Men’s Fashion: Clothes Make the Man
Clothes Make the Man explored how men’s clothing has long been shaped by vanity, practicality and the ever-elusive masculine ideal. This major exhibition explored the transformation of men’s clothing production—from homemade, to handmade, to ready-made—and examined 300 years of traditions and trends.
As we grew to appreciate the stories of the fashions, we became intrigued by the idea of bringing each piece of clothing to life. Rejecting the static quality of traditional museum mannequins, we elected to work with a theatrical designer to transform the vignettes from display to performance. The result was elegant and theatrical—the clothes floating while filled with form and life.
Exquisite details were magnified and used as backgrounds for the displays, encouraging the visitor to look more closely at the artifacts before them. Because the client did not want to use glass cases, it was essential to protect the collection by distancing the audience from the clothing. We developed layered graphic panels to establish an integrated and inconspicuous barrier, enhancing, rather than detracting from the objects. Contextual labels and interpretive texts were placed below the artifacts, so as to respectfully preserve sight lines.
We displayed clothing of opposing styles and purposes in close proximity to create dramatic juxtaposition. Smaller, more fragile objects were placed in the foreground, making them easier to view and allowing for protection and climate control. Accessories were placed in and around associated clothing to ensure proper context. While our lighting options were limited due to conservational requirements, we enlivened the displays with rich colours and textures drawn from the objects themselves.
Clothes Make the Man received the Costume Society of America’s 2003 “Richard Martin Award for Excellence in the Exhibition of Costume”.
McCord Museum of Canadian History, Montreal, QC, 2002
Exhibit Space: 6,000 sq. ft.