Crystal chandeliers overhead, carved wood panel walls and the steady, watchful gaze of the portraiture subjects hanging on the wall; Edward Crutchley’s Barbican showcase this season felt oh so classic, vaguely nostalgic and yet so intriguingly new and compelling. A study of the historical female form at a first glance, Crutchley uses elements of restrictive female dress to regenerate a new study on the male form instead. Corsets – check, boning, check – male bosom exposé? Why not. The result is aunexpected celebration of male beauty, of which has been derived from the more ostentatious and uncomfortable elements of the classic female wardrobe. 

Contemporary use of the pannier; a piece traditionally worn by women around the 18th century to exploit an already tiny and compressed waist – gives hold to a compromise of a soft yet steadfast male form. It does little to restrict in this circumstance, in fact, the very opposite – the drape of the suit jacket compliments the focal point of the bustier and gives the look an overall lightness. It is a refreshing step away from the heavier streetwear ideology that has been surrounding LFWM for several seasons now.

In what felt like a jump into the 20th century circa 1950 to 1980, we are taken through a basic 101 of historical fashion trends: the sharp 70s collars and pussybowblousons, powershoulder suit cuts and form fitting zip up jackets; all complimented via a steady flow of colourchange and texture. 

A soft, easy-to-palette start with the nude corsetry gradually drops into a darker, metallic aesthetic. Edward Crutchley’s sensitive interpretation of historical fashion milestones has repurposed and reevaluated what we deem as fitting or functioning – the classic corset may be tainted with rules of constriction for the women of yesteryear but perhaps the 21st century man can find a new fashion freedom amongst the bones of a bustier.