RISD’s Feeling Fine and Dandy
The dandy: It’s a term we hear on loop, it seems, when it comes to horn-rim-wearing street-style stars and all things bespoke or buttoned-up. But the dandy has a far richer history than the current zeitgeist lets on; one that includes the likes of George “Beau” Brummell—an arbiter of men’s fashion in eighteenth-century England who was known for being “extremely neat”—King George IV, Oscar Wilde, and Andy Warhol (whose paint-splattered shoes are pictured below). On April 28, Providence’s RISD Museum of Art will celebrate the term with the opening of its summer exhibition, Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion.
“As we delved into the subject of the dandy in art, literature, and history on an intellectual level, we felt a strong need to focus on the tangible garments worn by dandies past and present,” said Kate Irvin, the museum’s curator of costume and textiles. The selection runs the full temporal gamut—with current provocateurs such as Thom Browne and Waris Ahluwalia featured alongside more archival names, like Stephen Tennant (above, left), Charles Baudelaire, Richard Merkin, and Malcolm McLaren.
As assistant curator Laurie Brewer details, dandyism is as diverse as it is distinct, and it’s not strictly limited to one bracket of dressing. “I am always smitten with the extraordinary feat of what a bespoke suit can be—but I also fully appreciate Rick Owens’ radical take on menswear—hard and romantic, masculine and feminine.” Owens is also featured in the exhibit, lending credence to the sartorial vastness encompassed by the term. Expanding on the subject, the curators concluded, “there may be boundaries and rules that one feels compelled to follow when dressing, but one must always recognize that they are elastic.” Alongside the exhibition comes the release of a corresponding illustrated book, which features essays by the likes of Thom Browne, Glenn O’Brien, and Style.com’s editor in chief, Dirk Standen.
Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion will run from April 28 through August 18 at the RISD Museum of Art .