V & A MUSEUM 2022

The Fashion and Textiles department were fortunate enough to take thirty students in both KS4 and KS5 to the V&A Museum on Thursday 7th July 2022. Our students explored the Africa Fashion and Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear exhibitions. 

Spanning iconic mid-20th century to contemporary creatives through photographs, textiles, music and the visual arts, Africa Fashion explores the vitality and global impact of a fashion scene as dynamic and varied as the continent itself. The collection was an extensive display of creative fashion trends and historical memorabilia, highlighting the continents rich culture and history. The exhibition contains over 250 objects, 45 designers from over 20 countries across the continent have been featured, over a varied time period. It explores how fashion is an integral part of African culture historically, also looking at the work of contemporary designers, stylists and photographers working in the continent today and the impact that this new wave of creatives is having globally. The exhibition took two years to curate and is an opportunity to celebrate such a vibrant and rich culture, whilst acknowledging and embracing its political past. 

The Fashioning Masculinities exhibition is the first to celebrate the power, artistry and diversity of masculine attire and appearance. At a moment of unprecedented creativity in men's fashion and reflection on gender, it explores how designers, tailors and artists have constructed and performed masculinity, and unpicked it at the seams. The exhibition, which comprises over 100 looks and 100 artworks, explores how menswear has developed and changed over the centuries and how designers have unravelled the constructions of masculinity. With the exhibition, the curators aim to counter the idea that menswear is less interesting than womenswear. The collection begins with 'undressed' a room filled with plaster copies of Greek and Roman figures, popularised by art historians who felt they would educate the upper classes of northern Europe. These were collected by wealthy aesthetes in the 18th century and formed the basis of many museum collections in Europe and the US. They became unfashionable in the early 20th century: as a result, the V&A, with its famous “cast court”, is one of the few museums to retain a collection. Known as the “Undressed” collection, it looks not only at how the dissemination of these naked male figures influenced body ideals – the well-proportioned muscular Apollo, androgynous youth of Hermes, and strongman bulk of Hercules – but also how this translated into undergarments. We apparently have Apollo’s draped cloak to thank for the voluminous linen shirts and slim-fitting breeches that constituted British men’s underwear in the 18th century. The next collection within the exhibition is “Overdressed” – on flamboyance. The exhibition them moves onto a section focusing on the history and use of colour within fashion. It was only in the 20th century that pink acquired its associations with femininity. And beyond the capitalist arena represented by the British business suit, it is the norm for affluent men of many cultures to wear gorgeous jewellery and skirted robes. The final section – “Redressed” – explores the dominance of tailored sobriety in menswear, and how that has been subverted and ­reimagined. Various female stars – notably Marlene Dietrich – have worn reshaped dinner jackets to arresting effect, and Yves Saint Laurent created a sensation with his sexy Le Smoking jackets for women in the 60s. Teds and Mods ­reimagined British tailoring for the street and scooter.

We would highly recommend a visit to either of the exhibitions currently on show at the V&A Museum. 




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