Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear now showing at the Victoria & Albert museum takes place at a pivotal moment in fashion. Over the last few years, we've seen gender expression through wardrobe and personal style come back to the forefront of pop-culture chatter after a long period where more traditional (e.g. boring) menswear was considered safe and sound. Think Harry Styles, A$AP Rocky, BTS all of whom wear dresses and skirts, paint their nails, wear makeup and embrace traditionally "feminine" garb and embellishments - though they come from a long line of fearless icons such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury who jumped in first.

Alessandro Michele for Gucci, SS 2017, Look 13. Courtesy of Gucci

Cue the V&A show, supported by Gucci - the first label under Alessandro Michele to push a gender fluid vision - and its curated journey documenting men's fashion from the essential male body in sculpture and photography, to the historical, flamboyant styles as seen through history of portraiture to the present expressions of modern collections from the likes of Wales Bonner, Ahluwalia and Harris Reed. Co-curated for the V&A by Claire Cox and Rosalind McKever with Marta Franceschini, you will have the chance to examine how masculinity can be performed and individuality can be expressed.

Waistcoat, British, 1730-35; of brocaded silk, French

The exhibition is split into three main galleries – Undressed, Overdressed, and Redressed. The first room displays prompt the viewer to view the male body as is, without the filters of clothing and culture. From a Rodin sculpture of the male form, to the fig leaf cast of Michelangelo's David (apparently when Queen Victoria first saw the V&A cast of David, she was shocked by his nudity and this fig leaf was commissioned to cover the genetalia!) -  presentations of the body shift as one gets to the Calvin Klein ads by Herb Ritts who celebrated a more hyper-sexual and testosterone heavy form. The male body here is a multitude of different attitudes and perceptions so it becomes, in Undressed, the only constant.

Kim Jones for Fendi Couture. Spring Summer 2021. Photo Arnaldo Castoldi

The second section, Overdressed, focuses on historical male fashion, which showcases extravagant silhouettes full of flourish, pomp and traditionally "feminine" colours - pink! By juxtaposing historical outfits next to modern takes -for example, Jean Baptiste Perronneau’s striking portraits of French aristocrats in the 1700s sit near Billy Porter's 2019 hot pink suit worn to the Golden Globes - one draws a direct line thinking that perhaps, we aren't so boundary-pushing today as we think we are.

Billy Porter's 2019 hot pink suit worn to the Golden Globes

The final gallery section, Redressed, shows the many iterations of the suit and modern menswear. The suit has become the standard symbol of male identity and masculinity, mass produced, and typically same-y, no matter a single breasted or double breasted variation. Power dressing brought the suit to the core of what was macho. Here, the rooms feature designers that challenge the traditionally masculine, featuring the likes of JW Anderson and Craig Green, both of whom have redefined menswear and its form.

Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear is a great discussion starter for our ever
evolving views on menswear and what makes fashion, and if the recent "menswear" shows in January across Milan and Paris showed us anything, those definitions are no where near being fully defined as yet.

Jacob Huysmans, Frances Stewart, later Duchess of Richmond, 1664. Royal Collection Trust

Get your tickets HERE