Fashioning Masculinities Exhibition

Last year the V & A had an exhibition called Fashioning Masculinites which was all about the history and evolution of menswear, using art as well as clothing to illustrate the changes and themes. I managed to go in pretty much the last week and I’m so glad I made the effort as it was super interesting.

Like some previous fashion exhibitions I’ve been to, the clothes were arranged in themes rather than purely oldest to newest. So the first room was all about underwear – the shirt started off as underwear and evolved into more visible, but still underneath other layers, and then into outerwear.

I liked how much the exhibition touched on gender expression, including displaying binders alongside boxers and briefs.

I also appreciated that it wasn’t just British/European fashion, but clothing from other countries too, like this Jama from India. It’s hard to believe it’s over 170 years old too, it looks brand new!

in the underwear room there was some discussion of Victorian prudishness, and I particularly liked this leaf that was made to cover up the genitals of a copy of Michelangelo’s David! Lol!

But I think my absolute favourite thing in this first room was this trompe-l’œil Jean-Paul Gaultier jacket. When you stand close to it, it just looks stripey, but stand back and you’re treated to a very sculpted nude male body!

I loved how the exhibition made it clear that dressing flamboyantly is nothing new, and has been happening for centuries!

I couldn’t believe how intricate this breastplate is!

So below it looks like 2 versions of the same cravat, but in fact the brown one is carved from wood! It was once owned by Horace Walpole, who used to wear it to greet guests to his house. I’m not gonna lie, I kinda want a wooden cravat/tie now.

The amount of work that must have gone into the fabrication on this jacket, was pretty astounding!

And this outfit is even more ornate – and it’s been toned down!

Below you can see a modern garment that was inspired by the above outfit. This is why I especially enjoyed the way the exhibition was arranged. It made the connections through time much clearer to see.

OMG this was one of my absolute favourites! I kind of want to try to recreate it for the Dressmakers’ Ball – but obviously I wouldn’t be able to do that amount of beading/embroidery so I’d have to find some suitable fabric I could use instead. Either way I think I definitely want a cape, even if I don’t recreate this actual outfit.

So beautiful!

There was a rainbow section, where the outfits were arranged by colour, which I particularly enjoyed – because who doesn’t love a rainbow of clothes!?

This suit was worn by Harry Styles – I had to wait a while before I could get a photo of it because it was definitely one everyone was taking photos of, and a lot of people were taking photos of themselves with the suit.

I particularly enjoyed the juxtapositions in this section.

So good! I would wear either of these outfits!

I love the green tartan suit, below.

The section on how military uniforms have inspired fashion was especially interesting – like we know when a detail is ‘military inspired’ but seeing them side by side made it even clearer where those influences came from.

I freakin’ love this photo – and they used it for the cover of the exhibition book, which I think was a great choice. I did treat myself to a book – and because it was like the last week or so, it was reduced – score!

An actual outfit worn by actual Nelson!

There was a quite large selection of tuxedos and black suits – but they were pretty much impossible to photograph! They had on worn by Gary Oldman on the red carpet – complete with the glasses he wore in the pocket!

I couldn’t not include a slightly crap photograph of a Marlene Dietrich suit, though.

After the black suits and tuxedos – through history and as fashion on the red carpet – there was then a small display of how men’s evening wear has evolved somewhat for the younger generation.

It was very cool to see this Gucci dress worn by Harry Styles in person! I mean I’ve seen the photographs from Vogue, but actually seeing all the detail and layers and work that went into making it was pretty amazing. Whenever I see proper couture clothing, I realise why the ateliers are the best in the word and why the designers are so sought after.

Another Billy Porter outfit – I remember seeing this for the first time on the Oscars red carpet and thinking it was amazing. I still think it’s amazing. He really does have genuinely great style!

The last outfit in the exhibition was a dress from Drag Queen Bimini Bon Boulash, who was one of my favourites on her season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Who couldn’t fall in love with her with lines like ‘the nipples are the eyes of the face’!

I do really love going to fashion exhibitions – they always give me so much inspiration and knowledge I didn’t have before. I think the next one I’ll be going to (hopefully, if I can get tickets) is the Chanel exhibition, also at the V&A. It opens in September I think.

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