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Tailoring Caucacity

3 February 2020 | 2pm – 3.30pm

Kensington, Senior Common Room


Nineteenth-Century Men’s Fashion and the Elite Body

Part of the V&A/RCA History of Design Research Seminar series

The V&A/RCA History of Design Research Seminar Series provides a forum for engaging with new thinking in the history of design and material culture, including cutting-edge research in related fields such as anthropology, economic history, the history of art and architecture, medical humanities and the history of science and technology. Seminars take place on throughout the academic year and are open to all with an interest in the field. All seminars are free and you are advised to arrive early, as space is strictly limited. External attendees are asked to contact [email protected] to reserve a seat.

Royce Mahawatte's seminar explores the construction of whiteness inherent in the tailoring of the early nineteenth-century menswear. From the mid 1820s onwards, male gender performance was increasingly linked to the fashioned male body and the wearing of the ‘unpadded’ suit. Changes in design methods, the rise of tailoring as a profession and a developing fashion media began to challenge the idea of the gentlemen from one based on inheritance and lineage, to one based on the presentation of self via the body. The disciplined body of the elite man, whether suited or in military costume, was one that could administer Great Britain’s imperial project abroad, whilst also consolidating the status of an expanding middle class at home. At the same time, accusations of effeminacy and ‘dandyism’ punctuated a rising fashion culture for men, which presented hegemonic power through a new male silhouette.

Royce Mahawatte is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Central Saint Martins.