Museum of London dons suits, bowler hats and brogues in menswear fashion exhibition

By Culture24 Reporter | 19 December 2013

The Museum of London has announced an unusual menswear exhibition, The Anatomy of a Suit, to coincide with the London Collections: Men programme in 2014

A photo of a man with a beard and a moustache standing by a mannequin with a bowler hat
Fashion Curator Timothy Long with two morning suits (circa 1910) from the Museum of London archive© Museum of London
From the first Monday of next year, a three-day mini fashion festival – enticing everyone from Esquire and Paul Smith to Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green label – will spread out across the capital. And in the only event of its kind on the programme, the Museum of London will be at the centre of a filmic intervention, putting a suave favourite under a historical spotlight.

Conveniently, the museum has some fine examples of the male suit among its 22,000-item fashion collection. It’s rolling out a double-breasted pinstripe number from the mid-60s, found on Brick Lane Market, as well as a black dress suit, from 1933, bought on Broadway Market. One of the earliest designs is a morning jacket from 1927, also discovered on Brick Lane.

“Instead of coming to the museum and seeing garments behind glass and inside cases, we want to display them out in the open and also peel back some of the exterior layers,” says curator Timothy Long, discussing his “deconstruction” of a classic.

“So the public can see that one of the most ubiquitous items that you’ll find today, certainly in menswear, is the suit jacket.

“Previous research into the suit has at times overlooked the fact that it is a feat of engineering, with the ability to transform the body.

“Since the secrets of the suit are hidden on the inside, it’s easy to see why. It’s only through turning the suit jacket inside out that we can bring its technical genius to the fore.

“We can break away from the traditional – and at times – staid, confines that mannequins and glass cases can impose.”

Charles II is said to have introduced the three-piece get-up in 1666. “A lot of the aspects of it have been pioneered and perfected right here in London,” observes Long. Bowler hats and brogues, Roman sandals, 17th century waistcoats, medieval leather and post-war subversions by the likes of Teddy Boys and the punk movement will also be scrutinised.

  • The Anatomy of a Suit runs from December 20 2013 until June 2014.

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A photo of a man in a suit holding a tape measure in a museum in front of two suits
The museum will screen highlights from the men's Autumn and Winter 2014 catwalk shows© Museum of London
A photo of a man with a beard and moustache tending to a suit jacket on a mannequin
This 1927 morning jacket was found on Brick Lane© Museum of London
A photo of a man with a tape measure around his neck tending to a mannequin suit
A series of events and exhibitions will be designed to unpick the history of London menswear at the museum© Museum of London
A photo of a man with a beard and moustache tending to a tie on a suited mannequin
A 1904 cravat© Museum of London
A photo of a man with a tape measure around his neck tending to a suited mannequin
Savile Row and the secrets of British tailoring will be revealed© Museum of London
A photo of a man looking at a dark blue suit jacket in a room of makeshift wardrobes
A jacket from around 1970© Museum of London
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