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An exhibition explores the evolution of masculinity through fashion

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It was held in Brussels with the aim of breaking down stereotypes linked to a world linked to femininity. It can be visited online.

The sample is made up of the most varied trends in men’s clothing. (Photo: @fashionandlace)

Show the inexorable link between the evolution of fashion and the concept of masculinity over the years is the focus of the men’s fashion exhibition, called Masculinities, which was held in Brussels in an attempt to shatter stereotypes of a world closely linked to femininity.

The sober colors, the ties with a limited range of colors and the aesthetic formality have not always been the benchmarks of men’s fashion. Sometime ago, the bright tones, the small details and even the heel they were part of men’s dress code.

However, men’s clothing quickly ditched these styles. the of the eighteenth century struggled to distinguish themselves by color, decoration. “But at the beginning of the 19th century, they turned their backs on the lavishness for which they fought and adopted a uniform, which is the symbol of work,” he told EFE the curator of the exhibition, Denis laurent.

The exhibition begins with a jacket that could well have been taken from Louis XVI’s cupboard, with floral elements and decorated with golden patterns, to go a little later at a time when the basic t-shirt and the costume shoe it swept aside any hint of versatility in men’s clothing. “This uniform is the expression of the success of the man, of his respectability”, details Laurent.

An exhibition explores the evolution of masculinity through fashion

The jacket in men’s fashion and its history. (Photo: @fashionandlacemuseum)

But it’s not just costumes that attempt to reflect how office work and bureaucracy prevailed in a society emerging from WWII, but also how that same war shaped fashion itself.

Military motives and the ideal of strength and courage, intrinsically linked to the conception of man for many decades, were also characteristic of the masculine style of the second half of the last century, with the eruption of the military jackets or the prevalence of greenish and brown colors in everyday clothing.

An exhibition explores the evolution of masculinity through fashion

Masculinities took place in Brussels. (Photo: @fashionandlacemuseum)

“We want to show that men’s fashion is full of stereotypes, which are even more solid than in women’s wardrobes,” argues the curator who thinks that for materialize the deconstruction of femininity, it is essential to dismantle that of man.

In today’s Western imagination, a man wearing a dress or skirt is almost inconceivable, unlike other regions where this type of clothing is the axis of men’s fashion, as shown in a section of the exhibition which tries to reflect the paradox of these clichés. “Fashion is definitely a question of gender,” emphasizes Laurent.

But these rigid parameters by which it was governed began to be diluted already at the end of the 20th century. Boys don’t cry, as the singer recited Miguel bos, baptizes another part of the sample in which are combined several models of seamstresses who, already in the 90s, updated the representation of masculinity, transferring it to clothes motifs that evoke the world of music and teenage nightlife.

An exhibition explores the evolution of masculinity through fashion

Current trends function as an epilogue to the exhibition with the idea that, in today’s fashion, the boundaries between the genders are blurred than ever thanks to an indisputable revolution in the conception of masculinity sponsored by the feminist movements and LGTBIQ.

“People say that there is more creativity in men’s fashion today than in women’s fashion,” says Laurent shortly after recognizing that contemporary designs were his favorites.

Masculinities opened in Brussels in August 2020, when lockdowns seemed to be a thing of the past. Two months later it had to close, amid the second wave of business that devastated the country and led the government to close all museums, reopening again in December with severe restrictions. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Denis Laurent makes a positive assessment, since in this period they managed to attract a large local audience and young visitors.

Once the more than 100 clothes and costumes are removed from the windows, the exhibition will remain alive thanks to a virtual visit which will be available on its website in order to reconnect with this public who could not attend because of the coronavirus.

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