clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Museum at FIT's Queer History of Fashion Exhibit Wows

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.


If you'd like to see some of the most iconic cutting-edge looks in fashion history—and you want to eye them up close and for free—then head over to The Museum at FIT for their new exhibit, A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk. There, in the context of the LBGTQ community's influence on fashion, you'll see a Versace leather evening dress, Vivienne Westwood bondage pants, a Gaultier cone bra dress and close to one hundred other striking and important designs.

The show opens today, and shockingly, this is the first major fashion exhibit anywhere to focus specifically on LBGTQ influences on fashion. The first part of the exhibit kicks off with a historical bent, concentrating on cultural and street styles from the gay community. Although there are no garments which were actually worn by author Oscar Wilde, there are period ensembles inspired by his dandy style. You'll also see Marlene Dietrich's original menswear looks from the 1930s, along with the Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking jacket they inspired.

As this section of the collection moves into more contemporary times, the LBGTQ fashion influence is illustrated by butch post-Stonewall looks, a Vivienne Westwood/Malcolm McLaren punk ensemble (once worn by Simon Doonan!) and a couple of outfits which belonged to the late Andy Warhol. You'll spot these right away because of the mannequins' "Andy" wigs.

The AIDS crisis makes for a pivotal midpoint in the show. This part of the exhibit displays clothing by designers who lost their lives to the disease, including Perry Ellis and Halston, as well as a wall dramatically covered in T-shirts from ACT UP, Queer Nation and other activists groups.

The second part of A Queer History of Fashion focuses on an array of styles spanning the period from the 1980s to the present—all created by openly gay designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. Some of these looks consciously play with gender stereotypes and sexual taboos, while others just aim to project an idealized beauty.

The exhibit concludes with a section on gay wedding attire. The museum's Director and Chief Curator, Valerie Steele, told us that the show had been in the planning stages for years, and that even without the timely DOMA and Prop 8 Supreme Court decisions, wedding looks would still have been included in the exhibition. The rulings do, however, make their impact much more powerful.

A Queer History of Fashion runs from September 13th through January 4th. Whether you're interested in LBGTQ culture or just like seeing iconic fashion, the impressive exhibit is worth a visit.
· A Queer History of Fashion [The Museum at FIT]
· Seven Looks From FIT's Queer History of Fashion Exhibit [Racked NY]
· FIT Exhibit Will "Put the Gayness Back Into Fashion History" [Racked NY]

Museum at FIT

227 W 27th Street, New York, NY 10001 (212) 217-4558 Visit Website