Organized thematically in five sections, the exhibition begins with an intriguing presentation on the "Neck and Shoulders." In most cultures, a long neck and defined shoulders are perceived as symbols of grace, strength, and poise. To demonstrate this theory, an array of cultural and fashionable mechanisms such as traditional brass neckrings worn by the Ndebele and Padoung people to elongate the neck or traditional wide-wing kimonos worn by samurai to extend the shoulders are juxtaposed with modern and sometimes radical interpretations by fashion designers John Galliano for Christian Dior, Issey Miyake, and Hussein Chalayan.
The second gallery presents the obvious and subtle methods employed to enhance or diminish the "Chest." From Empire gowns marked with high waist and exposed décolleté to Tom Ford's plastic bustier with piercings for Yves Saint Laurent, art and fashion have presented the chest as alternately suppressed and augmented. Other examples include the flattening Japanese obi, monobosoms, early conical brassieres, and Madonna's infamous pink satin bustier by Jean Paul Gaultier worn during her "Blonde Ambition" Tour.
"Waist," in the third gallery, documents the long history of midriff manipulation, from the waist suppression of sixteenth-century iron corsets, to the cinched drawers of early nineteenth-century dandies. Ethnic examples include bark girdles worn in New Guinea by men and the beaded corsets of Dinka warriors in Africa. Non-waisted effects include the cylindrical form of the Japanese courtesan, flapper styles of the 1920s, and fashions by designer Balenciaga, Helmut Lang, and Viktor and Rolf.
The fourth gallery, "Hips," reveals the hidden constructions and elaborate engineering applied to the hips and buttocks. The impulse to enhance and exaggerate the hip area has resulted in an astounding array of panniers, bustles, hip pads, and crinoline hoops. Highlights include the double-door expanse of eighteenth-century panniered court gowns and the radical "bump" dresses of fashion designer Rei Kawakubo.
The final gallery is devoted to "Feet." Shoes have been one of fashion's most effective tools to adjust the natural anatomy. Examples range from geisha tottering on raised clogs, to the twenty-inch-high chopines of sixteenth-century Venetian women, to the outrageous and multicolored platform sandals of Salvatore Ferragamo.