On 16 April, the Victoria and Albert museum will be opening an exhibition dedicated entirely to undergarments. Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear will tell the story of underwear design dating back to the 18th century, up until the present day.

Focusing on enduring themes of innovation and luxury, the exhibition shows a wide range of items– from the homemade, such as 18th century 'stays' worn by working women in England, to designer pieces by Stella McCartney and Paul Smith.

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear
Corsets are seen during the V&A press previewDylan Martinez/ Reuters

From corsets to crinolines and boxer shorts to bras, the exhibition explores the relationship between underwear and fashion, notions of the ideal body, and the ways that cut, fit, fabric and decoration can reveal issues of gender, sex and morality. It also addresses health and hygiene, along with technological advances central to the development of the undergarment and how it can enhance the body, as well as protect it.

Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Cage crinoline, the ‘Princess Louise Jupon Patent’, c. 1871Victoria and Albert Museum
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Brixton Boyz, Jennie Baptiste, 2001Victoria and Albert Museum

With over 200 examples of underwear, the exhibition includes contextual fashion plates, photographs, advertisements, display figures and packaging. The highlights include long cotton drawers worn by Queen Victoria's mother; a 1960s Mary Quant body stocking; an 1842 man's waist belt used on the wearer's wedding day; and flesh-coloured leggings decorated with a mirrored glass fig leaf by Vivienne Westwood.

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, is sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Revlon, and is open from 16 April 2016 – 12 March 2017.

Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
A gallery assistant looks at 'Sarah gets undressed' by Julian Opie included at the exhibitionLeon Neal/ AFP
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Man’s top and pants, designed by Sibling, SS 2013Victoria and Albert Museum
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Mannequin's are seen displaying a bra, corset, stockings and thong by Robin Archer for House of HarlotLeon Neal/ AFP
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
A 'Days of the Week' knicker set by cheekfrills is displayed in the exhibitionLeon Neal/ AFP
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Display figure and advertising card for Y-front pants, 1950sVictoria and Albert Museum
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
A gallery assistant adjusts a garment on a mannequinLeon Neal/ AFP
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Advertising poster designed by Hans Schleger for the Charnaux Patent Corset Co. Ltd, c. 1936Courtesy of the Hans Schleger Estate
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
A gallery assistant adjusts a mannequin during a media event to promote the exhibitionDylan Martinez/ Reuters
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
A gallery assistant poses with a mannequin displaying a bra, corset, stockings and thong by Robin Archer for House of Harlot at the V&A museumDylan Martinez/ Reuters
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
‘Tamila’ lingerie set from the Agent Provocateur Soirée collection, SS 2015, Photographer Sebastian Faena, Model Eniko Mihalik - CopySebastian Faena
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Trompe l’oeil corset dress, designed by Antonio Berardi, SS 2009, Worn by Gwyneth PaltrowSipa Press/ Rex
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
A gallery assistant poses with a mannequin displaying a bra, corset, stockings and thong by Robin Archer for House of HarlotLeon Neal/ AFP
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Detail, Silk chiffon knickers, possibly Hitrovo, 1930sThe Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Undressed A Brief History of Underwear
Corset, 1890-1895Victoria and Albert Museum