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Menswear through the ages: V&A holds its first male fashion exhibition

Billy Porter entering the Vanity Fair : 2019 Oscar Party – Billy Farrell/

From 18th century billowing shirts to a blue Gucci suit worn by singer Harry Styles, London’s V&A museum is holding its first exhibition dedicated to men’s fashion.

Opening on March 19, “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” looks at menswear in different centuries, shining a light on designers, tailors and artists.

On show is underwear – old and contemporary, lace and bubble wrap ensembles and plenty of suits.

Among designer items are an intricately embroidered black Dolce & Gabbana cape, an embellished green Fendi couture gown, a pink Thom Brown suit with ball-shaped shoes and a Gucci dress Styles wore for a Vogue magazine cover.

Alongside the outfits are pictures, paintings and sculptures.

“We wanted to do an exhibition about menswear because we wanted to celebrate its diversity ranging from the historical to the contemporary and the approach to the show was to look at both fashion and art,” Claire Wilcox, senior curator of fashion at the V&A, said.

“We start… with a male body and how that’s been shaped and fashioned over the years. We move into the central section, which deals with the exuberance of male fashion from the 18th century to the present… then the final section we look at the suit, how it’s been redressed, dissolved, remade and how (its) language…continues into the present day.”

The Gucci dress worn by Styles is among outfits that sparked online viral moments, including a black tuxedo ballgown by Christian Siriano worn by “Pose” actor Billy Porter. Another Porter outfit on show is a Randi Rahm grey suit and embroidered cloak with a hot pink lining.

The exhibition also features outfits seen on famous names like Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie and Sam Smith as well as a Haider Ackermann black sparkly suit worn by actor Timothee Chalamet at the premiere of sci-fi movie “Dune”.

“Contemporary menswear is in a position of great strength at the moment,” Wilcox said.

“They’re drawing on a wide availability of ideas and fabrics and concepts and young designers such as Edward Crutchley, Harris Reed, Grace Wales Bonner… are really using the catwalk to challenge assumptions about what is masculine dress and what isn’t.”

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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