Forget the smile; for women, you're never fully dressed without the right lingerie. What clings to your frame underneath can either make or break your outfit. And to those fearless few, lingerie has even started transmogrifying from underwear to outerwear. It started with a movement blamed on Madonna and has been widely accepted and received by every horny teenager sifting through Nasty Gal's inventory on the reg -- they're starting early these days.
Once thought as the forbidden fruit of the garment world, lingerie was sacred, and restricted to only the eyes of one's hubby (we presume). Fast-forward to present day and behold: The rock hard bodies of Candice Swanepoel and Lily Aldridge unabashedly bathing in bejeweled, cleavage-clad Miracle bras and cheeky boy shorts, invading the mail boxes and television screens for every hubby to openly feast their eyes upon!
But before the leggy angels of Victoria's Secret larked runways in 22-pound mega wings, guys were hootin' and hollerin' at Joan Crawford in a soft lace chemise in the 1950s.
That's right, kids. A lot has changed in the past couple decades. For Keni Valenti of Wynwood's Museum of Fashion, the history of unmentionables and their evolution through time is well worth mentioning. The exhibition, Boudoir, (fitting title), is dedicated to the sexy vintage styles.
Valenti, a major vintage junkie, has amassed a 20,000-plus collection of couture clothing over the past 40 years. Last month, he hosted a Best of New York exhibition with guest curator Max Wilson from Parsons School of Design, and an Indian-inspired show the month before. Needless to say, the man's got one hell of a closet.
For Boudoir, Valenti has teamed up with local prop stylist and vintage lingerie collector, Cristina Forestieri, to strip the residential bald-headed, blue mannequins all the way down to their skivvies.
"Keni has an amazing collection and I can in no way compete with it," Forestieri says, even though she's contributing to nearly half of the pieces displayed at the exhibition.
Valenti peeks his head out from behind the gold, metallic curtains that meet the museum's high ceilings and mask the back stock of his collection, which is rumored to have two levels. "They call me the Wizard of Wynwood," he says. His closet full of antique goodies is so coveted that it's landed Valenti as one of 75 2014 Knight Foundation finalists.
Because securing your chi-chis wasn't exactly a priority until the 1920s, Valenti and Forestieri thought it best to introduce lingerie's beginnings with the 1930s, when depression was at an all time high, and inspiration to copulate was in dire need.
"These are 1930s nightgowns," Valenti says as he points to two delicately made, floor-length gowns. Opulent in neutral-toned silks, their bodices are prominently coated with lace appliques, which are entirely hand-embroidered.
Though the gowns provide coverage to the point of sainthood, the slinky gowns lent an air of enticement. They were even thought to be the equivalent of honeymoon negligees of some sort, according to Valenti.
As decades passed, so too did fabric and the age of virginal innocence. Short sleeves from the 1930s were taken up, resulting in spaghetti strapped gowns in lighter, more sheer fabrics in the '40s, further pressing the subject of revealing the female anatomy.
And in the '50s, things only got spicier with the introduction of the modern-day bra and girdle. The bras displayed at the exhibition reminded us of a certain cone-shaped garment worn as a top during Madge's Blonde Ambition Tour.
The early 1960s saw slips and playful Doris Day inspired babydolls, while late '60s ladies often donned form-fitting Dior girdles.
Bold, psychedelic hues, label whores, and the revolutionizing likes of nylon were spawned in the 1970s, and of course, Emilio Pucci had to have his hand in anything involving the aforementioned three. It just wouldn't be right otherwise.
"Emilio Pucci jumped on the bandwagon with Formfit Rogers in the early '70s," Valenti said. "If you look closely, you can actually see E.P.F.R.," in finely printed letters on a signature Pucci gown.
While signature patterns were heavily trending in the '70s, so were signature logos by hot shot houses like Gucci, Dior, and even Givenchy. This was surely the first step for all of label-whore kind, ladies and gentlemen.
Sadly, the exhibition comes to an end with the '70s, which Valenti says "was the end of an era of nightgowns. The '80s rooted a whole new era of lingerie."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
So does this mean half-nudie girls part deux will ensue at next month's exhibition? Regrettably, the answer is no. Instead, Valenti and college friend Bridget Baker are curating an Asian-inspired show entitled My Secret Life in Hong Kong.
But until then, Boudoir will run its course through September 5, educating us on a time when Keni says, "mink stoles, lingerie, and chocolate," were the only things that kept a woman happy.
Well, some things never change.