De-Re-Constructing The Ultimate Masculine Attire
Fashion seems an ever-changing phenomenon, defining the particular social and sexual mores of various epochs. Despite this fluidity, the male suit has proved itself a persistent Euro-Western globalised archetype, implicated in performances of power and masculinity since 1666. This practice-based doctoral study analyses and challenges the enduring form of this ubiquitous ensemble – specifically the late 19th-century lounge suit with matching jacket and trousers – maintaining that how it is designed and worn can confront, resists and reconfigure male identity.
Through the use of de-re-construction and the design gestures of addition and subtraction, the exhibited research collections, Plus+ and Minus-, re-evaluate the connection between suit design and how masculinity is expressed. This involves extending interdisciplinary discourse on the suit as it evolved over three and a half centuries by situating it within a spectrum of historical, sociological, and design theories. These theories are then applied to concepts and practices of embodiment and performativity through my action research as a performance designer, played out in a series of workshops, collections and installations. The creative investigations result in the propositions of the 'meta-suit' – a hybrid and mutable form of self-expression in the ever-changing performances of masculinity. In truth, dress is no longer defined by gender or sexuality; it is an embodied communication tool that expresses and performs all the required roles in our everyday life.