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Fashioning Masculinities: London's Victoria and Albert Museum is dedicated to the diversity of male clothing.
Autumn Winter 2020 Flower Boy two-piece set, by Orange Culture, photographed by Mikey Oshai, image courtesy of Adebayo Oke-Lawal. © Orange Culture

Museum exhibitions about prominent fashion designers and their creations are anything but rare. However, the spotlight is mostly on fashion for women – from haute couture to prêt-à-porter collections. But what about the artistry and diversity of male clothing and appearance? The exhibition “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum tackles the subject and shows how “masculinity” has been portrayed and shaped in many different ways through clothing and fashion over the centuries.

From 19 March to 6 November 2022, the exhibition presents around 100 looks and 100 works of art, arranged thematically in three galleries according to the categories Undressed, Overdressed and Redressed. Contemporary looks by legendary designers and rising stars will be displayed alongside historical treasures from the V&A’s collections and loans such as classical sculptures, Renaissance paintings, iconic photographs, and films and performances. The spectrum of fashionable masculinity ranges from the Renaissance to the global present, from Gucci, Harris Reed, Grace Wales Bonner and Raf Simons to paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola and Joshua Reynolds, contemporary artworks by David Hockney and Omar Victor Diop, and an excerpt from an all-male dance performance of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures.

“Undressed” explores the male body and underwear, examining how classical European ideals of masculinity have been upheld and challenged over the centuries. “Overdressed”, looks at the elite male wardrobe characterised by oversized silhouettes, lush materials such as silk and velvet in bold colours and symbolic patterns expressing status, wealth and individuality. “Redressed” finally begins with a reflection on English country house tailoring and the origins of the suit, before examining how military dress has influenced civilian dress. The final part of “Redressed” looks at the disintegration of the suit, showing how a new wave of fashion designers from Rick Owens to JW Anderson and Comme des Garçons to Lesiba Mabitsela are breaking down the conventions of both menswear and masculinity and its self-expression.

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