In this short film, watch curator and art historian Stephen Calloway and academic and drag performer Holly James Johnston sit down to tea for a conversation about artist Aubrey Beardsley, drag, gender and the joy of being a dandy.
Beardsley was one of the most-talked about artists of his day. Through his intricate, irreverant and sometimes erotic drawings, as well as his association with figures like Oscar Wilde, he became a defining figure of the decadent 1890s art scene. For some, he is seen as the ultimate dandy of late Victorian Britain. But what exactly is a dandy?
Historian Thomas Carlyle said that the dandy “is a Clothes-wearing Man... whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of Clothes.” He meant this as a criticism, but fashion is clearly crucial for the dandy.
The ‘first dandy’, socialite Beau Brummell, introduced the modern tailored suit to the world. He also spent hours each day tying his cravat. Beardsley also had an impeccable dress sense. He liked wearing dove-grey suits, silk hats and long yellow kid gloves.
I caught cold—by going out without the tassel on my walking stick
But the dandy is more than just a walking wardrobe. Dandyism is about the things you say, the places where you are seen and the company you keep. To be a dandy is to recreate and reimagine your own identity.