Menswear at LACMA

Jesús Rosado

A comprehensive exploration of fashion and menswear over three centuries.

View of the exhibition


The seduction and allure of a museum exhibition are directly proportional to the originality of the approach used to elucidate the theme on display. This intervention on the public’s perceptual process depends on the skills of those in charge of the curatorial project. The link between the exponents and the display mode is what invites visitors to use their time to engage freely on a tour of the galleries.

The team composed by Sharon S. Takeda, Clarissa Kaye D. Spiller, and M. Esguerra—specialists at the LACMA Costume and Textiles Department —have accomplished a tour de force with the recently opened exhibit Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015, a comprehensive exploration of male fashion spanning over three centuries.

The increasingly frequent exhibitions dedicated to clothing, garments and textiles in various institutions around the world present their shows in chronological order.

But in the case of the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum) exhibition, the three curators boldly decided to break this scheme to show how fashion can influence people from one century to another. Their display employs visual links to show the transcendental impact on the styles and trends of male clothing.

left: Walter Van Beirendonck; right: Naval Uniform

The exhibition layout allows the public to discover a sequence that, instead of classifying the garments by periods, is divided into five thematic sections: Revolution/Evolution, East/West, Uniformity, Body Awareness, and The Splendid Man.

The exhibit is an overview that covers 300 years and has its starting point in the French Revolution. It lends the viewer an appreciation of the military designs. It also explores the interactions between East and West that marked the course of textiles and fashion for subsequent generations.

The show does a great job establishing connections between male and female fashion through the selection of designs for both genres that coincided during the same time. For example, it shows a three-piece suit worn by a male aristocrat in the 17th century, just as glitzy and flashy as the opulent dress worn by his female counterpart.

Visitors can follow the overblown evolution of menswear through stylized cuts that began in the 19th century to arrive at the unprejudiced redefinitions of the concept of masculinity with the metro-sexual designs of the 21st century, rich in androgynous details.

View of the exhibition

In each of the 200 models from LACMA‘s permanent collection, the exhibition manages to argue effectively the relationship between history and haute couture directed at men, following the trail of its uneven path from its more somber stages to their times of maximum splendor and gaiety.

From Pierre Cardin to Walter Van Beirendonck, from classics like Yves Saint Laurent, Phillip Lim or Rudi Gernreich, to modern contemporary designers like Jeremy Scott, garments have been selected to illustrate their sartorial journey through the clothing of nobles, dandies, through the mod, hipster or punk movements as well as many other trends.

“Through these examples of historical and contemporary clothing,” says Sharon S. Takeda, senior curator of the exhibition and director of the LACMA Department of Costume and Textiles, “viewers can discover the evolutionary nature of menswear and see the future projection of men’s fashion. ”

The fashionable exhibition will be open until August 21, 2016.

© | 2019