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Museum reveals its unmentionables

14 MARCH 2003

The National Museum of Australia is throwing open its closet next week to reveal the role of underwear in shaping Australian women's bodies and perhaps their minds.

To mark International Women's History Month, visitors are invited to take a tour of "unmentionables" in the Museum's large collection of costumes, dating from an era when glimpsing a lady's ankles was shameful, through to recent more liberal times.

Visitors to the Museum's Mitchell Repository will view, among the items, hand-sewn nighties from an exquisite trousseau created by a young woman affianced to a soldier who died in World War I. The marriage, tragically, never took place.

They'll also glimpse heavy stockings from the women's national cricket team of the 1930s surely a disadvantage when temperatures soared.

"We collect costumes for the stories they tell, not just for their own sake," said the Museum's Maria Ramsden, who is organising the revealing tour.

"One of the treasures is three generations of underwear from one family from lace bloomers to peach satin undies."

Those attending will have a chance to imagine themselves in their great-grandmother's high-button boots and lace themselves up in what Ms Ramsden calls "a repro corset". And they'll also hear the story of the only reported case of "death by bra".

The tours are sponsored by Friends of the National Museum.

The tours, Unmentionables Come out of the Closet, are on Wednesday, 19 March, from 10.30am to 12pm, and from 6pm to 7.30pm at the Mitchell Repository of the National Museum, 9-13 Vicars Street, Mitchell.

Light refreshments will be served.

Bookings for the event - which costs $10 ($5 for Friends) on 6208 5048.

For more information, or for images, please contact Friends executive officer, Tom Layton, on 02 6208 5048 or email friends@nma.gov.au