LONDON — Victoria and Albert Museum next year will host “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear,” its first major exhibition that examines the power, artistry and diversity of masculine attire and appearance, in partnership with Gucci. The exhibition is set to run from March 19 to Nov. 6.
The show will present around 100 looks and 100 artworks from the Renaissance to the modern day. Contemporary looks from fashion designers like Harris Reed, Craig Green, Grace Wales Bonner and Raf Simons will be displayed alongside historical items from the V&A’s collections, such as paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola and Joshua Reynolds, contemporary artworks by Robert Longo and Omar Victor Diop, and an extract from the all-male ballet performance “Spitfire” by Matthew Bourne.
Key looks worn by fashion icons will also be interspersed throughout, from Harry Styles, Billy Porter and Sam Smith, to David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich, highlighting the multiplicities of masculine sartorial self-expression, dressing beyond the binary.
Claire Wilcox and Rosalind McKever, co-curators of the show, said the exhibition is a celebration of the masculine wardrobe, and it aims to bring together historical and contemporary looks with art that reveals how masculinity has been portrayed.
“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,” they added.
The show will open with a Craig Green spring 2021 ensemble and it is followed by three main galleries with the themes of Undressed, Overdressed and Redressed.
Undressed will explore the male body and underwear in a utopian dreamscape. This part will look at how classical European ideals of masculinity have been perpetuated and challenged over the centuries. Examples of traditional idealized male bodies such as plaster casts of the Apollo Belvedere and the Farnese Hermes will sit alongside contemporary representations of the body from David Hockney, Lionel Wendt, Zanele Muholi and Isaac Julien through to a Calvin Klein advertisement.
This part will also feature garments by Jean Paul Gaultier and A-Cold-Wall’s Samuel Ross to show how fashion is changing masculine ideals and celebrating body diversity, as well as Auguste Rodin’s Age of Bronze sculpture, and “Tiresias,” a performance by Cassils.
The Overdressed section will explore the elite masculine wardrobe. It will feature armored breastplates, smoking suits, sweeping capes, ribbons and lace. This part will also include grooming, with makeup and shaving equipment.
Aristocratic portraits by Joshua Reynolds and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau will be displayed alongside pink ensembles by Harris Reed and Grace Wales Bonner, as well as modern fashions from Kim Jones for Fendi, Alessandro Michele for Gucci, Rahemur Rahman, Ahluwalia and Orange Culture. A custom-made Randi Rahm look — a suit and full-length embroidered cloak with a hot pink lining — worn by Billy Porter at the Golden Globes in 2019 will also be showcased.
The last part of the exhibition, Redressed, will highlight the evolution of suits, from Regency-era England’s fashion opinion leader Beau Brummell to the contemporary runway. It will depict the origins of the suit with historic garments from the V&A collection shown alongside contemporary re-imaginings, including a kilt by Nicholas Daley.
This part will also touch base on British subcultures that looked to define their styles through tailoring such as the Mods and Teddy Boys, as well as men’s obsession with leather and frock coats with examples by Tom Ford, Donatella Versace, Prada, Alexander McQueen and Raf Simons.
The final part of the section will explore the dissolving of the concept of a suit, with evidence from designers like Rick Owens, Jonathan Anderson, Comme des Garçons and Lesiba Mabitsela, showing how they are deconstructing the idea of men’s wear and masculinity.