“Uniform of Man” will be a series of video lectures exploring the history of male clothing and fashion in Sweden. Using museum collections in Stockholm, the videos will be based around the theme of “uniform,” where the suit is broken into individual components (pants, ties, hats, etc.) The finished videos will be available to the public online.
The implications of ideas behind a “uniform” provide the questions explored in this project. Why do men have a uniform (the suit) while women do not? How is that related to contemporary views on gender? Are definitions of gender necessarily linked to definitions of sexuality? How have military uniforms informed trends in male fashion? How did male fashion itself turn into a uniform?
My research on men’s fashion evolved out of my dissatisfaction with fashion’s portrayal of “femininity,” and the concomitant cultural expectations of women. By examining the clothing of men, archaic definitions of both masculinity and femininity are uncovered. Gender roles that once seemed self-evident are in fact linked to outdated needs of economics, politics, and religion, and the visual language of clothing exposes the origins of these ideas.
I am interested in exploring the interlinked histories of masculinity and fashion by using familiar, contemporary garments as the structure for storytelling. By arranging information into a contemporary viewpoint, the audience is invited back into history through a familiar lens: they are not just studying something about a foreign culture, but learning the legacy of items they are intimately familiar with. A person might see a doublet covered in ribbons and embroidery and imagine it to be far removed from themselves – but if they are shown how that doublet evolved into their own suit jacket, then the collection has a personal meaning for the viewer in a new way.
My experience as a costume designer has given me a unique perspective for researching the history of dress, because I have approached my research from the perspective of the person wearing it. Did they dress themselves or did they need someone to help them? How did it influence posture or movement? Did this person purchase their clothing or inherit it? Does it make them feel proud or embarrassed? Costume design is about making stories of imaginary people more believable; the accessible and artistic nature of this project will be about making historical characters more relatable.