Gays and fashion – it started in London!

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The Museum at FIT, New York/Pacific Standard | 14135

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City is curently exhbiting a review of the influence gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women have had on the history of how we dress.

Director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, Valerie Steele, remarks:

…Students of sexuality believe there was a significant change in the early 18th century in Northern Europe that marked the beginning of what we would think of modern heterosexuality and homosexuality. Prior to that, it was a very different sexual regime.

Although there were … subcultures during the Renaissance in Florence, for example, there were no separate gay communities. So a person who slept with other males, like Leonardo da Vinci, would have worn exactly the same clothes as any other man of his age and class. In 18th-century London, however, you start to find gays using clothing as a way of identifying themselves.

In London:

… it was part of a bigger sex and gender revolution, where prior to that, elite men could have sex with both younger men and women and it didn’t make any difference. Afterward, a split began to occur where for most people you were either homosexual or heterosexual. And so, what you see in the 18th century is some gay men who were interested in cross-dressing. Some developed a fashion for themselves, which was like an exaggeration of aristocratic male dress. Some gay men become the precursor of gay fashion designers who make clothes for women.

SP

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