V&A’s “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” Exhibit Confronts Gender Constructs

On view now until 6 November in London, Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear is the V&A’s first major menswear exhibition. From a Victorian codpiece and Vivienne Westwood’s 1980s fig leaf-printed underwear to Kim Jones’ 2021 Fendi 3D flower dress inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Christian Siriano’s tuxedo gown worn by Billy Porter, the show traces the history of men’s apparel and highlights how femininity and gender fluidity have always existed within the masculine. The exhibit comprises three parts: Undress, which focuses on the West’s idolization of the male body; Overdress, a study on the role of flamboyance in menswear; and Redress, a look at 19th century menswear that marked the rise of dark, somber suits. These outfits (from the Edwardian era to the present day) show that “the sinister power of this highly segregated gendered style must have arrived with the might of capitalism and the industrial revolution,” writes Sarah Mower. At a time when ideals of masculinity still champion violence and toxicity, the exhibit is a critical examination that undermines common stereotypes. Read more about the thought-provoking exhibit—that helps to prove how “gender has always been a construct”—at Vogue.

Image by Peter Kelleher, courtesy of V&A