V&A announce first major exhibition celebrating masculine attire

·2 min read
A still from Harris Reed’s Fluid Romanticism collection, which will be exhibited at the V&A’s forthcoming exhbition (Giovanni Corabi)
A still from Harris Reed’s Fluid Romanticism collection, which will be exhibited at the V&A’s forthcoming exhbition (Giovanni Corabi)

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has announced their first major exhibition focusing on masculine attire.

Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear will celebrate “iconic looks” by legendary designers and fashion newcomers, such as Gucci, Raf Simons and Harris Reed, alongside historical treasures and acclaimed artworks, including classical sculptures, Renaissance paintings,photographs and films.

The exhibition aims to showcase the range of possible masculinities over the centuries, from the Renaissance to the current day.

Outfits worn by stars including Harry Styles, David Bowie, Billy Porter, Marlene Dietrich and Sam Smith will be interspersed throughout the exhibition, which will consist of three galleries: Undressed, Overdressed and Redressed.

Undressed will explore the male body, underwear, and how classical European notions of masculinity have changed over the years. Prints and photographs by David Hockney, Lionel Wendt and Issac Julien will all feature alongside garments by Jean-Paul Gaultier, a Calvin Klein advertisement, and Auguste Rodin’s Age of Bronze sculpture.

A wool coat and trousers and silk top hat from the US, 1845-1853 (Victoria and Albert Museum)
A wool coat and trousers and silk top hat from the US, 1845-1853 (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Overdressed will focus on the elite masculine wardrobe in an opulent, immersive space, with oversized silhouettes, colours and lavish materials. Featured costumes include armoured breastplates, sweeping capes and silk smoking suits.

And Redressed will explore the contemporary masculine uniform, from English country tailoring, to Mods, Teddy Boys and current creations, such as a kilt by Nicholas Daley.

Co-curators of the exhibition Claire Wilcox and Rosalind McKever said: “Masculine fashion is enjoying a period of unprecedented creativity. It has long been a powerful mechanism for encouraging conformity or expressing individuality.

“Rather than a linear or definitive history, this is a journey across time and gender. The exhibition will bring together historical and contemporary looks with art that reveals how masculinity has been performed. This will be a celebration of the masculine wardrobe, and everyone is invited to join in.”

The exhibition is the latest fashion spectacle at the V&A following previous exhibits on Christian Dior, Mary Quant, underwear, shoes and 1980s London fashion.

Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear will run from 19 March - 6 November 2022. Adult tickets are now on sale for £20 from the V&A museum website.

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