Fashion & Lace Museum – Brussels, Belgium
August 28, 2020 – June 13, 2021
The Fashion & Lace Museum‘s new exhibition is devoted to the masculine wardrobe, from the ‘Great Male Renunciation’ at the end of the 18th century to the androgynous fashion of 2020. This is a first for Belgium; despite the fact that the country nurtures some of the world’s most influential men’s fashion designers, no Belgian museum has ever delved into the subject! The exhibition celebrates the creativity, inventiveness and talent of contemporary designers and explores how the evolution in men’s fashion reflects and encourages the evolution of the very idea of masculinity.
What is a man? Just like femininity, in which it is mirrored, masculinity is not static. The behaviour society expects from men changes over time and is constantly challenged. Fashion is one of the main areas where gender stereotypes are expressed and perpetuated, but, for the same reason, it’s also one of the most powerful tools for defying norms.
Masculinities concentrates on how fashion designers play with codes and references to reshape how we see men, and, by extension, women. Designers play a powerful role. Though few men wear their designs, the circulation of images of these clothes and the fact that some celebrities do wear them undoubtedly contribute to diffusing ideas that differ from the status quo.
The Masculinities exhibition brings together approximately 100 pieces, two thirds of which are from the museum’s collections. The rest is on loan from museums and Belgian and international fashion houses. Some 20 Belgian designers or those connected to Belgium are represented, alongside leading international names in men’s fashion. The exhibition presents the foundations of the masculine archetype, torn between the responsible family man and the brave adventurer. It goes on to explore how designers have presented models of masculinity that are alternatives to this dichotomy – by promoting, for example, refinement, fragility or hedonistic pleasure. It concludes with the current trend that uses the rise of nonbinary fashion to go beyond gender.
Housed in a group of historical buildings in the heart of Brussels, the Fashion & Lace Museum is home to some 10,000 pieces of lace, garments and accessories dating from the 16th century to the present day. In terms of Brussels creation and manufacture, it is the world’s largest collection, which the museum seeks to put into both a Belgian and international context. Over the last few years the museum’s team has focused on establishing and strengthening a dialogue between history and contemporary fashion. For conservation reasons, textiles cannot be permanently displayed. The museum therefore presents its collections mainly through temporary exhibitions.