MFA exhibit blurs gender boundaries in fashion



Displayed at the MFA’s “Gender Bending Fashion” exhibit, this dress was designed by Alessandro Trincone. The garment is intended to be worn by a man.

Nina Rogers, Staff Writer

Walking down the street or the hallways of the high school, one of the first things that you might notice about the people around you are their clothes. Are they wearing jeans, leggings, a skirt, a dress? Are they wearing bright colors or more subdued tones? Are they wearing what society has deemed as “normal and appropriate” for their apparent gender?

Clothing and how people choose to express themselves is constantly evolving. In prior decades, fashion has been defined in very rigid, binary ways. However the new “Gender Bending Fashion” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) challenges binary definitions, as it presents fashion and designers who have challenged the status quo.

Upon entering the exhibit, it becomes clear that emphasis has been put on suits. Particularly, suits for women.

Once seen as the pure embodiment of masculinity, over the decades, women have taken the style and made it their own. Notable designers such as Yves Saint Laurent had suits featured. Laurent’s suits are clean cut and immaculate in their tailoring, yet still clearly feminine and designed with a woman in mind.

The emphasis on suits for women continues throughout the exhibit, with other garments by Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo from her line “Comme des Garçons”, which is French for “like the boys.”

Kawakubo fuses the traditional male suit jacket with a more feminine white ruffled shirt and full ball-gown-like skirt. Kawakubo is able to maintain the air of formality that a traditional suit has, but by adding her own touches has left a distinctly feminine appearance to the overall look.

The exhibit also manages to highlight the less obvious ways that fashion has moved past the rigid gender boxes that it had once been placed in. The exhibit explores the use of prints and colors on clothing, typically those worn by men, that for decades never strayed far from a black or gray palette.

One suit in particular, designed by Italian designer Alessandro Michele for Gucci, is a vibrant turquoise, envying the color of the ocean on a cloudless day. Cherry blossom branches reach across all available surface on the suit jacket and pants, pink blossoms dispersed throughout the garment. Paired with a pink undershirt, it is about as far from a “typical” male suit that you could get.

The most eye dropping piece, the one that brings the entire collection together, stands alone at the front of the exhibit.

A single mannequin poses with its arms spread, a large tan hat casting its face in shadow. It is wearing a floor length dress, the sea of ruffles painting a picture of endless waves rolling down and crashing onto the floor. It has an almost ethereal appearance; you cannot help but stop and stare.

Despite appearing so typically feminine, designer Alessandro Trincone designed the dress to be worn by a man. The dress caught the eye of one man in particular, rapper Young Thug. It can be seen on the cover of his 2016 mixtape, JEFFERY.

Each design in the exhibit, from Trincone’s ruffled dress to Kawakubo’s striking suits, manages to strip away a stereotype about gender with each layer, working one stitch at a time to reverse centuries worth of rigidity and monotony. No matter your gender or appearance, clothing and how you express yourself should be entirely up to you, no matter what society might say, as the exhibit demonstrates. A sign at the end of the exhibit asks,“Why do you wear what you wear?’ So, what’s your answer?