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Pants! A history of underwear through the ages at Maidstone Museum this summer


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A cheeky exhibition looking at underwear through the ages, complete with corsets, bras, knickers and underpants, is set to go on show this summer.

The collections team at Maidstone Museum has spent the past two years going through the museum's own collection of underwear, which has been collected and donated over decades, to narrow it down to around 50 items which will go on show in Pants! in July.

Exhibits to feature in Maidstone Museum's Pants! exhibition. Picture: Maidstone Museum
Exhibits to feature in Maidstone Museum's Pants! exhibition. Picture: Maidstone Museum

Far from being stuffy and serious, organisers aim for it to be a little bit cheeky – and they want people's memories, from pointy bras in the 60s to grandma's corsets and grandad's old string vest.

Many of the exhibits from the museum's collection have been carefully conserved and have never been displayed before, but some retailers have also been involved, including that traditional go-to for underwear, Marks & Spencer.

The exhibition's themes include Naughty Knicks & Saucy Slips, looking at sexuality and underwear; Doctor’s Orders, looking at health and medical issues, and Keeping It All In, focusing on the changing shapes over time.

Exhibitions development officer, Alexandra Gurr, said of the task of delving into underwear for the past two years: "It has been an eye opener!

"It has been enjoyable, and I have particularly enjoyed doing the research. I didn't know a lot about underwear. We wanted it to not be too serious though – it will be a bit cheeky."

Exhibits to feature in Pants! Picture: Maidstone Museum
Exhibits to feature in Pants! Picture: Maidstone Museum
The exhibition will look at underwear through the ages. Picture: Maidstone Museum
The exhibition will look at underwear through the ages. Picture: Maidstone Museum

Many might be surprised to learn that the museum had a collection of underwear at all.

Alex said: "With most items we do actually know where they came from so we know who probably wore them. We had quite a lot donated by Lady Brabourne (former Deputy Lord Lieutenant).

"I think we were all quite surprised by how much we had though. I have always known that we had underwear in our collections, but sorting through it has taken quite some time."

Queen Victoria's bloomers are also expected to feature.

And the team is appealing for people's memories to include too.

Do you have memories of scenes like this? Picture: iStock
Do you have memories of scenes like this? Picture: iStock
Lingerie will feature in the exhibition. Picture: iStock
Lingerie will feature in the exhibition. Picture: iStock

"I do remember my grandad's string vest, and I'm sure people don't wear those any more. It's things like that which will complete it."

Pants! will run from Saturday, July 23 to Saturday, December 17.

If you would like to share your memories, contact the collections team on email via exhibition@maidstone.gov.uk.

Tickets will be £4 for adults and £2 for children, with under fives free. You can find out more by clicking here.

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