Every time I travel to another city, I make it a goal of mine to visit a local museum (or aquarium but that is a different article). This summer I had the absolute privilege of visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Tb be quite honest, I was just there to see the ancient Egyptian and Greek exhibitions but then I ran into the “Gender Bending Fashion” exhibition. Little did I know, this would become the highlight of my entire trip to Boston! Follow along as I give you a little preview.
The ‘Gender Bending Fashion‘ exhibition “examines a rich history of fashion disrupting, blurring, and redefining conventions and expectations around the relationship between gender and dress. ” While viewing the garments within this exhibit, you can also track the societal shifts of the past century through changing gender roles, increasing visibility of LGBTQIA+ communities, and the rise of social media as a powerful tool for self-expression.
To some, fashion could just be the clothes they bought at the local shopping mall. In reality, fashion has always been a nonverbal communication, a opening into our own identity. Fashion will always be a way to observe societal shifts within the realms of sexuality, race, activism, social justice, and pop culture.
Gender-bending sartorial choices may be a reflection of gender identify or of sexuality, yet each individual’s narrative is uniquely theirs. Male-identified heterosexuals can choose to wear skirts and still be every bit as straight as a man in a suit, yet the social rules associated with skirt-wearing prompt certain assumptions about a man in a dress.
Michelle Tolini Finamore
As you move through the exhibit, you will be taken on a journey through the the various boundaries that have been pushed and broken in order to pave a path forward for our world today. Along the way you will be given an insight into the early hours of binary disruption. One of my favorite pieces you will see is the Viktor&Rolf snoeren suit from the famous “One Woman Show” collection, inspired by the gender non-conforming style of Tilda Swinton.
Did you know that women were not allowed to wear pants on the U.S Senate floor until 1993? The MFA exhibit argues the case that the power of pants throughout history as proven to be one of the most compelling narratives related to gender. “The transition to bifurcated garments did not come without struggle and paralleled cultural changes such as woman’s suffrage and increased movement int the workforce and public social spaces.” This exhibit in part tells the story of one of the best known black entertainers of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance lesbian blues singer, Gladys Bentley. Gladys had a distinct style for her time often wearing tuxedos. You will also be provided with modern references such as some pieces worn by one of our favorites, Janelle Monáe.
As you continue through the halls of this exhibit, you will learn about the emergence of the suited woman, the male peacock style, men wearing skirts, and today’s movement into a world beyond gendered clothing. I don’t want to give away to much, as I sincerely hope you take the time to visit this exhibition. However, I will say that you are going to walk through one of the most beautiful exhibits you have ever seen. The journey you take through the ideas of gender and the way fashion has moved our history will likely bring you to tears.
It makes much more sense to just not put any particular value on gender. Be happy and be yourself. Enjoy. Perhaps the ‘post gender’ term means we are bored of tagging. We are men, woman, trans. We are whatever. Garments that take the best of ourselves, make us dream, and make us feel comfortable and happy today.
The amount of broken ceilings this exhibit will walk you through is incredible. Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie, Billy Porter, and our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are just some of the many boundary breakers who are credited within this exhibit.
The “Gender Bending Fashion” exhibition is open from March 21st until August 25th at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Members of the museum have free access inside the museum. I realize that you do not have very much time left, but if you can make it… I HIGHLY recommend you do it. If you can’t make it, check out this slideshow for a small preview. The MFA is open 7 days a week!
Click here to purchase your tickets!
I hope you all enjoy the exhibit! Let me know what you think in the comments. I would love to hear from you. Until next time! Stay safe everyone.