Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Queer History of Fashion at FIT - Review

The Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
*Admission is free

Tues - Fri noon-8pm
Saturday 10-5pm
Closed all other times and legal holidays

I had to take a few hours to calm down after seeing this incredible exhibit today.  I'm going to do my best not to litter this post with superlatives, lest you think I am exaggerating my endless praise of this one in particular, but it was just so...


Where do I even begin?

Walking into this exhibit, I had no idea what to expect.  No, actually, that isn't true.  I did expect it to have a certain flavor.  An agenda.  It didn't. I was really surprised to see that this exhibit was not at all what I expected, which would have been some flamboyant bursts of excess and theatricality, like the Gay Pride Parades that happen here in NYC.

I actually have some of that fabric the rainbow bumblebee torso is made of...

But no.

It wasn't.

Not at all.

That's not even what this exhibit is about.  It isn't about feather boas, studded leather and sequins, shock-value, and overt, scandalous sexual themes and images.  It is every bit about embracing and respecting "otherness", making me question and acknowledge my own assumptions (and yours, depending on your own perspective), while giving a beautifully researched and displayed historical, political, cultural, and social context for the audience.

I must say this.  To really "get it", you have to go in person. Gay, straight, young, old, foreign, local... it was an amazing addition to the exhibit to quietly eavesdrop on the conversations everyone else was having as they explored the space.  Conversations that included the names Oscar Wilde, Marlene Dietrich, Charles James, Ru-Paul, Alexander McQueen and Gaultier... That is part of the magic happening in the space. The exhibit really isn't something to hear "about".  You really need to go in person.

The exhibit addresses the contributions made by LBGTQ designers and subjects spanning 300 years.  And yes, the word "queer" is used here, but in a celebratory and respectful context. Also added to my vocabulary today, were the words "dandy", "molly", and "macaroni", which relate to styles of dress I never would have known to define before. 

I could go on about this exhibit for pages and pages, but it is better for me to offer this post as an invitation and encouragement for you all to simply go. It will run until January 4, 2014.

Check out the Facebook page, too.

This exhibit had no agenda but to educate, and it absolutely served that purpose beautifully.  The range of pieces was just marvelous, and truly thrilling to see up close.  There will be a free symposium on November 7th and 9th, for those wanting to explore the subject further.

Will there be a companion book you can purchase?  Yes, there will be. Would it be a great stop after next Friday's Speakeasy tour?  Yes, it would be.

I wish I could effectively convey how beautiful this exhibit is, but I truly lack the vocabulary to effectively express it.  Please go see it yourself, and you will not be disappointed.


  1. Great review, Mimi. I've already been twice!

    1. I was just overwhelmed by the absolute beauty. Amazed by everything it was, and how it was so academically important and thought provoking.

  2. It is just heart-stoppingly beautiful, and such a smart, enlightened, loving exhibit... I was blown away, Priya.


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