Fred Dennis and Valerie Steele: "A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk," September 13, 2013 – January 4, 2014
A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk
Special Exhibitions Gallery,
Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street
New York City 10001-5992
September 13, 2013 – January 4, 2014
A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk features approximately 100 ensembles, from 18th-century menswear styles associated with an emerging gay subculture to 21st-century high fashion. This is the first museum exhibition to explore in depth the significant contributions to fashion made by LGBTQ (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer) individuals over the past 300 years.
Exhibition curators Fred Dennis, senior curator of costume, and Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, spent two years researching and curating the exhibition.
They worked with an advisory committee of eminent scholars, including professors George Chauncey (author of Gay New York), Shaun Cole (author of Don We Now Our Gay Apparel), Jonathan David Katz (author/curator of Hide and Seek), Peter McNeil (co-editor of The Men’s Fashion Reader), and Vicki Karaminas (co-editor of the forthcoming Queer Style), as well as FIT faculty and fashion professionals.
“This is about honoring the gay and lesbian designers of the past and present,” said Dennis. “By acknowledging their contributions to fashion, we want to encourage people to embrace diversity.”
“We also hope that this exhibition will transform our understanding of fashion history,” added Steele. “For many years, gays and lesbians were hidden from history. By acknowledging the historic influence of gay designers, and by emphasizing the important role that fashion and style have played within the LGBTQ community, we see how central gay culture has been to the creation of modern fashion.”
From Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, many of the greatest fashion designers of the past century have been gay.
Organized in roughly chronological order, the exhibition explores the history of modern fashion through the lens of gay and lesbian life and culture, addressing subjects including androgyny, dandyism, idealizing and transgressive aesthetic styles, and the influence of subcultural and street styles, including drag, leather, and uniforms.
The exhibition will trace how the gay vernacular styles changed after Stonewall, becoming increasingly “butch.” Lesbian style also evolved, moving from the “butch-femme” paradigm toward an androgynous, anti-fashion look, which was, in turn, followed by various diversified styles that often referenced subcultures like punk.
The AIDS crisis marks a pivotal mid-point in the exhibition. Clothing by a number of designers who died of AIDS, including Perry Ellis, Halston, and Bill Robinson, will be featured, as will a wide range of activist T-shirts for ACT UP, Queer Nation, the Lesbian and Gay Rights March in Washington and the iconic Read My Lips. Emphasizing that gay rights are human rights, the exhibition concludes with a section on gay wedding fashions as the sartorial expression of the issue of marriage equality.