Lingerie Francaise: A History of Underwear

Lingerie exhibit

One of the best things about Tokyo is the fact that there are actually a decent number of things you can do for free or almost free. For example, most department stores have gallery and exhibition spaces and host a variety of interesting and well-curated shows. There are also other exhibits in various spaces all over the city such as the Lingerie Francaise Exhibit I saw on the weekend in Omotesando.

I read about this exhibit in the Savvy Tokyo site and thought I’d check it out. It was free but very well done and also offered a detailed brochure in English. It has some big sponsors in the lingerie world: Aubade, Barbara, Chantelle, Empreinte, Implicite, Lise Charmel, Lou, Maison Lejaby, Passionata, Princesse Tam.Tam and Simon Perele just in case you were wondering who the world leaders in underwear are.

Basically it looks like there’s not too much new under the sun. Many of the current corset styles are based on some of the first corsets made over a hundred years ago, though the invention of elastic, nylon and Lycra has made things a lot more comfortable. After WWI the corset was replaced by a bra and girdle (often custom-made) which evolved into machine-made versions that were designed to create whatever female silhouette happened to be in vogue at the time–slim hipped, curvy, hourglass. Which is where we are now…whatever your preference happens to be, there is likely a lingerie designer/manufacturer that produces your ideal underwear.

In Japan the preference happens to be very lacy and embellished (ruffles, lace, ribbons, beads) and almost always padded or heavily lined. The idea of the T-shirt bra (i.e. very smooth to allow for a clean line under a t-shirt) does not seem to be a look they are interested in exploring. Also thong underwear is not popular and is difficult to find…also very expensive. The 5 for $25 deal that is commonly seen at La Senza and Victoria’s Secret simply doesn’t exist here in the land of the rising sun. Make no mistake, there is some very lovely lingerie here but it tends to lean more towards the ‘granny knicker’ size than the ‘G-string’ end of the spectrum. Also tends to be cute (kawaii) not sexy…Karis and I actually saw a bra and knickers set made of terry cloth. Yes, for a grown-up 😉


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