February 1 – April 14, 2018 – “Queer Fashion & Style: Stories from the Heartland”
Curators: Kelly L. Reddy-Best, Dana Goodin, and Eulanda A. Sanders
As humans, our identities are complicated. We communicate all of the parts of our identities, such as sexuality, race, gender and social class, through dress and through what we choose to put on our bodies. While the decisions we make to dress ourselves may not be conscious, they are always important and informative.
Twelve individuals who identify in the LGBTQIA+ community (ranging from age from 30 to 50, bi, pan, gay, lesbian, trans, crip) shared their personal histories of fashion and style and contributed outfits, accessories and undergarments to the exhibition. Other community members, such as activists and fashion designers, engaged in shorter conversations with the curators about their experiences with objects, which they have also loaned for display. Through their stories, this exhibition explores the highly personal and complex ways everyday Midwestern queer womxn represent themselves in both the LGBTQIA+ community and the larger world.
Iowa has a long and proud history with the Gay Rights Movement. In the 1970s, one of the first Gay Alliance organizations was started at University of Iowa. The LGBTQIA+ Student Success Center for Iowa State University was founded in 1992 and is an integral part of the Cyclone Community. On April 3, 2009 Iowa became the third state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The sections of the exhibition, Overtly Proud, Celebrating in Ceremony, as well as the T-shirt and banner display show the importance of dress and visibility to the Iowan Gay Rights movement and queer community.
This exhibition focuses on every-day, regular people who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the Midwest and the importance of dress in communicating and negotiating their queer identities, told in their own words. For members of the Midwestern LGBTQIA+ community dress can be a form of empowerment, protection and authenticity. The sections Fitting the Stereotype and Not Queer Enough address the need to be recognized as part of the community. The sections Feminine Leaning, Masculine of Center, and Chapstick Lesbian explore the different LGBTQIA+ stereotypes and the relationship they have with dress and identity. Against the Skin focuses on queer undergarments and body modifiers required to create the desired silhouette. The objects donated by Rebirth Garments explore the intersection of a Queer-Crip identity, expressed through dress.
We are honored and grateful to be able to tell these stories.