Sartorial history lesson

An exploration of menswear is coming to the V&A
By Ella Joyce | Art | 19 October 2021

Gucci Pre Fall 2019 Men’s Tailoring Campaign, Courtesy of Gucci

In the first retrospect of its kind, the V&A is set to present Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear next March, a major exhibition sponsored by Gucci spanning the evolution of menswear from 1565 to the present day.

Harris Reed, Fluid Romanticism 001, Courtesy of Harris Reed

The trajectory of womenswear is well documented, but the historic fluidity of men’s fashion hasn’t garnered as much air time. This exploration of masculine identity arrives at a time when an unprecedented move towards dressing beyond the binary of gender is at the fore, showcasing how artists, designers, and tailors have constructed and performed masculinity while simultaneously deconstructing the narrative that surrounds it – from Beau Brummell’s Regency dandyism to the likes of Charles Jeffrey, Harris Reed and Stefan Cooke who continue to unpick menswear sensibilities within the London fashion scene. Boasting a hundred looks and a hundred artworks spread thematically across three gallery spaces titled Undressed, Overdressed and Redressed in the South Kensington museum, each one showcases the diversity of the male silhouette from a different angle.

New Adventures, Spitfire. Matthew Bourne. Photography by Kaasam Aziz

Contemporary creations from household designers and new kids on the block will sit among historical treasures in the form of painting, photography, and film from the V&A’s archive – think David Bowie meets Renaissance. Designers include the likes of Harris Reed, JW Anderson, Gucci, and Raf Simons, while David Hockney’s contemporary artwork also makes an appearance alongside an extract from an all-male Matthew Bourne ballet. Pieces worn by cultural figures who have championed sartorial self-expression will take centre stage, from Harry Styles’ custom embroidered Gucci suits, to the iconic looks of David Bowie, Billy Porter, and Marlene Dietrich. As the portrait of masculinity continues to evolve, here is the tapestry that led us to this moment.

Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear will be at the V&A Museum from 19 March – 6 November 2022, available to book now.

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