MFA is breaking the boundary on binary

By Megan Palumbo, Danielle Hogan, Holly Feola & Rosa Del Carmen Gomez – Co-Editor-in-Chief, Arts Editor & 1851 Staff

Photo by Megan Palumbo
The ‘peacock’ complex is something explored in gender-bending fashion; menswear makes a colorful, extravagent statement through powerfully ambiguous suits.

Fashion is a form of self-expression in which people create their unique style. Nowadays, fashion movements have been progressing towards more gender fluid styles. The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston opened “Gender Bending Fashion” on March 21 as a progressive gesture to make the museum inclusive for all and showcase different styles from various well known designers. Walking into the exhibit, guests are greeted by a well-known piece by Alessandro Tincone. This Japanese-inspired piece gained its popularity by appearing on the album cover “No My Name is Jeffrey” of famous rapper Young Thug in 2016. 

The ensemble from the “Annodami” collection from Spring/Sum- mer 2017 used the materials cotton, synthetic, paper, and wood. Tin- cone was quoted for the exhibit saying, “the androgynous identity of my garments reinforces my belief of no gender binaries between men and women.”

Three-quarters of the way into the exhibit appeared two colorful, standout pieces made by Rudi Gernreich (1922-1985), an Austrian-born American de- signer. Complimenting a colorful polka dotted silk caftan in the display was a turtleneck jump- suit from the fall 1970 collection. Although on a female form, the triangle cut from the neckline across the chest and loose silhouette promote its gender fluidity.

While new gender-bending designers emerge today, it’s important to commemorate original designers at the beginning of the trend like Gernreich. He was known for his pop-art circles and brightly contrast- ing colors which shows in this exhibit. His philosophy and motivation behind each design was to incite social change while creating clothes that were truly unisex.

The display entitled “Peacock” held an array of men’s suits and garments worn by men on the runway, but are magnificent and colorful. One look in particular, “Sexual Object” by Alejandro Polomo is the standout piece of this display. Following a historical Renaissance silhouette, the coat has a slim straight torso and billows at the waist into a ball gown silhouette. Its floral pattern catches the light with metallic undertones, making the look completely stand out.

The symbolism of a pea- cock relating to gender-bend- ing is a major modern concept. Historically, gender-bending was a social controversy beginning with menswear-inspired womenswear. As time progressed, the gender-bending controversy turned its eye to the vibrant male audience and began production of womens wear inspired menswear, lead- ing to a trend seen on many red carpets.

Not only does the MFA Boston want to feature this exhibit to highlight the progression of fashion, but wants the institution itself to be more inclusive.

“The museum is definitely looking at new exhibitions that to bring in inclusive audiences. The MFA is a public institution and we are tasked with putting exhibitions serving and representing the public,” said MFA Facilities and Administration Manager Elizabeth Michalak. She was part of the facilities team who helped organize the construction of the exhibit, which took about a year and a half.

Michalak shared how the museum has made efforts within the culture of the institution itself, such as having restrooms that are labeled self-identifying male, self-identifying female or gender-neutral bathrooms instead of just men’s and lady’s restrooms.


The Gender Bending exhibit will continue to be on display until August 25.

Photo by Megan Palumbo
Guests were able to see familiar looks as seen on the red carpet, such as the center piece of this display. This Christian Siriano red power suit was worn by Janelle Monae to Vanity Fair’s 2018 Oscar Party.

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