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Serena Williams on Her Star-Studded Gucci Bodysuit
- Reporter 21
- 14 Sep, 2021
I’m staring at a giant plaster fig leaf in a cabinet at the V&A. This modesty-saving Victorian codpiece was hastily made to cover the Down There on Michelangelo’s David, shortly after Queen Victoria had been horrified at the sight of the stark naked plaster cast of the classic Renaissance sculpture—a shock she experienced in 1857, at the opening of her own museum, the Victoria & Albert.
This big, veined fake fig leaf is an opening gambit in the “Undressed” introduction to “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear,” the new Gucci-sponsored exhibition at the V&A. It’s positioned right across from a pair of late-1980s fig leaf-printed briefs by Vivienne Westwood, a 1996 Jean Paul Gaultier trompe l’oeil Greek god torso blazer, and an installation of 2021 underwear for transgender men and transmasculine non-binary people by gc2b and Paxies.
Cleverly, “Undressed” starts us off with a confrontation with the dominant Western European archetypes of the male body. By way of an edit of the plaster-casts that began the V&A’s original art-educational collection, it argues that everything can be traced back to men comparing themselves to the iconography of classical Greek, Roman, and Renaissance sculpture. Take Hercules, with his bulging muscles: “The normalization of hyper-masculinity like this has spawned contemporary gym culture,” reads a caption (we see a 1990s Calvin Klein underwear ad nearby). Or the boyish body of Hermes: “The idolization of youth resonates in the treatment of young male models and performers.” Never a truer word, when you think of Hedi Slimane’s abiding adherence to the straight up-and-down teenage body. One of Slimane’s Dior Homme motorcycle jackets and skinny tailored trousers, with which he dramatically narrowed menswear proportions in the early 2000s, is in the show. That it looks so unremarkable 20 years later is testament to the sweeping influence of his look, for a good few years.
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