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Lucky for fashion history buffs, there are no shortages of style exhibits this spring. But unlike the ones taking place across the U.S., LACMA’s new exhibition, cheekily called, “Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear,” dives in depth into the rich history of menswear.
The exhibit — curated by Sharon S. Takeda, Kaye D. Spilker and Clarissa M. Esguerra — features 200 looks, mostly coming from LACMA’s permanent collection of costumes and textiles, and explores menswear from 1715 to 2015.
“I think we were all surprised at how deep and rich the history with menswear is, it’s just as fascinating as womenswear,” Takeda, senior curator and head of the costume and textiles department at LACMA, told Pret-a-Reporter of what the team learned during the five years that it took to complete the massive project. “I think, in many ways, menswear is eclipsing womenswear. The creative juices are really going and any small changes are seismic.”
Instead of organizing the ensembles in chronological order, the exhibit is organized into five themes: Revolution/Evolution, East/West, Uniformity, Body Consciousness and The Splendid Man.
Designed by L.A.-based studio Commune, the exhibit’s first thematic room welcomes visitors to the Revolution/Evolution of men’s fashions, which explores the apparel that sparked how men chose to express their individuality. Among the pieces that are shown include the extravagant Macaroni suits that were worn in 1770s Britain, refined Dandy fashions (such as the tail coats of the early 1800s and today’s slim suits), zoot suits and punk leather jackets.
The second space examines the cultural intersection of East/West influences, including the Eastern-inspired robes (think Japanese kimonos or Middle Eastern caftan) that upper-class Western men wore during the 17th and 18th century and the avant-garde Western ensembles brought forth by Japanese designers.
Uniformity in menswear dives into military uniforms, utilitarian workwear and activewear, while the Body Consciousness section proves that ladies haven’t always been the only ones to embrace waist-cinching, figure-enhancing items.
The exhibition wraps up with The Splendid Man, and just as the theme suggests, this section is all about the garments designed with an abundance of details — think embroidery, sequins, animal furs and floral patterns. Here, you’ll be able to check out a mid-1990s wool pinstripe suit adorned with plastic sequins by Franco Moschino and a floral embroidered Gucci ensemble by Frida Giannini from spring 2014.
And just as you make your exit, there’s a display of men’s shoes (Jeremy Scott’s gilded high-top sneakers designed for Adidas, included) that you don’t want to miss.
Held in conjunction with the exhibit, which opens this Sunday, curator Takeda will also be holding a discussion with The Business of Fashion editor-at-large Tim Blanks and former Los Angeles Times fashion critic Booth Moore to talk fashion journalism and the history and culture of runway shows at LACMA’s Bing Theater on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (You can find more info here.)
“Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear” is open from April 10 to Aug. 21 at LACMA (5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, 323-857-6000; lacma.org).
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