the Gender Bending Fashion exhibit!

Last week I went with the Apparel Designers Network to see this impressive exhibit at Boston's MFA. The museum has gathered an extensive collection of wonderful pieces to admire and examine from the perspective of gender - one of the most contentious issues of our day.

Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at Peabody Essex Museum

Out of all the events we have had for the Apparel Designers Network, this particular one has gained the most traction on social media, and not by only a little. In fact, just the event posted on the ADN Facebook page reached over100K people and garnered 6.5K responses! Although the ADN's social media reach has been steady increasing, I can only attribute this exponential success to the subject matter of this exhibit. It's no secret that more genderless dressing is on the rise and that gender is a hot topic these days.

One of the many important roles that art museums fill is to hold a mirror up to contemporary society and change our perspective on how we view things. This exhibit offers the viewer many ways to look at the topic of gender and how fashion can be a tool to challenge gender norms. Below are some of the standout pieces in this impactful exhibit.

the Gender Bending Fashion exhibit at Boston's MFA 2019

long view of the main gallery for the Gender Bending Fashion exhibit at Boston's MFA

The main gallery is full of garments that not only push boundaries of what has been acceptable for women, but also what has been acceptable for men to wear. There are displays of garments grouped by the standard they may be challenging or by the historical period they are the quintessential examples of.

Viktor & Rolf is well represented in the show

Dutch designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have spent decades pushing boundaries with their avant garde designs; one of those boundaries is gender and their "One Woman" show for A/W 2003-04 featured actress Tilda Swindon and an army of facsimiles to highlight her androgynous aesthetic. In fact, the exhibit features several examples of entertainers such as Tilda Swindon, Marlene Dietrich, and blues singer Gladys Bentley who challenged commonly held gender norms with their personal style and created a platform for these radical ideas with their celebrity. Their adherence to their own style goes far beyond a woman simply wearing pants and questions the roles that women play in society and the restrictions that have been imposed on them by (largely) male-dominated institutions.

Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo peices show their interpretations of the menswear jacket for womenswear

A significant part of the exhibit examines the motivations and outcomes of women wearing pants and other garments considered to be masculine. Some of the displays point to the simple practicality of it, while others point to the subversive nature of it. Nearly all indicate that the wearers of these pieces defiantly chose to wear what felt comfortable for them personally. There is a wonderful series of photos by Prisca Monnier called "Dandy Women" showcasing women dressed in mannish suits and entirely in command of their female power. An example of Saint Laurent's famous "Le Smoking" is on display, as are photos and examples of designers' early attempts at introducing pants into women's wardrobes.

Alessandro Trincone's piece on display at the Gender Bending fashion exhibit

one of the star pieces of the show is this ensemble by designer