"Cross Your Heart" bra exhibit empowers and inspires women

Designer Kristina Shin explores the evolution and reception of the bra design with a fashion exhibit of 14 detailed lingerie designs. Her exhibit opens Monday at 5 p.m. at the Nancy Cantor Warehouse in downtown Syracuse.

Through the decades, the brassiere has evolved from the Victorian-age corset, to the padded Wonderbra and the glamorous sequin-encrusted bra.  Not only have these hidden undergarment designs symbolized control, but they have also encouraged feminism. Empowerment and freedom characterize the new scantily clad lingerie exhibit Cross Your Heart. Designer Kristina Shin will showcase the collection Dec. 4– Dec. 8 at Syracuse University’s Sue & Leon Genet Gallery at the Warehouse in downtown Syracuse.

Photo: Courtesy of Kristina Shin
Kristina Shin's cone-shaped bra was inspired by Madonna's April 13, 1990, concert performance, where the singer dawned Jean Paul Gaultier's risky cone-shaped cup design on the stage. With this daring and innovative design, Gaultier inspired both designers and musicians to take risks in both fashion and art.

Shin’s vintage intimates collection features 14 complex all black laced undergarment designs, including a replica of Madonna’s 1990 iconic cone-shaped bra and intricately contoured bralettes.  

“The bra was seen as a social and cultural object to express the woman’s oppression or empowerment, but no one looked into the design and patternmaking perspective and how it evolved,” Shin said. “Because the bra was a part of this social and cultural movement, it became empowering and it gave confidence to women.” 

By using various shapes, stimulating materials and seductive patterns, Shin’s display is a platform that touches on various implications of hidden forms of female liberation. The universal combination of detail and design influenced the acceptance of the exposed bra into pop culture as symbolic article of clothing that was used as a statement of confidence rather than restriction. 

Besides showcasing underwear exhibits, Shin is an Assistant Professor of Fashion and Textile Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where she has been teaching patternmaking and lingerie design for over 10 years.  Shin has also written an innovative do-it-yourself guide to undergarment design called ‘Patternmaking for Underwear Design.'  In 2015, Shin and a group of researchers developed an award-winning bra for women who have undergone a mastectomy. 

With this exhibit, Shin said she wants viewers to realize how complicated the bra design is and how something so small and insignificant can bring inspiration to a woman’s life.  Shin’s distinctive designs bring awareness to social conflicts that women across the globe struggle with, such as living with the long-term side effects of breast cancer.  

“It’s a celebration of the breasts, especially when you meet someone affected by breast cancer, you can then enjoy this pretty garment and the engineering of the piece,” Shin said.

Though the “Cross Your Heart” exhibit is simply for viewing, Shin is now thinking about collaborating on her own lingerie line if the option of brand partnership presents itself.

On opening night, the exhibit will be followed by a brief discussion of her collection and her work. The event starts at 5 p.m. Monday.

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