examining the bond between clothing and identity

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The notion of the “dandy” was a revolutionary one for the 17th Century: he came from a middle-class background and yet he represented the epitome of sophistication.  Originally embodied by figures like Beau Brummell, Oscar Wilde and even Salvador Dali, the dandy placed particular emphasis on his dapper appearance and cordial language. Early dandies were smartly groomed, sporting elegantly knotted cravats, tailored pantaloons and starched linens, a style that directly led to contemporary trousers, fitted suiting and ties. Today, the figure continues to thrive around the world, personifying the same elegant, romantic style as their predecessors everywhere from the fashion industries in New York and Paris, to the Congo’s sartorial subculture, La Sape.

Beginning this April 28th and running until August 18th 2013, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum will be hosting Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion, an exhibition that will celebrate the dandy’s history throughout the past 200 years and investigate his place in contemporary fashion. The show is the first of its kind and will feature a selection of over 200 paintings, photographs and bespoke garments from the likes of Oscar Wilde through to fashion’s contemporary dandies including Patrick McDonald, Thom Browne and Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi.

The exhibition will examine the bond between creativity, self-presentation and craftsmanship, presented through the work of designers like Browne, Rick Owens, Waris Aluhwalia and Ouigi Theodore. RISD Museum Director John W. Smith explains Artist/Rebel/Dandy’s goal as providing “a sumptuous view of the power of clothing and fine craftsmanship. It comes at a time of renewed appreciation for the nuances and attention to detail of traditional tailoring but also innovation and boldness in menswear design.” An accompanying book of the same name, which includes essays, photographs and musings on notable dandies, is due out in May 2013.