Men’s fashion is always overlooked. It’s shunted to the far corners of stores and rarely celebrated in magazine spreads. That was, until the V&A launched their recent exhibition, Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear, championing the subject.
The exhibition, created in partnership with Gucci, celebrates masculine attire, from the iconic looks by legendary designers and rising stars to historical treasures and acclaimed artworks.
On display until 6 November 2022, it’s the first major V&A exhibition to honour the power, artistry and diversity of masculine attire and appearance. Explored through around 100 looks and 100 artworks, displayed across three galleries, expect to find looks from powerhouse designers like Harris Reed, Grace Wales Bonner and Raf Simons, as well as outfits worn by some of the world’s biggest celebs.
Here’s why you don’t want to miss it…
You’ll see outfits worn by big name celebs
Loved the pivotal fashion moment from Harry Styles as he made history by being the first solo male cover star of US Vogue? Adored Billy Porter’s iconic Oscars red carpet moment as he wore a tuxedo gown by Christian Siriano? Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear allows you to explore these poignant moments in fashion history in the flesh.
The V&A’s celebratory finale reveals the history changing gowns worn by Billy Porter, Harry Styles and Bimini Bon Boulash. Expect to see these three looks up close, from Harry Styles’ Alessandro Michele for Gucci custom gown and tailored jacket for the Vogue cover shoot; Bimini Bon Boulash’s wedding dress by Ella Lynch worn for the season 2 finale of Ru Paul’s Drag Race; and Billy Porter’s Oscars tuxedo gown that was the talk of 2019.
As well as these, you’ll see the sequinned Haider Ackermann suit worn by Timothée Chalamet to the Dune premiere at the Venice Film Festival and looks from Sam Smith, David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich.
It showcases historical moments in fashion history
As well as memorable looks, there are a wide range of historical treasures from the V&A’s collections and landmark institutions, including classical sculptures, Renaissance paintings, photographs, and powerful film and performances.
Spread across the three displays, there’ll be works from the likes of Matthew Bourne and his film Spitfire, which takes place in the world of men’s underwear advertising and mail order catalogue photography; Auguste Rodin’s Age of Bronze sculpture; Grinling Gibbons’ wood carving imitating a Venetian needlepoint lace cravat, displayed alongside real lace; and Robert Longo’s 1981 drawing from the series Men in the Cities to name but a few.
Expect looks from iconic fashion designers
Spread throughout the exhibition, you’ll have the opportunity to explore iconic works from legendary designers such as Harris Reed, Gucci, Grace Wales Bonner and Raf Simons.
Look forward to exploring each theme, where you’ll see the likes of a Dolce & Gabbana cape juxtaposed with a Sofonisba Anguissola painting; contemporary masculine looks from Kim Jones, Alessandro Michele, Orange Culture, Ahluwalia, and Rahemur Rahman ; and leather displays from Tom Ford and Donatella Versace.
It celebrates the diversity of masculine attire
Spread thematically across three galleries, Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear is the first major V&A exhibition of its kind. Championing the power, artistry and diversity of masculine attire and appearance, the retrospective traces how menswear has been fashioned and refashioned over the centuries. It unpicks history, delving into the works of designers, tailors and artists, as well as their clients and sitters, and how they have constructed and performed the role of ‘masculinity’.
Split into three parts: Undressed, Overdressed and Redressed, each piecing together masculine fashion over the centuries.
Undressed explores the male body and underwear, exploring how classical European ideals of masculinity have been perpetuated and challenged over centuries, from plaster casts of the Apollo Belvedere to Calvin Klein’s advertisements. While Overdressed examines the elite masculine wardrobe, from lavish materials to symbolic patterns addressing status and wealth. It ranges from historic wooden carvings by Grinling Gibbons to contemporary fashion that has helped shift the ideas of masculinity into a full rainbow of work, including Kim Jones for Fendi and Alessandro Michele for Gucci.
Lastly, Redressed pieces together the modern masculine uniform of the suit – think historic garments, paintings from Oscar Wilde and Cecil Beaton and designers like Tom Ford for Gucci and Donatella Versace.
The V&A is home to two other great exhibitions right now too
If that wasn’t enough of a fashion hit for you, the V&A has another brilliant fashion exhibition right now. African Fashion, on display until April 2023, celebrates the creativity, ingenuity and global impact of contemporary African fashions. Showcased through over 250 objects, expect garments from iconic mid-twentieth century African designers, Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah and Alphadi. As well as Imane Ayissi, IAMISIGO, Moshions, Thebe Magugu and Sindiso Khumalo, and sketches, editorial spreads, photographs, film and catwalk footage from the designers.
Or, for something entirely different, look to their adorable Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature exhibition. Bring your little ones along and fall back in love with one of the most loved children’s authors of the 20th century and her friendly characters.