Fashion / Style

Confident Menswear is Finally Getting a Moment Thanks to This First-Of-Its-Kind Dallas Exhibit

"Bloom Men," Featuring 18th Century Pieces and a Colorful Lilly Pulitzer Suit, Proves Spring Florals Are For Everyone

BY // 03.02.20

Thanks to a now-infamous Meryl Streep quote-turned-gif, we know florals for spring are decidedly not groundbreaking. But when those blooms find their way to menswear, things suddenly feel a bit more radical.

That’s the idea behind the newest collaboration between NorthPark Center and one of the most valuable fashion assemblages in the country, the Texas Fashion Collection. After its 80-plus years of history, “Bloom Men” is the first menswear exhibit from the remarkable archive, which is inconspicuously housed just north of Dallas, within the University of North Texas.

“Less than five percent of our nearly 20,000 garments and accessories are menswear and that’s problematic. We often think about cultural representation, but gender representation is also really important,” says collection director Annette Becker, who is working to take the collection in a more thoughtful, inclusive direction. “It might sound funny that adding the perspective of elite white men to the conversation is adding diversity, but there are just as many men as there are women who celebrate how they look. Their clothing is just as important to them.”

Annette Becker, director of the Texas Fashion Collection

“Bloom Men” opens today on the first floor of NorthPark (between Neiman Marcus and Dillard’s), and will be available for viewing through May 17. Ahead of the opening, we caught up with Becker to learn more about the first-of-its-kind exhibit, and why she feels Dallas will be responsive to a historical deep dive on men’s fashion.

The Texas Fashion Collection and NorthPark Center have been collaborating on exhibits for a few years now. Why focus on menswear this time around?
There are a lot of reasons. One is that it’s kind of a hot trend right now, so it’s exciting for us to be able to pull pieces from the past that relate to what people are wearing today—so they can think about their wardrobes in a deeper way.

People love that moment in “Devil Wears Prada” when Meryl Streep is talking about the color cerulean. Everything has a history. I think people appreciate having the curtain pulled back on that.

What do you hope viewers pick up from observing “Bloom Men?”
Clothing is a huge part of shaping and projecting identity, and connecting with other people. I think it’s really important to remember that menswear does that too.

I think there are also implications about gender performance with floral menswear, especially some of the 18th century pieces that we have in our collection, some of which will be included in this exhibition. Many people look at them and assume they’re womenswear because they have pink flowers on them. But how exciting is it to think that anyone can wear pink flowers no matter their gender identity?

1979.015.007- 01
A linen tie, corduroy pants, and an Irish cotton t-shirt from the late 1960s by British designer John Stephens, who helped jumpstart what became known as the “Peacock Revolution” in London. Stephens’ Carnaby Street store was popular with iconic bands such as The Who and The Rolling Stones.

It feels like menswear is having a lot more fun these days.
I completely agree. It’s like the fashion ecosystem is kind of shifting. If you think about red carpet coverage now, there are almost as many men featured as women. I think that gives men a lot more space to individualize their clothing to try to represent who they actually are, rather than just a pair of slacks and a button down shirt. That’s a perfectly fine way of dressing, but you should have to feel like that’s the only option.

The exhibit includes statement making floral ensembles throughout history. Can you talk about a few of them?
I think some of the most special things that will be on view are three vests donated by Scott and Stuart Gentling, who are artists and brothers from Forth Worth. They donated an extensive collection of 18th century clothing. For the most part, it’s nearly impossible for most people to get to see 18th century clothing.

Between “Balenciaga in Black” at the Kimbell and the Dior exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, there’s been a big focus on artful gowns and womenswear recently. It’s nice to shine a little light on men’s fashion.
Exactly. I think we’re at a moment where more people are primed to appreciate the history of menswear, so I’m really glad that this is an exhibition we can mount in Dallas. I feel like not every fashion community would be responsive to something like this, but I really think Dallas is up for it. It’s a little bit of a challenge.

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