Play Hard

Discover the new online exhibition that explores how women transformed their bodies because of fashion and expectations throughout history

Go behind-the-scenes of the Discovery Museum’s unbelievable costume collection

Written by High Life North
Published 24.03.2021

By Sophie Swift

Christian Louboutin once said: ‘I am interested in all things that celebrate and enhance the female form’. This month, it looks like Newcastle’s Discovery Museum is thinking along exactly the same lines.

Their new online exhibition (and Victorian underwear film, we’ll come back to that in a minute) – The Female Form Through Time – is available now to view on Google Arts & Culture and has been released to coincide with National Women’s Month. The exhibition illustrates how the female silhouette has changed through time, due to changes in fashion and evolving attitudes in society. From the cinched-in waist, smooth hips and full bust of the Victorian period, to the ability to express female individuality and choice in the 2000s, this exhibition showcases the journey of our bodies.

Not only does The Female Form Through Time show off clothing items from the Discovery Museum’s extensive Costume collection, but the accompanying film on the changing intricacies of Victorian underwear features a beautiful boned corset from the 1860s, as well as lots of other incredible items. The film itself 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.  

‘Women have been artificially changing the shape of their bodies for centuries to follow fashion,’ Helen explains. ‘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 the immediate aftermath of the First World War through to the power dressing of the 1980s and the shell suits of the ‘90s, The Female Form Through Time offers a fascinating snapshot of women’s fashion through the ages.

The Discovery Museum is responsible for protecting and preserving 1.1 million items in its collections. Now, more than ever, we believe art, culture and heritage sit firmly at the heart of the North East thanks to institutions like the Discovery Museum. Online exhibitions like this one are a perfect way to get your culture fix until museums, galleries and performance venues open their doors once more – hopefully, sooner, rather than later.


To find out more about The Female Form Through Time, visit the Discovery Museum’s website or Facebook page



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