Mens wear

V&A’s ‘Fashioning Masculinities’ explores the history of men’s fashion – Robb Report

With the likes of Timothée Chalamet and Harry Styles challenging traditional notions of male dress with every red carpet appearance, it feels like the relationship between masculinity and clothing is poised for a revolution. It is in this context that the Victoria & Albert Museum in London opened Shaping Masculinities: The Art of Men’s Fashion, a new exhibition that runs until November 6 and is accompanied by a book of the same name which will be released on May 31 from V&A Publishing (and available for pre-order now).

“It’s an exciting time because changing perceptions around menswear and masculinity are happening everywhere, from fashion houses to streetstyle, from the red carpet to Instagram,” says Rosalind McKever, who co-hosted the exhibition and edited the book with Claire Wilcox. In addition to the timeliness of the subject, McKever believes the Victoria & Albert’s large and diverse collection has made it uniquely suited to the task.

Pierre Keller

“The V&A has been collecting men’s fashion since its founding, and throughout the museum, in paintings, sculptures, everywhere, we see images of men’s fashion,” she says. “We noticed the links between the creativity of the contemporary men’s scene and these historic collections, so we wanted to share them and celebrate this moment of dynamism.”

The exhibition and book are divided into three sections: “Undressed” focuses on depictions of the naked male body from antiquity as well as underwear; “Overdressed” examines the power and attitudes conveyed by court dress and fashion throughout history; and “Redressed” examines how the nature of men’s clothing has changed over the last century and continues to evolve (the exhibition ends with a fourth theme, “Dressed”, presenting three recent pieces of the zeitgeist, including the tuxedo dress worn by Billy Porter at the 2019 Oscars and the Gucci lace dress that Harry Styles donned for the December 2020 cover of American vogue.)

Sam Smith photographed by Alasdair McLellan;  the cover of

Sam Smith photographed by Alasdair McLellan; the cover of “Fashioning Masculinties”.

Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, from March 19 to November 6, 2022. In partnership with Gucci, with the support of American Express ®

Along the way, the theme of each section is underscored by paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs and other objects from the museum’s collection, and in the case of the book, dozens of short essays by curators from museum, scholars and fashion critics exploring the connections between classical statuary and Marvel superheroes or Renaissance portraiture and hip-hop (surprisingly, its afterword is written by the late Virgil Abloh). The book also devotes more time to props, and the roles played by identity, history and geography.

And while the exhibit and book address the current relationship between masculinity and dress, visitors and readers should walk away with the understanding that it has always been fluid.

“Perceptions of masculinity through clothing are constantly changing,” McKever said. Robb report. If we go back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, we find oversized silhouettes, sumptuous fabrics and bold colors even more flamboyant than those of contemporary catwalks, but in a more conservative society. By comparison, today’s fashion seems more open, but the exhibition and the book show that everything is relative.

An installation in the

Pierre Keller

When it comes to the figures who have had the most impact on how men have worn their masculinity through the centuries, McKever credits the power to Renaissance princes and the famously streamlined style of Regency celebrity Beau. Brummel. But she thinks the opposite sex also deserves credit for changing male dress standards.

“From Queen Elizabeth I to Marlene Dietrich via YSL The smoker, the adoption of men’s clothing by women has overturned clothing power structures, with a liberating effect for everyone,” she says.

If the history of men’s clothing serves as an example, what comes next is anyone’s guess. “Shaping masculinities really shows how perceptions of masculinity are subject to change, and we love fashion because it never fails to surprise us,” says McKever. “I’m sure we should expect the unexpected!”