V&A announce new exhibition Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear in partnership with Gucci

We’re not just all about womenswear, here on The Style Life. We are very excited about a major new exhibition coming to the V&A next year.

Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear looks at how menswear has been fashioned and refashioned over the centuries by designers, tailors and artists.

New Adventures, Spitfire. Matthew Bourne. Photo Kaasam Aziz

The exhibition, in partnership with Gucci, will have around 100 looks and 100 artworks across three galleries, covering everything from classical sculptures to Renaissance paintings, iconic photographs to film and performance. Outfits worn by familiar faces will be interspersed throughout, from Harry Styles, Billy Porter and Sam Smith, to David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich. 

Sam Smith photographed by Alasdair McLellan, Hertfordshire, June 16, 2020

The first gallery Undressed will explore the male body and underwear, looking at how classical European ideals of masculinity have been challenged over the centuries. On display will be a film of Matthew Bourne’s Spitfire, which takes place in the world of men’s underwear advertising and mail order catalogue photography. It will end with Auguste Rodin’s Age of Bronze sculpture.

Omar Victor Diop, Jean-Baptiste Belley, 2014. Courtesy MAGNIN-A Gallery, Paris. (c) Omar Victor Diop

The second gallery, Overdressed, looks at the elite masculine wardrobe, epitomised by oversized silhouettes, lavish materials like silks and velvet in daring colours, and patterns to express status, wealth and individuality. 

Wales Bonner Spring Summer 2015 Afrique. Photo Dexter Lander

Aristocratic sitters in oil paintings by Joshua Reynolds and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau will be displayed alongside ensembles by Harris Reed and Grace Wales Bonner among others. While the custom Randi Rahm ensemble – a suit and full-length embroidered cloak with a hot pink lining – worn by Billy Porter at the Golden Globes in 2019, will complement the selection.

Harris Reed Fluid Romanticism 001. Photographer Giovanni Corabi

Through the lens of contemporary fashion, from Kim Jones for Fendi and Alessandro Michele for Gucci to Rahemur Rahman, Ahluwalia and Orange Culture, Overdressed will show how historic ideas begin to shift.

Orange Culture, Autumn Winter 2020 Flower Boy two-piece set, photographed by Mikey Oshai, image courtesy of Adebayo Oke-Lawal (c) Orange Culture

The third gallery, Redressed, will piece together the modern masculine uniform of the suit, from Beau Brummell to the contemporary runway. Redressed will open with a reflection on English country tailoring and the origins of the suit.

Chris Steele-Perkins, GB. ENGLAND. Bradford. Market Tavern. 1976. (c) Chris Steele-Perkins Magnum Photos

In the twentieth century an abundance of mass-produced suits bred creativity as Mods, Teddy Boys and all manner of subcultures looked to define their styles through tailoring. A section on leather will show how designers like Tom Ford for Gucci and Donatella Versace took their interest in leather to a new place, whilst a series of frock coats from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day will include examples by Prada, Alexander McQueen and Raf Simons. 

An oil on canvas portrait of Charles Coote, full-length standing wearing pink robe and feathered hat, hand resting on sword in scabbard. Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Charles Coote, 1773-1774. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland

Redressed will also include paintings as well as extensive photography showing changing styles and attitudes, from Oscar Wilde to Cecil Beaton and The Beatles.

Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear runs from 19 March – 6 November 2022. Adult tickets £20. On sale now at vam.ac.uk/masculinities

Words: Margaret Hussey