The Victoria and Albert Museum will publish its book “Fashioning Masculinities”

The Victoria and Albert Museum opened its major menswear exhibition in March, titled “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear,” which runs until November 6.

Now, just weeks after the exhibition opened, the London museum will release its literary companion on Tuesday, which delves deeper into men’s fashion and style around the world.

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The book “Fashioning Masculinities” is composed of three parts, similar to the exhibition, which are “Undressed”, “Overdressed” and “Redressed”, and provides a context for the ever-changing beauty ideals of men over the centuries. While the exhibit features ensembles from Thom Browne, Timothée Chalamet’s black sequined Haider Ackermann suit worn at the Venice Film Festival premiere of “Dune” in 2021 and the 2019 Oscars tuxedo dress from Billy Porter by Christian Siriano, the book gives an in-depth look at the importance of these outfits.

“We were able to dive deeper than we could into the show,” said Dr. Rosalind McKever, curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum and art historian, who edited the book and wrote its opening essay, “Do Clothes Make the Man?” “The show’s texts are much shorter, so we’re trying to encourage people to understand the objects.”

Much like the exhibit, the book first focuses on the male physique and changing ideals over time – how it influenced 19th century tailoring and what it looks like today, represented by bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who turned his Mr. Olympia-winning body into a movie career, and the brawny stars of Marvel superhero movies.

McKever tapped Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, British historian Gus Casely-Hayford, and late fashion designer Virgil Abloh for the foreword, epilogue, and afterword, respectively, as well as a number of contributors. These include Sarah Goldsmith, author Oriole Cullen and Anna Jackson, the custodian of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Asian department, who take the reader through the centuries and explore arrogance, or ‘bragging’. , and its importance in male style; the hibiscus prints, the hats and the jacket, and the world history of fashion through the Black British style, the kimono from Japan and the sari from India.

While “Fashioning Masculinities” honors different ideas across cultures, it is rooted in British history, which is still present in couture, as well as the modern designers that are featured, such as Alexander McQueen, Kim Jones for Fendi , Craig Green, Samuel Ross, Grace Wales Bonner and Bianca Saunders, among others.

“If you do menswear from a British perspective, you do it from a global perspective,” McKever explained. She mentioned Jackson’s essay on the kimono and the garment’s relationship between Japan and Europe, but also the cultural significance of colors like pink in Pakistan, which McKever says is a “unisex color” in Asia. of the South, and the “orange culture”, showing how West African clothing “offers us different approaches to men’s fashion”.

“We wanted to think as broadly as possible about how these collections can better show audiences these stories,” she added.

One of the most modern fashion ideas, genderless fashion, is also explored in the book, which shows how the idea is not new at all.

McKever wrote a chapter called “Orlando as a Boyette”, inspired by Virginia Wolfe’s novel, “Orlando: A Biography”, where the eponymous protagonist learns halfway through the story that he is a woman and endures ” social constraints” into a new, feminine wardrobe.

The novel found its way into the book as McKever decided to read it at his leisure to combat writer’s block. She wanted to decipher the history of women embracing menswear and how it is accepted, as well as the rich history of gender non-conformity.

“It was a big gift,” she explained. “I used this book as a lens and a way to structure ideas around these different times in history where, for various reasons, women embraced menswear. Breaking it down a bit and giving women a place in the book, but also to put in place the idea that we expressed at the end of the exhibition around the importance of this present moment and the visibility of the dress in men’s fashion.

But what does contemporary menswear look like to McKever? Contributor Charlie Porter asks the question in the final chapter, looking at today’s menswear designers and their contributions. McKever sees the present as a “moment of opportunity” going in different directions.

“Fashion always surprises us,” she said. “We never see where it’s going, but it seems to be working in several directions at once in a very positive way. There’s a feeling of maybe being more comfortable with plurality than there was before.

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Angela C. Hale