Category Archives: Fashion History

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.

Designer Inspiration: Yves Saint-Laurent

‘In 1985, Caroline Rennolds Milbank wrote, “The most consistently celebrated and influential designer of the past twenty-five years, Yves Saint Laurent can be credited with both spurring the couture’s rise from its 1960s ashes and with finally rendering ready-to-wear reputable.”‘ (source)

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YSL is credited with introducing the tuxedo for women, calling it ‘Le Smoking’. I was actually tempted to make a version of the original 60s tuxedo for the Sewcialite Soiree (for which I made a mustard corduroy suit instead) but decided if I got hot and took the jacket off, I would look like a waiter!

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I personally prefer the version above over the version below, but both must have been equally ground-breaking in a time when a lot of women probably didn’t even wear trousers, let alone a suit.

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‘At the age of 17, Saint Laurent moved to Paris and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, where his designs quickly gained notice. Michel De Brunhoff, the editor of French Vogue, introduced Saint Laurent to designer Christian Dior, a giant in the fashion world. “Dior fascinated me,” Saint Laurent later recalled. “I couldn’t speak in front of him. He taught me the basis of my art. Whatever was to happen next, I never forgot the years I spent at his side.”‘ (source)

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‘Although Dior recognised his talent immediately, Saint Laurent spent his first year at the House of Dior on mundane tasks, such as decorating the studio and designing accessories. Eventually, however, he was allowed to submit sketches for the couture collection; with every passing season, more of his sketches were accepted by Dior. In August 1957, Dior met with Saint Laurent’s mother to tell her that he had chosen Saint Laurent to succeed him as designer.’ (source)

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‘In 1957, Saint Laurent found himself at age 21 the head designer of the House of Dior. His spring 1958 collection almost certainly saved the enterprise from financial ruin; the straight line of his creations, a softer version of Dior’s New Look, catapulted him to international stardom with what would later be known as the “trapeze dress”. Others included in the collection were dresses with a narrow shoulder and flared gently at the bottom. At this time, he shortened his surname to Saint Laurent because the international press found his hyphenated triple name difficult to spell’ (source)

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Saint Laurent was fired by the House of Dior in 1960 after less than stellar follow up collections but sued them for breach of contract and won. He then set up his eponymous line with his partner Pierre Berge.

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One of Saint-Laurent’s most iconic designs must be the Mondrian dress (which had a resurgence a couple of years ago thanks to the Sewing Bee). It’s so completely 60s! I do love it. Maybe I’ll make a version one day?!

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‘In the 1960s and 1970s, the firm popularised fashion trends such as the beatnik look; safari jackets for men and women; tight trousers; tall, thigh-high boots; and arguably the most famous classic tuxedo suit for women in 1966, Le Smoking. The 1965 Mondrian collection was particularly renowned. Saint Laurent also started mainstreaming the idea of wearing silhouettes from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.[citation needed] Yves Saint Laurent brought in new changes to the fashion industry in the 60s and the 70s. The French designer opened his Pret-a-Porter House YSL Rive Gauche in 1967 where he was starting to shift his focus from Haute Couture to Ready-to-wear. One of the purpose was to provide a wider range of fashionable style being available to choose from in the market as they were affordable and cheaper.’ (source)

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And, of course, like most big name designers of the 60s and 70s, Yves Saint-Laurent released sewing patterns!

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I love the yellow version (unsurprisingly)

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I think pattern envelope designers (from the big 4) could learn something from times gone by!

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I love this coat!

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I kind of love this dress, but I’m not sure how well it would work on anyone with boobs! I guess that’s true of a lot of 60s fashion though.

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What’s your favourite YSL look?

The Hundred Years Wardrobe Project

Since I’ve been sewing for a while I’ve decided to try to challenge myself to expand my skills and to sew garments and with fabrics that are outside of my comfort zone. And so was born my idea for the Hundred Years Wardrobe Project.

I’m going to sew one thing from each decade of the 20th Century. There is no time limit for this as I want it to be a fun exercise and deadlines are often where stress lies for me.

I’m going to also try to do some posts about my research for each decade and share some of my inspiration. A while ago I did write some posts about fashion history but I ran out of steam with them – hopefully with a garment to relate the history to I will have more to say and more to share. Some of the makes will be inspired by fashion and some will be from films – either made at the time or set in the past.

I would love it if anyone else wants to join in with this project – I’m calling it a project rather than a challenge as there is no deadline and there will be no prizes, just the pride in having made something cool!

Spoiler alert: I already have my first make made and ready to blog soon!