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YOUNG TEXTILE ARTIST PRESENTS HER CONCEPT OF HISTORICAL UNDERWEAR

Under Granny's skirt

SOFT satin mid-thigh knickers that have a triangular piece of delicate lace sewn into the front.
This is what a grandmother of today might have worn underneath all her layers of skirts when she was young. You might find it hard to believe that she could have worn anything so sexy, but the truth is, they did not wear any underwear back then.
The above-described bloomers are what 27-year-old artist Beáta Varmužová thinks women's underwear might have looked like if it had existed in the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century in the part of the world that is now Slovakia.


VARMUŽOVÁ's underwear is made out of fabric from original folk costumes.
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

SOFT satin mid-thigh knickers that have a triangular piece of delicate lace sewn into the front.

This is what a grandmother of today might have worn underneath all her layers of skirts when she was young. You might find it hard to believe that she could have worn anything so sexy, but the truth is, they did not wear any underwear back then.

The above-described bloomers are what 27-year-old artist Beáta Varmužová thinks women's underwear might have looked like if it had existed in the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century in the part of the world that is now Slovakia.

"Underwear at that time didn't exist, so I thought, why not fabricate it?" says the designer of the underwear collection that is currently on display at ÚĽUV Design Studio in Bratislava. Entitled Under the Skirts, the exhibition presents nine fashionable panties, two special aids that help accentuate the hips, and a cloth underwear purse. And best of all, all these knickers are for sale.

"[Varmužová] has sewed her interpretation of what [underwear from the] past might have looked like with a needle of today," says Viera Kleinová, the exhibition's curator.

The artist came up with the idea of creating what did not exist back then while browsing through books that mapped the development of Slovak traditional costumes. In these books she did not find any chapters about underwear. According to Kleinová, before 50 years ago there was no place for such clothing, for economic as well as functional reasons. Its function was performed by long shirts and petticoats.


VARMUŽOVÁ (left) with curator Kleinová.
photo: Coutesy of ÚĽUV Design Studio

"[Today] when we read fashion books and magazines, underwear is everywhere. But in the books about our folk costumes, I could not find any reference to that at all. Everything was mainly about the [richly decorated] bonnets," she says.

To conjure up underwear that could have been worn back then, the Kysuce-native Varmužová used real folk costumes that she had collected with her mother's help.

First she dismantled them and then joined their individual parts together in a different way, creating a brand new product. The exhibited panties, made with original material that includes embroidery, flounces, and laces, look as if somebody actually wore them.

The fact that the artist drew inspiration from today's provocative underwear designs puzzles many visitors of the exhibition, who do not believe their grandmothers would ever have worn anything so sexy. Some think the panties are decorated a bit too much, making them look funny, even absurd.

"If we asked those women to wear such clothes at that time, they wouldn't have worn them, because they look too unpractical," Varmužová says. But she adds that several men have already shown interest in buying the products, desiring to see them on their loved ones.

Varmužová graduated from the department of free textile artwork at the University of Arts in Bratislava. Under the leadership of Eva Cisárová-Mináriková, she studied original textile techniques and technologies, such as lacing and loom weaving, which she later learned to transform artistically into modern work.

"[The programme led by Cisárová-Mináriková] is a creative attempt to interconnect past techniques with today's trends. The final result can turn out to be completely different from the original [inspiration]," says Viera Kleinová, the curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition also features three photographs of women dressed in folk costumes. All of them have naughty expressions on their faces, as if underneath their skirts they were hiding the delicate old-fashioned underwear that Varmužová created.

"With my work I wanted to create the impression that this is how it could have looked in the past, but I also wanted to make people talk about it," she said.

What: Under the Skirts - exhibition of fashion designs.
When: Open Mon-Fri 10:00-18:00 until March 7.
Where: ÚĽUV Design Studio, Dobrovičova 13, Bratislava.
Admission: free.
Tel: 02/5296-4153.
For more information visit the Design Studio's website www.uluv.sk

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