MFA Exhibit Transcends Preconceived Notions of Fashion

May 1, 2019 | By Juliana Tuozzola

Love, color and fashion– society has long conditioned people to think about these three powerful, vital elements to life in gendered terms. The “Gender Bending Fashion” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) transcends the often preconceived notion that fashion yields to gender. The exhibit acknowledges that clothing is an important aspect of presenting one’s self  and celebrates the creative freedom afforded through clothing. “Gender Bending Fashion” challenges traditional definitions of dress by presenting fashions that have historically blurred perceptions of menswear and womenswear. 

The exhibit is tucked away in a corner of the  museum. While most of the doors that lead to various galleries throughout the museum are completely translucent, the doors leading to this new exhibit are covered in black and silver seventies font reading,“Gender Bending Fashion.” It is evident that the curators, designers and artists wanted viewers to have an in-depth, fashion emerged experienced –and they certainly achieved just that.


Photos by Juliana Tuozzola

David Bowie’s famous “Rebel Rebel” played as the doors leading to the exhibit opened. It was like traveling from one artistic planet to another as the atmosphere shifted from light and quiet to dark and flashy.

The first piece of fashion on display was created by Alessandro Trincone and may catch people’s attention for its familiarity. Young Thug (Jeffrey Lamar Williams) wore this ruffle embellished skirt on the cover of his 2016 album “Jeffrey.” The garment aligned with his personal perspectives related to gender fluidity. “In my world,” he said, “you can be a gangsta with a dress or you can be a gangsta with baggy pants. I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.” This display is an intriguing introduction to the entire exhibit, enabling viewers to marvel at a contemporary rapper’s decision to openly use the freedom of fashion as a form of rebellion against traditional “gendered” clothing. Following Trincone’s ensemble was a plethora of information displayed with the intent to express the purpose of the exhibit and to inform exhibitors about gender, sex and sexualities. The exhibit then morphed into a colorful fashion-filled party as the ensembles on display were illuminated by different neon color lights.


Photos by Juliana Tuozzola

“Gender Bending Fashion” features more than 60 designs which have disrupted and redefined expectations around the relationship between gender and dress. Individual narratives emerge from each display, all touching upon issues of sexuality, gender identity, race, class and pop culture. The history of haute couture throughout the past century was displayed on along with the work of contemporary designers who have challenged gendered definitions of dress. Works by Jean Paul Gaultier, Alessandro Michele for Gucci, and Palomo were honored. 

The exhibit featured pieces worn by famous pop culture icons such as David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Lady Gaga. David Bowie graced his album cover “The Man Who Sold The World” in a floral-pattern dress created by celebrity designer Michael Fish. Bowie’s androgynous and boundary-pushing dress helped pave the way for acceptance of a wider variety of sexualities and gender identities.


Photos by Juliana Tuozzola

Paintings, photographs, music and videos mixed with the diverse ensembles portray the trivial role that fashion plays in shaping culture. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” played while exhibitors watched a large-scale video which  showcased 10 individuals from Boston whose identities and perspectives reflect the ideology that fashion is both genderless and lacks boundaries.

To reflect on the bold, extravagant exhibit, people were directed to the end to a room to reflect and write down on their experiences with gender bending fashion. An anonymous individual wrote, “that fat/plus sized queer representation is still needed!”

The “Gender Bending Fashion” is on display at the MFA until August 25.