Currently reading : A Queer History of Fashion
The intersection of the fashion industry with LGBTQ community has long been under-thought and under-represented. Although reality shows shows like Project Runway have brought the fashion industry into the mainstream and made Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang household names – even Vogue, for example, boasts a readership of over 11 million people or roughly 1/3 of the US population – cultural institutions rarely explicitly acknowledge either the sheer proportion of gay designers or the interconnected nature of the fashion and gay culture.
A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk, opening September 13th at the Museum at FIT in New York, is one of the first exhibitions aiming to explore to contributions made to fashion by the LGBTQ community over the last 300 years. To quote senior curator of costume Valerie Steele:
“We also hope that this exhibition will transform our understanding of fashion history. 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.”
Beginning with Oscar Wilde and his influence on dandyism in the 19th century, the exhibition will move chronologically through modern fashion from the AIDS crisis to contemporary “gay wedding fashions,” exploring themes of androgyny, drag, “butch,” and street culture, and placing designers and their creations into their (sub)cultural and social contexts.
The exhibition runs through January 4th. There will also be a two day symposium November 8th-9th at FIT to supplement the exhibition.
[Images: Joyce Culver, “Kings and Queens 3,” 1989; looks by Jean Paul Gaultier and other, via FIT press release; Michael James O’Brien, Butch Chanel, Wigstock, NYC, 1992.]