Tonight, Friday Nights at the de Young celebrates the history of the dandy from Oscar Wilde to Jean Paul Gaultier. Whereas Oscar Wilde’s aesthetic style was derided as too feminine, Jean Paul Gaultier embraces gender bending, dressing men in skirts and women in exquisitely tailored suits. In this way, Gaultier's designs approach a new androgyny and subvert established fashion codes. The designer toys with standard concepts of the masculine and feminine throughout the special exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk , but one exhibit in particular literally speaks to this issue. He is the Man in the Mirror.
Conversing with himself, the mannequin and his reflection discuss the history of men’s fashion, how dressing has changed for men, and how clothing can inform the creation and perception of identity.
There is a lot to see and hear inside the exhibition, so we’ve transcribed this intimate conversation to determine if the clothes really do make the man. If you'd like to listen along to the audio, click here: [swf file="files/audio/man-mirror2.mp3"]
Mannequin: One, two...
Man in the Mirror (MinM): ...one, two...
Mannequin: ...one two, three...
MinM: ...four, five six.
Mannequin: Hey, too thin.
MinM: Too tall.
Mannequin: I look tired.
Mannequin: Am I too cleanly shaved?
MinM: Come on, it's fine. No, not bad at all (laughing).
Mannequin: Hey. Hey, I am talking to you.
Mannequin: Is he ignoring me, or what?
M annequin: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the handsomest of them all?
MinM: I think I have heard this one before.
Mannequin: Answer me.
MinM: And you, what do you think about me?
Mannequin: Looking at you, I think you are almost better looking than I am.
MinM: Talk to me. Tell me–who am I?
Mannequin: You look like me, but you're just a reflection.
MinM: I am good looking, aren't I? You said so yourself.
Mannequin: That's true. And I have to say quite wonderfully dressed. I can’t say if I would dare wear that.
MinM: Why not?
Mannequin: I don't know.
MinM: I love this riding coat and these boots, I think they are fantastic, plus they suit you.
Mannequin: I feel exposed.
MinM: Why not? Men didn't always were suits and ties. Why shouldn't we have certain nice fabrics–long dresses, corsets, skirts? For centuries, men's clothing was just as luxurious and varied as women’s, why not now? Just think, some of them–Renaissance princes, 18th-century models, the dandies. Garments don't have gender. Men also have the right to wear haute couture. Express yourself.
Mannequin: Sometimes. The image is not clear, something... people looking is coming inbetween us.
MinM: Don't worry. Don't worry about people who look. Be yourself.
Mannequin: Who am I really. Can you tell me?
MinM: Who knows? Your image is a game, an illusion. Play with it like a work of art, be free.
Mannequin: What about my identity?
MinM: You can't rely on appearances. You have a number of faces, just like a portrait. Pass through your object.
Mannequin: Well, at the moment, I can't actually move.
MinM: Eh, that is true that you are in fact frozen. As a reflection, that doesn't give me much room to maneuver. I would more like a page in a magazine. But after all, I am speaking!
Mannequin: Shhh. Not so loud. Someone is looking at us. Let's continue to be still. I don't want to get involved with the crowd. I am not good at it, you know–small talk. It's not my thing.
MinM: Just smile and be pretty.
Mannequin: Oh, by the way, you look very handsome.
MinM: So do you.
Join us tonight for a high fashion exploration of menswear, featuring designs by Dark Garden, Duchess Clothiers and winner of the Facebook JPG Look Contest Daniel Sudar. Get down with DJ Stanley Frank and an A cappella performance by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Lollipop Guild!
All programs are free.