Sadly, menswear is often overlooked in fashion studies, but as the field grows, scholars and curators are recognizing the importance of male fashion, and the unique needs of collection, storage, and exhibition. Interestingly, the largest collections are sometimes the worst when it comes to display of menswear, if they do not have a permanent fashion gallery (like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Musée Galliera), but others do include not only examples but focused displays on the particularities of men’s dress, like the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Fashion Museum in Bath. Interestingly, many of the collections of early dress (see Medieval or 16th-17th Dress) possess mostly menswear, because it was the king’s clothing that was preserved. There may never be a museum devoted solely to menswear, but there has been an increase in exhibitions that highlight male dress, like MFIT’s Ivy Style or RISD’s Artist | Rebel | Dandy. The website Historical Menswear has an archive of museum exhibitions about menswear (2013-14 were great years for menswear exhibitions!), and hopefully we will continue to see more of them in the next few years.
- The upcoming exhibition THE TIE. men fashion power. at Landesmuseum (The Swiss National Museum of Zürich) Sept. 9th, 2014 – January 18th, 2015
Collections with noteworthy menswear:
- Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury) in Stockholm, Sweden, has one of the best collections of 17th century menswear in the world, some of which were studied by the famous dress scholar Janet Arnold for her books Patterns of Fashion.
- Frederiksborg Slott (Frederiksborg Slot) in Hillerød, Denmark (north of Copenhagen) doesn’t have a dress collection (that I know of), but they do have an incredible collection of male portraits, giving a fascinating journey through often-overlooked periods of male dress (particularly the late 17th – early 18th centuries). A brilliant look at the development of neckwear!