polyamide. 1970. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES Combination longline panty, backless, with underwire bra, in nylon lace. 1960’s. EMPREINTE ARCHIVES Ivory-toned romper. 1960’s. BARBARA ARCHIVES
Bra in brown jacquard tulle, with adjustable straps. Early 1970’s. LOU ARCHIVES Shaping panty-girdle, with removable garters, in flesh-toned stretch polyamide. Early 1970’s. AUBADE ARCHIVES Shaping panty-girdle with double-reinforced front insert panel in embroidered satin, with removable garters, in white stretch polyamide. Early 1970’s. BARBARA ARCHIVES
Bra without underwire, backless, in Nile green nylon lace. Early 1970’s. AUBADE ARCHIVES Bra without underwire in yellow nylon lace. Early 1970’s. LEJABY ARCHIVES Bra without underwire in turquoise nylon lace. Early 1970’s. EMPREINTE ARCHIVES Bra without underwire, backless, in "mother-of-pearl" nylon lace. Early 1970’s. AUBADE ARCHIVES
Black bodysuit in polyamide and Lycra® fiber. 1980’s. AUBADE ARCHIVES Underwire bra in molded Noyon lace. 2012. BARBARA ARCHIVES Bodysuit in cotton and Lycra® fiber, with integrated underwire bra. F/W 1989/90. PRINCESSE tam.tam ARCHIVES Bodysuit in Lycra® fiber knit. S/S 2012. IMPLICITE ARCHIVES
Flower Push-up strapless bra in microfiber and lace. 2006. PASSIONATA ARCHIVES Bustier, in white cotton and lace. 1980’s. LOU ARCHIVES Camisole in absinthe-green embroidered tulle. 2005. PASSIONATA ARCHIVES White panty in lace and Lycra® fiber. 1980’s. AUBADE ARCHIVES Romper in white lace. 1980’s. AUBADE ARCHIVES
From left to right, and from top to bottom: Balconnet bra with dot-print cups and upper-cups edged in Calais lace. 2011. LEJABY ARCHIVES Balconnet bra in white kidskin. LISE CHARMEL ARCHIVES Underwire bra in white cotton with black dots. S/S 1989. PRINCESSE tam.tam ARCHIVES Balconnet bra in black cotton with white stripes. 2010. PASSIONATA ARCHIVES Tap pant in ivory-toned silk with dot and stripe print. 1980’s. LOU ARCHIVES Black garter belt. S/S 2011. IMPLICITE ARCHIVES
From left to right and top to bottom: Flesh-toned, invisible thong. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES Anthracite-toned thong. S/S 2012. IMPLICITE ARCHIVES Thong from the "Attitude" line. 2005. LOU ARCHIVES Seamless thong. 2012. BARBARA ARCHIVES Thong in striped cotton. 2002. LOU ARCHIVES Thong in striped cotton. 2007. LOU ARCHIVES Thong in brown polyamide and harlequin stripes. 2004. LOU ARCHIVES
Flesh-toned bra with pre-formed cups and transparent straps. 2001. PASSIONATA ARCHIVES Invisible, flesh-toned bra with molded cups. S/S 2010. IMPLICITE ARCHIVES Flesh-toned bra in polyamide and Lycra®, with soft, preformed cups. 1972. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES Bra in white microfiber. 1980’s. BARBARA ARCHIVES Flesh-toned bra with soft, pre-formed cups. 1995. LEJABY ARCHIVES
Balconnet bra in embroidered tulle (embroidery from Gian Luigi Locatelli). 2005. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES Molded balconnet bra with appliqué tattoo-effect lace. 2001. LEJABY ARCHIVES Shorty in plain tulle with color-matched embroidery that is then printed with different colors for a tattoo effect. 2011. CHANTELLE ARCHIVES
Bra with molded cups and exclusive lace design. 2012. LISE CHARMEL ARCHIVES Bra with molded cups and exclusive lace design shot through with silvered metallic pieces. 2012. LISE CHARMEL ARCHIVES Two-piece Merry-widow in brown and black polyamide, polyurethane, polyester and elastane. 2008. SIMONE PERELE ARCHIVES
Bra with molded cups and exclusive lace design shot through with silvered metallic pieces. 2012. LISE CHARMEL ARCHIVES Balconnet bra in embroidered lace emulating Tweed. 2012. LEJABY ARCHIVES Underwire bra in "Nightfall" shades of inky blue and black. F/W 2011. IMPLICITE ARCHIVES
Underwire bra in cardinal red. 2012. SIMONE PERELE ARCHIVES Shorty in white lace. Still in production since 2008. BARBARA ARCHIVE Bra with printed, molded cups, covered in multicolored, embroidered tulle. 2002. LEJABY ARCHIVES Shorty in embroidered lace. F/W 2007/08. BARBARA ARCHIVES
Underwire bra in Royal Blue lace. 2012. BARBARA ARCHIVES Bra with molded cups and invisible straps, embroidered with white lozenges, creating a tattoo effect. 2002. LEJABY ARCHIVES Bandeau bra with hidden underwire in microfiber stretch knit and Textronic lace. F/W 2011/12. PRINCESSE tam.tam ARCHIVES Shaping Brief in polyamide with lace inserts. Late 1990’s. PASSIONATA ARCHIVES