‘Masculinities’ shows how fashion challenges and changes our perception of gender

November 2020 Art Corner Willem van Altena

Belgian fashion designers have become a global phenomenon. Our small nation more than pulls its weight around when it comes to creating inspiring, daring and beautiful clothing. The Antwerp Six are world famous, and in their wake an entire new generation of designers is now conquering catwalks all over the world. The unique Belgian style is perhaps nowhere more apparent as in menswear. It is therefore no more than fitting –pun intended- that the Brussels Fashion & Lace Museum has devoted an exhibit to male clothing. Under the title ‘Masculinities’, it shows the evolution of how men dress, and how they express their gender identity through fashion. After all, isn’t masculinity something different to each beholder?

Gender stereotype

Fashion is perhaps the most obvious expression of gender stereotype, yet at the same time it is also the most obvious way of challenging these stereotypes. ‘Masculinities’ focuses on the manner in which fashion designers influence our perception of what is a man –and by extension: what is a woman- and how they use all kinds of codes and references to do so. Even though not many man dare to wear the sometimes very extreme outfits these artists design, apart from celebrities and catwalk models, these unique garments help to shape our views on gender identity like no other art form can.

Non-binary

In the exhibit, almost 100 pieces are shown, two thirds of which out of the museum’s own collections. The other items are on loan from Belgian and international design houses. The visitor (after having made compulsory reservations online!) will encounter basics that exude archetypical masculinity that remind us of the pater familias or the intrepid adventurer. But also fashion that reminds us of dandies and emo boys and the current wave of non-binary fashion that questions or even ignores perceived gender boundaries.

Designers whose work is represented include: Beauduin-Masson, Brioni, Comme des Garçons, Craig Green, Dries Van Noten, Giorgio Armani, Hardy Amies, Hedi Slimane, Helmut Lang, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jean-Paul Knott, John Stephen, JW Anderson, Mosaert, Namacheko, Off-White, OWN, Raf Simons, Riccardo Tisci, Sami Tillouche, Undercover, Vêtements, Walter Van Beirendonck, Westwood & McLaren, Xavier Delcour, Y/Project and more.

‘Masculinities’ will run up until 13 June, 2021. The Fashion & Lace Museum is located in Violet street 12 in Brussels. Currently, the museum, like all museums in Belgium, is closed due to pandemic regulations. The provisory reopening is 19 November.

More information and reservations via the museum’s website: www.fashionandlacemuseum.brussels.

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