Reigning Men

It has been a very fashionable year at the St. Louis Art Museum!

Earlier this year, we saw an exhibit dedicated to Degas and the Paris Millinery trade. We also went on a fun scavenger hunt looking for hats designed by British milliner Stephen Jones. But that wasn’t the end of the fashion exhibits! Last week, we also had the opportunity to tour the Reigning Men exhibit,  which showcases men’s fashion from 1715-2015, thanks to “Free Fridays” at the St. Louis Art Museum!

Reigning Men is divided into five sections. First was Revolution/Evolution, which focused on both the more aggressive, political side of fashion, as well as a general resistance to traditional menswear, evidenced by a change in colors and patterns. There was much in the part of the exhibit that felt familiar, due to our studies of history:

Next was East/West, which showed how events such as the Crimean War changed then-current fashions in Europe. The changes have persisted, and have extended to Japanese-inspired fashions, among other things, becoming popular, even today:

The third section, Uniformity,  was the largest. As the title suggests, military uniforms were displayed. More utilitarian outfits worn by civilians, as well as business and formal attire considered socially acceptable, were also included:

There were even several pairs of unusual shoes on display in this part of the exhibit!

From there, we moved on to Body Consciousness, which focused on clothing that flaunted a youthful, trim silhouette. In addition to some rather sheer styles, there were even underwear on display here, which caused some giggling from all of us. We also saw a swimsuit made of the material that was banned following the 2008 Olympic Games!

The final area was The Splendid Man, which focused on bold colors and adventurous styles, including heavy embroidery and even a suit covered in sequins! Let’s face it, we don’t normally see men dressed in the fashions displayed here, so it was the most foreign to us!

This was a fascinating exhibit. We saw suits of clothing that looked as if they had been lifted from the pages from history, tuxedos we recognized from movies, familiar military uniforms, and even the closest thing we have to “National Dress” here in America, in the form of a Ralph Lauren design. But as is the case with most high fashion, much of it was completely alien to us, and unlike anything we’ve ever seen on the streets. It was still interesting to see how men’s fashion has evolved, and I don’t imagine that I’ll consider menswear “boring” again!

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