Incendiary: A History Of Red Lingerie

The Underpinnings Museum presents Incendiary: A History of Red Lingerie, a digital exhibition curated by Summer Lee, examining the fashionability and societal perceptions of colour red in European and American women’s lingerie.

Red is a versatile colour, found in both flowers and fire and used to symbolize passion, love, power, danger, and death. When used to colour women’s intimate underclothes and nightwear, the colour’s poignant symbolism engages with societal perceptions of feminine sexuality and empowerment.

Incendiary tells this story through three time periods — the nineteenth century, mid-twentieth century, and contemporary lingerie — and features twenty-five objects from the Underpinnings Museum’s free and accessible digital collection. Highlights include a circa 1860s red midbust corset, a 1950s red padded quarter-cup bra by La Parisienne, a 1990s red-and-black corset from Agent Provocateur, and a risqué 2014 red “Java Dancer” set by La Perla Black Label.

The exhibition brings the story of red lingerie into the present day by concluding with a photo gallery of lingerie models, designers, and influencers who share their exclusive thoughts and associations with the fiery colour.

Our Collections


Adverts keep The Underpinnings Museum running! Please consider visiting our sponsors if you enjoy this website.


Blog posts

Sparklewren Autumn 2020 Lookbook 'Bless The Weather'. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Jenni Hampshire.

Sparklewren Autumn 2020 Lookbook: ‘Bless The Weather’

Although the Sparklewren brand is still on indefinite hiatus, earlier this year designer Jenni Hampshire was inspired to…

Maternity & Nursing Corset With Open Bust, Elasticated Panelling & Laced Side Seams By Corset Au Coeur, c. 1910s, France. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

The End of Maternal Corsetry

The end of the nineteenth century was marked by several political, economic and social changes that permanently affected the fabric of Western communities. To understand how these changes were reflected in the lives of ordinary people, it can be useful to explore their effect on clothing and more specifically, women’s undergarments. The changes that occurred in breastfeeding garments from 1900-1945 illustrate how social, economic and medical practices shaped the objects being designed during that time.

1930s Kestos style bra, The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice Studios

Rosamond Lilian Klin: The Inventor Of The Kestos Bra

The Kestos lingerie brand has long been one of my favourite in the grand scheme of lingerie history;…

Black Silk & Lace Ribbonwork Step In, c. 1920s, USA. The Underpinnings Museum Photo by Tigz Rice

Favourite Things: Ayten Gasson

Another installment in our blog series ‘Favourite Things’, where we ask lingerie industry professionals to pick a favourite…

c. 1830s corset - The Underpinnings Museum

New Acquisition: c. 1830s Corset

Earlier this year, The Underpinnings Museum ran its first major fundraiser since 2016’s Kickstarter (the crowdfunding campaign that…

Image shows a hand holding a box for a Wonderbra. The box is yellow and has a black and white photograph on the front of a model wearing the bra

‘Hello Boys’: How Wonderbra Survived the Bra Wars

Initially developed in Canada in the 1930s, lingerie manufacturer Canadelle first registered its Wonderbra name as a Trademark…