Ruth & I had to attend a memorial service for a grand lady in West Plains, MO this past week. Traveling there and back allowed time for only one attraction in St. Louis, our hometown. It was interesting but a bit static.
“Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015” will be the featured big exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park until September 17, 2017. It will close in Los Angeles, the only other venue I’ve been able to find, on August 21, 2017. The displays, therefore, clearly overlap since “Reigning Men” has already opened in St. Louis. If it will move to other cities and venues, I’ve not been able to find out which ones. If I learn about them, I’ll pass the information along. There’s a catalog available on Amazon and elsewhere.
This show was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which has a considerable permanent collection of men’s clothing. What makes this show unique is its focus of what MEN wear. Ruth was quick to point that out to me since most fashion displays are about what WOMEN wear. The literature accompanying it said that this show “showcases the dynamism of men’s clothing over 300 years.” Dynamic is a good word to describe the outfits but not the show.
The exhibit in St. Louis had 5 themed sections full of male mannequins wearing what attention-getting men have shown up in when being photographed by, say, The New York Times or GQ. Of course, David Bowie makes an appearance. What men tend to wear, the exhibition demonstrates, is highly influenced by events and culture. Many of the outfits seemed military or uniform-like to me. “Men use clothing,” it proclaimed, “to express their individuality.” This may be true in the media and fashion worlds, but not-so-much on the streets where tee shirts, shorts, and flip-flops currently reign.
The outfits range from a flamboyant British macaroni outfit to zoot suits to thong swimwear to Japanese and Eastern inspired creations. Some towards the end hint at the future. There is considerable variety displayed. The macaroni was especially vivid with lace, a corsage, and eye-fillingly chartreuse! The only mainstream material in the exhibit that every male wears is that cultural uniform made of denim. A few cases show shoes made by Prada, etc. The most arresting shoes, to me, were the high top wing sneakers that I don’t think I’ll be shopping for any time soon.
While I highly respected all that I saw and was amazed by its complexity, I did find it rather static. After seeing mannequin after mannequin lined up in room after room, I longed for some action. I don’t know how that might be achieved in such an exhibit. Go see “Reigning Men” for its singularity but don’t expect to come out like you would after seeing a dynamic summer-action movie.