Man's "Paper" Shirt, Late 1960s. Artist/maker unknown, German. Multicolored printed spun‐bonded polyester (paper), 31 1/2 x 64 inches (80 x 162.6 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the gift of Mrs. Victor M. Friar, 2009.
Herald's Tabard, 1707‐14. Artist/maker unknown, English. Silk satin weave with silk and gilt fabric appliqué; silk and gilt thread embroidery in couching and satin stitches and laid work; glass beads, Center Back Length: 34 inches (86.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Elizabeth Malcolm Bowman in memory of Wendell Phillips Bowman, 1930.
Man's Jacket with Miró‐Inspired Designs, Fall/Winter 1991‐92. Designed by Yohji Yamamoto, Japanese, born 1943. Red and brown wool, Center Back Length: 33 ¼ inches (84.5 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift from the private collection of John Cale, 2000.
Man's Bondage Suit: Jacket and Trousers with Attached Knee Strap, c. 1990. Designed by Vivienne Westwood, English, born 1941. Bright orange/red wool. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Costume and Textiles Revolving Fund, 2000.
The Peacock Male: Exuberance and Extremes in Masculine Dress
January 22 - June, 2011
By JoAnn Greco
Looking around the small gallery devoted to exhibiting a brisk survey of three centuries of male clothing, one might be tempted to murmur, "Peacock? What peacock?" True, there's a plume-laden, sparkle-burdened Mummers costume on hand, but that's cheating. More typical is another ensemble that nods to Philadelphia roots: a year 2000 or so getup created from Phillies-logoed wear. It's an ugly mashup that, like many other outfits on display here, seem to suggest that men when they try to be "peacocks" simply jumble color and pattern, not masterfully create complete looks.
Even the oldest items on display, from 18th-century Europe, are rather muted affairs, compared to what womanly counterparts might have been wearing. Richer colors and patterns do show up in the exhibit's best vitrine, one filled with top hats, linen slippers, and kerchiefs from the mid-19th-century. And a vitrine of male paraphernalia from the 1920s, '30s and '40s — spats, suspenders, collars, boater hats — suggests the elegance of Noel Coward or Fred Astaire.
Newer pieces skew animal (1950s), psychedelic (1960s), autumnal (those awful mustards and browns from 1970s leisure suits), and hip hop graphic. A few contemporary names — Yohji Yamamoto, Vivienne Westwood, and Gianni Versace — make the cut, too.
It's all very interesting, but not beautiful. When it comes to showing off, this exhibit seems to tell us, men don't have a patch — or a bejeweled bodice — on women.
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