The Italian Almanac

corset and gloves

Old Lingerie

Once upon a time women relied on lingerie to create the miracles they now seek from cosmetic surgeons. For more than a century, bras and corsets were cleverly employed to create the curves every man desired and hide the unwanted fat that every woman wanted to disguise. Now a new show reveals some of the secrets behind women's lingerie and the evolution of underwear for more than a century.

Sponsored by the international lingerie manufacturer Triumph, the show is entitled "125 Years of Celebrating Women" and opened in Milan on April 27. The show travels through time featuring bras like those favoured by America's famous sweater girls Lana Turner and Diana Dors and Italian screen legend Sophia Loren.

"The history of lingerie parallels women's liberation and marks their passage from social conditioning and constraint to freedom," the company said. "The whale-bone corset, the push-up bra, knickers, hooks and buttons, were all elements that underscored slavery, submission and the difficulty of movement."

The Milan show coincides with the company's 125th anniversary and the presentation of the Triumph Inspiration Award 2011 for young design students in 37 countries. It features provocative images and exhibits from the whalebone corset to the see-through bra.

Triumph was established in southern Germany in 1886 when merchant Michael Braun and corset creator Johann Gottfried Spiesshofer opened a small factory in the town of Heubach with six workers and six sewing machines. Now the company has 37,000 employees in 120 countries and generates an annual turnover of 1.6 billion euros.