This exhibition was my favourite that I visited this year. It wasn’t just about how men’s fashion had changed over the years but also how the social perception of men’s fashion had changed as well. It started by looking at the bodies of men and the different ways that men wore white in history, such as undershirts turning into the shirt we have today. Yet, it also had a more sociological line throughout by explaining and discussing how fashion had impacted the way that men were perceived by society. For example, the last section of the exhibition talked about how the image of a businessman in a black suit had become a classic image of a strong powerful man, yet if you tracked it back through the exhibition it talks about how fashion wasn’t always like this and that fashion that we now associate with women such as high heels and make-up were primarily worn by men, and that things such as pink which we now see firmly saturated as a female-assigned colour in the media nowadays was originally predominately worn by men.
I specifically remember a painting that was in the exhibition where art researchers had discovered that the man was wearing a red doublet in the portrait originally but had his clothes painted over with black later, as it was cheaper to do this rather than recommission a whole portrait, as black was then more fashionable, which just highlights the fact that fashion is always changing. It was an interesting and insightful exhibition as it highlighted the way that society has socially constructed gender norms within fashion, as it hasn’t always been the same way.
Another part at the end that I loved was the fact that they had Billy Porter’s tuxedo dress and Harry Style’s dress that he wore in vogue. It was nice to see examples of men embracing the fact that clothes are not about gender, but rather about how we wish to express ourselves and be happy.
Furthermore, I enjoyed the fact that even though the exhibition was about menswear, there were a few mentions of women throughout, such as a portrait I believe was commissioned sometime during the 17th century, of a woman crossdressing.