I managed to sneak in a quick visit to the LACMA’s exhibition Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear 1715-2015 before it was taken off display on August 21st. It was a specially ticket exhibition, that cost extra to see along with a general admission ticket. I apologize for bringing this review to you after its closing, but it was so interesting to me, that I felt compelled to share with you my experience.
According to the exhibition page on the LACMA’s home page, the majority of the clothes were drawn from the LACMA collection in house, which I find remarkable- I had no idea that they had such an expansive fashion collection, but what a great way to get some of those items out of storage and show the off.
Three hundred years in fashion was an ambitious time span to cover, but I felt that the
LACMA did this effortlessly. The premise for this collection is a good one, especially for Los Angeles, where men’s fashion has become increasingly important in more recent times, as our society continues to change our perceptions and expectations of gender and sexuality. In fashion, so many of the shows, advertisements, and focus has been on women’s fashion that I think shifting the focus back onto men is a different and refreshing take on the subject.
I think it is pretty safe to say that most of us consider fashion to be a form of art, and like art, some of it will appeal to us, and some of it will not. Some of it will make us laugh, some of it will bewilder us. Some of it is beautiful, and some of it vulgar. In summation, how wonderful is it that we can wear these works of art, and bring them to life. This exhibition made me feel that we often take for granted the hundreds of years of evolution that has gone into a simple work blazer. And also interesting enough, we find that women are not unique in their timeless struggle to alter the shape and perception of their body with clothing, so as to appeal what was considered desirable at the time.
I wandered through the exhibition, and simply took in some of the amazing looks. Jackets were delicately suspended in the air on manikin torsos, shoes were raised up in cases underneath Perspex boxes. The interpretive panels were on large flat black boards, that leaned against the walls, creating a strong yet simplistic look. Since the clothing was sitting up on risers about two feet off of the ground, the individual object labels were able to be placed underneath the looks in a non obtrusive way.
They did not need to add any other embellishments to this exhibition, because the striking collection of clothes did that for themselves. As I was walking through the exhibition, I started thinking, “Wow- these manikins must have costed a small fortune, especially since each one is slightly different!” Then I looked closer, and realized that the hair on each manikin was created using white felt- genius! The texture and color blended seamlessly with the manikin and looked like one whole piece. That was they could easily date the look with the hair style as well as customize each manikin without any of them actually being different! Good idea- got to file that one away for later.
I snapped some photos of my favorite looks, which you can see in the slideshow below. I was really enjoying the smoking jackets, and 1970s blazers. There was also a stunning pair of Oxfords that I would happily wear any day myself! There was a great combination of fashion names we would recognize today such as Givency, with unique looks created originally for only the original owner himself.
I must admit, I do not envy the individuals who have been assigned the task of cleaning the two hundred outfits from this exhibition before they go into storage again- what a herculean task! Especially with all of the delicate beading, stitching, leather… oh my! I would like to end with the thought that I think we should bring back men’s corsets and calf padded knee socks! Wouldn’t that be brilliantly amusing! Thanks for reading, and I hope that you were able to see this exhibition before it was over!
Peace and long life.