You Should Be Reading (and Watching): Fashion, Masculinity and the Dandy

I must apologize for last week’s absence of a You Should Be Watching column, as I found myself without internet access and unable to contribute a post. In return, this week I offer a super-sized column encompassing both film and text on fashion, masculinity and the well-dressed man. From Beau Brummel to the members of Roxy Music and today’s modern incarnations, the following videos and articles provide an introduction to the iconic persona of the Dandy.

1. Kate Irvin and Laurie Anne Brewer. ‘Fabricating a Dream: The Dandy’s Silhouette.’ The Bard Graduate Center, New York. May 21, 2015.

Drawing from their publication Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion (Yale University Press, 2013), Kate Irvin and Laurie Brewer will discuss the sometimes extreme physical transformations evident in the dandy’s silhouette. The fashion practices of this iconic character will be analyzed through caricatures dating to the age of Beau Brummel, the quintessential dandy, and an examination of the artful modification of the male body at the hand of the tailor. In laying bare the secrets of the dandy aesthetic, the authors will present a figure who employed profound imagination in his appearance as he forged a unique path to self-discovery and self-expression. – Full Video Summary

2. ‘A Suitable Wardrobe Visits Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion.‘ Rhode Island School of Design. May 30, 2013.

A short video exploring the Artist/Rebel/Dandy exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design, produced by Andrew Yamato for A Suitable Wardrobe. Artist/Rebel/Dandy documents the enduring, global impact of the dandy—that distinctively dressed figure who has pervaded Western culture for more than two centuries. From Beau Brummell in the late 18th century to the international style-makers of today, this character epitomizes the powerful bond between clothing, identity, and creativity. Garbed with great intention and at least a hint of provocation, the dandy is forward-thinking, conscientious, and thoroughly artistic. – Excerpt from Exhibition Summary

3. ‘Am I Dandy?’ The Doc Challenge. April 14, 2014.

Nathaniel Adams, co-author of the book I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman, discusses the cultural history of dandyism, gives a tour of his personal wardrobe, and examines the way the theatrics of fashion relate to a person’s inner character. – Full Video Summary

4. Robyne Erica Calvert. ‘Manly Modes: Artistic Dress and the Styling of Masculine Identity.’ Visual Culture in Britain (16:2, 2015) 223-242.

From roughly the mid-nineteenth century, Artistic Dress was an alternative sartorial style adopted by both men and women who wished to communicate their identification with artistic practices and philosophies that often ran counter to the status quo. For women, this style was expressed through a less structured look and cut of garment, resulting in a radical departure from the mainstream Victorian silhouette. For men, however, Artistic Dress usually took a subtler form. Looking at specific examples, this article examines the ways in which male artists managed to walk the margins of masculine sartorial conformity by wearing mainstream clothing with styling techniques that suggested hints of ‘artisticness’. – Full Article Abstract

5. Erin Mackie. ‘Libertine Fiction, Forensic Fashion, and the Dandy’s Development in Edward Bulwer’s Pelham. Eighteenth Century Fiction (27:2, 2014).

Edward Bulwer’s Pelham (1828) is best known as a “silver fork” or “fashionable novel” and as the source of the Dandy’s Maxims, which Thomas Carlyle addresses in Sartor Resartus(1833–34; 1836). As such, Bulwer’s novel is understood as a specimen of elitist, formula fiction centred on a vapid, if amusing, dandy hero. Opening with an epigraph from George Etherege’s The Man of Mode (1676), Pelham orients itself through allusion and intertextuality to the satiric libertine past of the Restoration and eighteenth century even as it develops, through the established Regency form of silver fork fiction, the emerging forms of the Bildungsroman and the detective story. Approaching Pelham as a “libertine fiction,” we acknowledge its relation to the eighteenth century and develop a fuller appreciation of its generic identity. Pelham’s licentiousness, its freedom from rules, defines what is most novelistic in this truly experimental fiction. – Full Article Abstract

6. Jon Hackett. ‘Art, Artifice and Androgyny: Roxy Music’s Dandy Modernsim.’ Clothing Cultures (2:2, 2015) 167-178.

This article considers glam rock’s rejection of the humdrum, spontaneity and the ‘natural’, and its embrace of costuming, camp and artificiality. With particular reference to Roxy Music, it will examine the band’s iconography, fashion and contexts during glam’s golden years – 1972 to 1974 – as well as the implications of glam style for gender and sexuality in popular music. Though some of glam’s exponents were undoubtedly much more traditional in their performance of gender identities, we can read bands like Roxy Music, within certain limits, as ‘queering’ their more meat-and-potatoes predecessors and providing an important source of identification for later pop music gender and style dissidents. The fashion and music scenes in which Roxy Music emerged are inseparable from the milieux of experimentation and innovation associated with British art and fashion schools in the 1960s onwards. To this extent, the band exemplifies the vital pathway of art school students into popular music outlined by Simon Frith and Howard Horne in Art into Pop. Through Keir Keightley’s conception of romantic and modernist authenticity in popular music and Joanne Entwhistle’s genealogy of the romantic and the dandy in fashion, we will explore how glam traces a line from the dandy via New Edwardian fashion, in which questions of gender and artifice are in a process of perpetual renegotiation. – Full Article Abstract

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