The V&A Museum have now opened the exhibition “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” in partnership with Gucci.
The London-based exhibition aims to examine traditions of masculinity and how current fashion designers are disrupting the norm through menswear. Running until November 6, the gallery is set to be one of the most notable studies of male fashion, featuring current pioneers within the industry such as Harris Reed.
The exhibition, co-curated by Claire Wilcox, Rosalind McKever, and Marta Franceschini, is a homage to the power and diversity of men’s fashion, bringing together over 100 pieces by designers, tailors, and artists who have had an impact on masculinity. The museum’s latest blockbuster not only investigates sartorial history, but also marks the evolution of gender through dress, with pieces ranging from 16th-century lace-trimmed clothing to modern-day works by Grace Wales Bonner, Craig Green, and Martine Rose.
Undressed, Overdressed, Redressed, and Dressed are the four key themes covered in Fashioning Masculinities. In each space, the exhibit weaves together moments from the past and present to demonstrate the cyclical trends that have recurred over the centuries.
The first room, Undressed, delves into the origins of masculinity: the homoerotic naked malessculpted by the Greeks. The roots of underwear are depicted here, dotted amongst key fashion pieces like Jean Paul Gaultier‘s famous trompe l’oeil jacket embellished with a printed bare chest. To demonstrate how modern designs have made underwear, like the body, increasingly visible, three looks by JW Anderson, Ludovic De Saint Sernin, and Virgil Abloh for Off-White are seen on mannequins who are embracing one another, presumably reflective of fashion promoting fluidity and transparency.
Overdressed implies ostentatiousness by definition, and this portion does not fail on that front. A pink ruffle suit designed by gender-fluid designer Harris Reed sits opposite from a magnificent oil on canvas image of Charles Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont, wearing a cloak in the same colour by Joshua Reynolds.
Redressed, the third gallery, focuses on the classic male uniform, the suit. This part of the exhibition brings together an eclectic collection of interpretations, from a tailored green check suit worn by the Duke of Windsor, to modern takes on the suit by Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme, Tom Ford at Gucci, and Yves Saint Laurent. Another standout moment included an asymmetric tailored and sequined Haider Ackermann suit that Timothée Chalamet wore at the 2021 Dune premiere.
Lastly, Dressed uses fashion to highlight gender nonconformity. The room includes three gowns that have had equal impact: Harry Styles‘ custom ruffled blue Gucci dress from the cover of American Vogue; Billy Porter‘s black tuxedo Christian Siriano gown worn at the 2019 Oscars; and drag queen Bimini Bon-Boulash‘s dramatic white lace extravaganza worn on the grand finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.