Gender Bending Fashion Exhibit Opens at the Museum of Fine Arts
Boston, MA– In our socially progressive city, you can pretty much wear whatever you want and no one will bat an eye. Guys who enjoy the breezy comfort of skirts? That’s cool. Someone doesn’t conform to gender-binary stereotypes? You do you, and power to ya. Comedian Eddie Izzard said, when asked about wearing women’s dresses: “They’re not women’s dresses; they’re my dresses. I bought them.” Gender fluidity is everywhere.
Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts opened a special exhibition this week called Gender Bending Fashion which will run from March 21 to August 25. While people dressing outside of gender stereotypes is a common and hardly remarkable sight in Boston, this exhibit features the high fashion side of gender bending clothing. It is one of the first major museum exhibitions on the subject.
The show is described as “a century of haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion that has challenged rigid, binary definitions of dress.” Some of the 60 featured designs highlight the fashions of celebrities known for their androgynous style, like David Bowie and Janelle Monáe. It also features a powder-blue ruffled dress with a white umbrella hat by Italian fashion designer Alessandro Trincone which was worn by rapper Young Thug on his 2016 album No, My Name is Jeffery.
In addition, Boston-area residents were asked to submit Instagram photos of their personal style. Ten were chosen to be featured in the show.
National Geographic spoke with the show’s curator, Michelle Finamore, of the Department of Textiles and Fashion Arts at the MFA. Finamore explained some of the history of gender bending fashion, like when women first began wearing pants in the 1800s. (At the time, society considered this to be highly scandalous, and even criminal.) Some courtrooms in the U.S. still don’t allow women attorneys to wear pants.
There’s definitely an instinct in our culture to group people into the binary categories of “male” and “female,” and there are power dynamics at play when women are forced into female-specific dress codes (like in the Senate, where women did not wear pants until the 1990s -- and it was newsworthy when it happened). This MFA exhibit chronicles the growth of gender fluid expression and the increasing visibility of LGBTQIA+ communities.
In Boston in 2019, people wear whatever they’re comfortable in, and I hope everyone feels welcome in our city regardless of their gender expression. All I’ve personally seen has been acceptance, or more often, total indifference to other people’s clothing choices and whether they’re shopping in the men’s or women’s sections.
Image via Flickr by Jason Hargrove
"Andrej Pejic wearing Arthur Mendonça - LG Fashion Week Spring 2012 - 8959"