From the runways to the streets, designers and wearers today are upending traditional ideas about men’s and women’s clothing. But those trends in American and European fashion are not new. This exhibition looks across a century of haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion that has challenged rigid, binary definitions of dress. It features more than 60 boundary-pushing designs, presenting the work of groundbreaking contemporary designers—including Rad Hourani, Jean Paul Gaultier, Alessandro Michele for Gucci, Palomo, and Rei Kawakubo—in the context of historical trends like the garçonne look of the 1920s and the peacock revolution of the 1960s.
“Gender Bending Fashion” examines a rich history of fashion disrupting, blurring, and redefining conventions and expectations around the relationship between gender and dress. At the same time, the garments on view can speak more broadly to societal shifts across the past century—including changing gender roles, increasing visibility of LGBTQIA+ communities, and the rise of social media as a powerful tool for self-expression. Throughout the exhibition, individual narratives emerge, touching on issues of gender identity and expression, sexuality, race, class, pop culture, activism, social justice, and more. “Gender Bending Fashion” features a digital album in two formats—a large-scale video and an interactive touchscreen—that highlights ten individuals from the Boston area whose perspectives reflect and expand on many of these themes.
Featuring pieces worn by actors, musicians, and influencers, including Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, and Young Thug, the multimedia presentation also incorporates paintings, photographs, music, and video. The works in the exhibition are drawn from the MFA’s collection as well as loans from museums, archives, private collections, and fashion houses.