Fluid Definitions: A Deep Dive into Fashioning Masculinities

Fashioning Masculinities

In the realm of men’s fashion, the notion of the well-dressed man has evolved beyond mere sartorial elegance to embody a spectrum of identities and expressions. W. Somerset Maugham’s classic dictum, “The well dressed man is he whose clothes you never notice,” while timeless in sentiment, now finds itself in a landscape where definitions of masculinity and menswear are as fluid as the fabrics they’re crafted from.

In the ever-evolving landscape of fashion, the concept of masculinity has undergone a profound transformation. What was once confined to rigid stereotypes and traditional norms has now blossomed into diverse identities and expressions. At the forefront of this paradigm shift is the Victoria and Albert Museum’s groundbreaking exhibition, Fashioning Masculinities. Presented by Claire Wilcox and Rosalind McKever, this immersive journey through time and gender challenges preconceived notions of masculinity and celebrates the fluidity of men’s fashion. In this deep dive, we explore the exhibition’s key themes and artifacts, tracing the evolution of masculinity from antiquity to the present day.

Exploring Fluidity through History:

Fashioning Masculinities eschews a linear narrative in favor of a multidimensional exploration of masculinity across different epochs. The exhibition’s first phase, titled “Undressed,” delves into the origins of men’s fashion, highlighting the fluidity of gender roles in ancient civilizations. From the draped garments of ancient Greece to the ornate robes of the Renaissance, clothing served as a means of self-expression, transcending rigid notions of masculinity.

One notable artifact is Jean-Paul Gaultier’s reinterpretation of classical sculpture, which blurs the lines between art and fashion. By infusing traditional silhouettes with a contemporary twist, Gaultier challenges viewers to reconsider their perceptions of masculinity and beauty.

The Suit: A Symbol of Masculinity:

At the heart of Fashioning Masculinities lies the iconic symbol of men’s fashion: the suit. From its humble beginnings as practical attire for 18th-century aristocrats to its status as a timeless sartorial staple, the suit has undergone countless iteration throughout history. In the exhibition’s second phase, “Overdressed,” visitors are treated to a diverse array of suits that reflect the evolving tastes and attitudes towards masculinity.

One standout piece is Craig Green’s avant-garde deconstruction of the traditional suit, which subverts conventional notions of formality and gender. With billowing fabric and exposed toes, Green’s creation challenges viewers to question the boundaries of masculinity and embrace a more fluid approach to fashion.

Redressing Gender Norms:

In the final phase of Fashioning Masculinities, titled “Redressed,” the exhibition takes a closer look at contemporary interpretations of masculinity in the world of fashion. From gender-bending runway looks to inclusive advertising campaigns, designers and brands are increasingly embracing diversity and challenging traditional gender norms.

Photographer Omar Victor Diop’s series, which reimagines historical figures in modern contexts, serves as a powerful commentary on the fluidity of identity and representation. By juxtaposing historical imagery with contemporary aesthetics, Diop invites viewers to question the ways in which masculinity is constructed and performed.

Beyond the Binary: Celebrating Diversity in Men’s Fashion:

Fashioning Masculinities is more than just an exhibition; it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion in the world of fashion. By showcasing a wide range of cultural figures and moments, the exhibition highlights the myriad ways in which masculinity can be expressed and celebrated.

From Marlene Dietrich’s iconic suits to Bimini Bon Boulash’s boundary-defying gowns, Fashioning Masculinities reaffirms that there is no one-size-fits-all definition of masculinity. Instead, it invites viewers to embrace the complexity of gender identity and celebrate the rich tapestry of expressions that make up the spectrum of masculinity.


In conclusion, Fashioning Masculinities offers a thought-provoking exploration of masculinity in the world of fashion. By challenging traditional norms and embracing diversity, the exhibition invites viewers to reconsider their perceptions of masculinity and celebrate the fluidity of gender expression. As we continue to navigate an increasingly diverse and inclusive world, let us heed the lessons of Fashioning Masculinities and embrace a more open-minded and inclusive approach to fashion and identity.


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