Rudi Gernreich in Reigning Men

The FIDM Museum is always thrilled to be a part of fashion exhibitions at other institutions, especially when we can collaborate with our fellow Los Angeles museums! This spring, LACMA's incredible exhibition Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015 showcases the often-overlooked world of historic and contemporary menswear. The comprehensive exhibition features this graphic silk caftan, a striking design from our Rudi Gernreich Archive. Our Curator-on-the-Go Kevin Jones completed another installation job on our behalf (you can catch up on his trip to the de Young Museum here!).

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Caftan
Rudi Gernreich
1970
Bequest of the Rudi Gernreich Estate
G85.331.17

Dressing garments for installation is an art form. It is so much more than putting clothes on a mannequin or dress form. Think of it as the difference between a department store display and a museum exhibition; in museums, we adjust the mannequin to fit the clothing, not the other way around. We add layers of padding to a mannequin in order to build a de facto body that properly fits the garment and reflects the silhouette of a particular time period. This meticulous process is worth the effort – it's what makes the ensemble come to life in an exhibition. Don't be fooled by the seemingly simple design of this Rudi Gernreich caftan…when it comes to dressing a mannequin, nothing is as straightforward as it appears! 

Rudi dressing 2

Front view: archival batting is stitched onto the form. Pantyhose cover the arms; pantyhose are useful to hold batting in place, and they add a layer of protection between the mannequin and the object. Note how the padding mirrors the musculature of a man's body – your high school anatomy classes will finally come in handy!

Rudi dressing 1

Back view: a layer of net sewn to the padding high above the waist gives the caftan subtle volume.

Rudi

Kevin then carefully steamed the caftan, made a few last adjustments, and voilà! The finished look. See this Rudi Gernreich piece and other unforgettable examples of menswear in LACMA's Reigning Men exhibition, open until August 21, 2016.

 

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