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This exhibition heralded a series of thematic shows conceived to examine various elements in the history of costume, with selections culled primarily from the Museum's own collections. Thus reaffirming the Museum's commitment to collecting and to the care and display of costume, these installations offered substantial displays year round as well as an extraordinary opportunity to evaluate and appreciate the evolution of costume over the last three centuries.

The depth and scope of our collections should provide the curators with an inexhaustible source of challenging subjects and inspiration for exhibitions, research, publications, and teaching programs far into the next century. It is therefore with much pleasure and great expectation that we offer Infra-Apparel, the first in an exciting series of projects envisioned by our curators, Richard Martin and Harold Koda.

Infra-Apparel, the exhibition and the book that accompanies it, has had to search for its own name. There is not a signle world or descriptive phrase that fully signifies the phenomenon we seek to describe and the argument we are attempting to make. It is simplistic to offer our argument as structure disclosed, inside appearing on the outside, or externalization as a function of familiarity, yet all of these are approximations of parts of the argument. Jean Baudrillard has argued that fashion is exceptional within culture in its proclivity to propagate signs, some of substantive, others of scant meaning. The large signficance of the observation we make in Infra-Apparel through the exhibition and the publication in its introduction, many color illustrations, and five essays is the transaction that occurred from the eighteenth century to present between the intimate and personal and the social and public. Without consistent evolution, but with a fascinating persistence, clothing has sought to convey elements of boudoir privacy to the public domain. Morever, underwear can be perceived as the required interface between the body and clothing, but it can also constitute clothing's ultimate seduction. Function and finery meet with oppositional intensity in underwear and lingerie. Clothing is a principal means by which we negotiate between public and private realms. [This book was originally published in 1993 and has gone out of print. This edition is a print-on-demand version of the original book.]

From Publishers Weekly: This intriguing if superficial catalogue for an exhibit at the Metropolitan's Costume Institute investigates the cultural meaning of undergarments as "intimate signifiers" and illustrates its themes with photographs and paintings. Brief chapters cover the movement of lingerie from the private to the public arena, a change that dates back to a 1783 painting of Marie Antoinette in a cotton shift; the use of undergarments such as corsets to manipulate body shape; the growing popularity of decorative lingerie; and "deconstruction in contemporary costume," such as slashed T-shirts and visible briefs (as illustrated by Marky Mark's familiar Calvin Klein elastic waistband peeking over the top of his jeans). Other illustrations include Christian Francis Roth's 1991 "hobo suit" with its oversized, colorful patches and Edouard Manet's painting of Nana in her slip. At times an academic tone obscures rather than enlightens with phrases like "the greenhouse-forced cultivation of the decorative" to describe the 19th-century taste for fancy clothing, and there is little discussion of men's underwear. Martin and Koda are curator and associate curator, respectively, of the Costume Institute.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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