Arts and Culture

Dandy Style at Manchester Art Gallery: 250 years of British menswear

A new exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery showcases the past 250 years of masculine fashion – from Oscar Wilde to David Beckham.

Dandy Style explores how men’s clothing has tied into the wearer’s identity since the 18th century.

The work displayed in Dandy Style includes fashion by Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood, and art by Thomas Gainsborough and David Hockney.

This exhibition launches a new dedicated Fashion Gallery within Manchester Art Gallery.

The dress collection was previously housed at the Gallery of Costume in Platt Hall, which closed in 2017.

Rosie Gnatiuk, costume curator at Manchester Art Gallery, said: “The fashion gallery supports our ambitions to bring the costume and dress collection into the heart of the city.”

Dandy Style is split into two galleries: the Tailored Dandy and the Decorated Dandy.

A diverse display of clothing, paintings, and photography all work together to tell the story of British menswear – with a specifically Manchester focus.

Evening dress through the ages (left to right): Photograph of grime artist JME by Olivia Rose (2017) ; suit by Vivienne Westwood (1997); evening coat (1900-1910); portrait of Alexander Campbell by Sir Henry Raeburn (1810) – photo by Michael Pollard

The exhibition presents historical fashion alongside contemporary work. These displays aim to draw similarities between styles across history and highlight how often fashion trends repeat.

Miles Lambert, co-editor of Dandy Style and costume curator at Manchester Art Gallery, explained: “It’s about looking at what people have worn and why they’ve worn it.

“What do your clothes say about you? Why do you choose to wear certain things? It’s asking whether you’re just following fashion or really creating your own image with what’s available.”

The idea of the ‘dandy’ began with Beau Brummel and Oscar Wilde, but the exhibition shows how this identity is still relevant today in the style of male celebrities such as David Beckham and Zayn Malik.

The new Fashion Gallery will also be a working creative space, asking about the future of fashion in Manchester not just its past.

A photography exhibit in the Tailored Dandy gallery – produced in collaboration with LGBT+ charity The Proud Trust – portrays young Mancunians expressing their own masculine style.

The space encourages people to answer the question ‘What does menswear mean to you?’ and leave the notes for other visitors to read.

Dandy Style runs until 1st May 2023. Entry is free.

Feature image: Michael Pollard

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