Design and make a spectacular party outfit

Produced as part of Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear

On now until Sunday, 6 November 2022

More about this Exhibition

Design a party outfit inspired by the shapes and patterns of men's fashion through the ages. Make an iconic tailored coat from paper and have fun re-imagining a suit.

Jean-Baptiste Belley, by Omar Victor Diop, 2014, Pigment inkjet print on Harman by Hahnemühle paper. Courtesy MAGNIN-A Gallery, Paris. © Omar Victor Diop

Design a party outfit

You have been invited to a glamorous party and will need to design a fabulous new outfit to wear!

Clothes can be used to express our identity, who we are, what we like and who we feel like. Until the 1950s most people felt they had to follow rigid rules about wearing certain clothes. Now we can explore and enjoy wearing clothes that reflect our gender identity, or as part of our gender expression. We can interact with the world in a masculine or feminine way – or both or neither!

For your party outfit design, be inspired by men's fashion. Use it to express who you are – there are no rules!

(Left to Right:) Harris Reed Fluid Romanticism 001. Courtesy Harris Reed. Photo: Giovanni Corabi; Alessandro Michele for Gucci, SS 2017, Look 13. Courtesy of Gucci.

Men's fashion through the ages

When we think of men's and boys' clothes we might automatically think of trousers, jackets and suits made from dark plain fabrics without much pattern or decoration. But we can use clothes to express ourselves in many ways.

Did you know, in the 18th century, pink was a trendy colour for men? Clothes had interesting oversized shapes, were patterned and decorated with embroidery and lace and were made from lavish materials.

(Left to Right:) Joshua Reynolds. Portrait of Charles Coote, 1st Earl of Bellamont, in Robes of the Order of the Bath, 1773 – 74. Photo: © National Gallery of Ireland; Oil painting possibly depicting Captain Rowland Smart, 1639, Britain. Museum no.534-1892. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In the 1960s and 1970s, men often wore shirts with flower patterns, and pop stars wore shimmering outfits with dramatic details. Shoes with big heels were a must!

(Left to Right:) 'Bicycle John' costume worn by Elton John, designed by Bill Whitten, about 1974, Great Britain. Museum no. S.231-S.233&A-1977. © Victoria and Albert Museum; Pair of snakeskin platform shoes, designed by Terry de Havilland, 1972, Great Britain. Museum no. T.78&A-1983. © Victoria and Albert Museum; Poppy, man's shirt, designed by Ossie Clark, and Celia Birtwell, 1968 – 70, England. Museum no. T.192-1997. © Victoria and Albert Museum.

And in the 21st century, fashions for men are a wonderful mix of styles, shapes, patterns and fabrics.

Autumn Winter 2020 Flower Boy two-piece set, by Orange Culture, photographed by Mikey Oshai, image courtesy of Adebayo Oke-Lawal. © Orange Culture.

Let's start designing!

Designers get their inspiration from lots of unlikely places. Look at these fashion designs. What do you think might have inspired the shape of these shoes and the pattern of the jacket fabric?

(Left to Right:) Thom Browne, SS20, look 10. Courtesy of Thom Browne; Jacket, 1988, made in South America, sold in England. Museum no. T.230-1993. © Victoria and Albert Museum.

Be inspired by objects and patterns

Use these fabulous objects from the V&A collection as your inspiration. What shapes can you see?

(Left to Right:) Flamingo, table, designed by Michele de Lucchi, 1983, Italy. Museum no. W.18-2010; Teapot, designed by Margarete Marks, 1923 – 30, Germany. Museum no. C.78C, D-1980; Radio Command Dalek, boxed toy, manufactured by Product Enterprises Ltd, early 2000s, China. Museum no. B.134:1 to 3-2012. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Could you use these shapes in your outfit? Perhaps the round shape of the teapot could become a pair of balloon trousers?

Look at these patterns. Which do you like best?

(Left to Right:) Afwillite 8.45, dress fabric, designed by S. M. Slade, 1951, Great Britain. Museum no. CIRC.75C-1968; Textile design, designed by Jacqueline Groag, 1965, England. Museum no. E.645-1984; Brocade, about 1880, Varanasi. IS.788-1883. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Design your own patterns inspired by these fabrics.

Plan and draw your design

Think about how you could use the shapes and patterns you have collected, and draw your party outfit design. There are lots of fashion design drawings in the V&A collection. They might give you some ideas and tips for drawing your design.

We know that shoes are an important part of a party outfit, so make them magnificent!

Cut and fold a tailored coat from paper

Now that you have practiced your design skills, have a go at traditional tailoring.

Suits usually consist of a jacket or coat, and trousers or skirt. To make a suit, pieces of fabric have to be carefully cut and stitched together. Folds are made in the fabric and stitched to give the clothing shape and make sure it fits elegantly. These stitched folds are called darts. Can you find any darts on your clothes?

Have a go at cutting and folding. Make a tailored coat from paper inspired by the iconic Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. He created a simple pattern that could be cut and folded from a rectangle of fabric so that no fabric is wasted.

1) Download and print this template:

2) Cut out the two squares and stick the white sides together. The check pattern will be the outside of the coat and the grey square is the lining.

3) Make two horizontal cuts at either side of the paper, then fold in each side to make the front of your coat. Fold-down the top to make the front of the arms.

4) Make small cuts and folds to form the neck shape of your coat. See numbers 5 and 6 on the template guide.

5) Finally, make folds in the side and shoulders of your coat to give it an elegant shape.

De-construct a suit

You have made a classic coat using careful cuts and folds. Now have fun taking a classic suit apart to create a whole new outfit!

Look at these clothes. The designers have used the shape of a traditional shirt, jacket and suit but have turned them into something unexpected.

(Left to Right:) Craig Green SS21, photography by Amy Gwatkin; Suit, designed by Galliano, John, 1985, Great Britain. Museum no. T.223&A-1989. © Victoria and Albert Museum

To make your deconstructed suit you will need:

  • Pictures of suits or people in suits
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Paper
  • Coloured pens or crayons

Method

1) Print out or draw some suits from the V&A's collection or cut out pictures of suits from newspapers or magazines.
2) Look carefully at the suits. How could you change them to make a new, and much more fun, outfit? Cut up the suit and rearrange it. For example, the jacket could be a skirt and the trouser legs could be sleeves, or you could cut the suit into lots of different shapes. Be inventive!
3) Stick your cut-up suit pieces onto your paper to create your new design. Draw the head, arms and legs of the model wearing it. Add details such as bows, buttons and straps or patterns.

Well done! It looks amazing!

Visit the V&A's Fashioning Masculinities exhibition for more fashion adventures.
Share your outfits with us using #VAMFamilies.