Reigning Men: LACMA’s Exhibition on 300 Years of Men’s Fashion

 

(Los Angeles —LACMA) The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015, a major survey exploring the history of men’s fashionable dress from the 18th to the early 21st century. Re- examining the frequent association of “fashion” with “femininity,” the five thematic sections of the exhibition’s 300-year survey—Revolution/Evolution, East/West, Uniformity, Body Consciousness, and The Splendid Man—reveal that early fashion trends were informed by what men were wearing, as much as they were by women’s dress. In the 18th century, the male aristocrat wore a three-piece suit conspicuous in make and style and equally as lavish as the opulent dress of his female counterpart; the 19th-century dandy made famous a more refined brand of expensive elegance; the 20th-century mod relished in colorful and modern styles; and the 21st century man—in an ultra-chic suit by day and a flowered tuxedo by night—redefines today’s concept of masculinity.

Reigning Men makes illuminating connections between history and high fashion, tracing cultural influences over the centuries, examining how elements of the uniform have profoundly shaped fashionable dress, and revealing how cinching and padding the body was, and is, not exclusive to women. The exhibition, featuring 200 looks drawn mostly from LACMA’s renowned permanent collection of costume and textiles, celebrates a rich history of restraint and resplendence in menswear. Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015 is curated by Sharon S. Takeda, Kaye D. Spilker, and Clarissa M. Esguerra from LACMA’s Costume and Textiles department.

“Through major acquisitions and generous gifts over the past 10 years, LACMA now has the strongest European and American menswear collections in the western United States,” says Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Reigning Men is an exciting and rare opportunity to examine the comprehensive history of men’s fashion, and we are thrilled to share the collection and scholarship with Los Angeles and beyond.”

Sharon Takeda, senior curator and head of LACMA’s Costume and Textiles department, notes, “Reigning Men takes us on an intriguing 300-year journey of sartorial splendor of aristocrats, dandies, mods, punks, and so many others. Through examples of historical and contemporary ensembles, viewers can encounter the evolving nature of menswear and contemplate the future of men’s fashion.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue co-published by LACMA and Prestel/DelMonico and features essays by Tim Blanks, editor-at-large of The Business of Fashion (businessoffashion.com), and Peter McNeil, professor of design history at University of Technology Sydney, Australia, and distinguished professor at Aalto University, Finland. The exhibition installation is designed by Commune, an award winning Los Angeles-based design group.

Exhibition Highlights

Reigning Men debuts several rare surviving ensembles from the collection, including fashions worn by men from different levels of society during the French Revolutionary period, such as an aristocrat’s at-home robe (banyan) and a revolutionary’s sans-culottes pants and carmagnole jacket. Additionally, LACMA curators have secured important ensembles representing other key moments in the history of menswear, such as an authentic 1940s zoot suit that took more than a decade to locate. Reigning Men also includes a selection of shoes, accessories, and textiles that complement the featured ensembles. Over 50 contemporary designers and fashion houses are represented in the exhibition.

 

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