skip to con tent

FALL RETURN 2021:   Find details about FIT’s full return to campus for fall classes.

In this section

A Queer History of Fashion Symposium

exhibition logo

The Museum at FIT's thirteenth fashion symposium, A Queer History of Fashion, included over twenty participants, more than any symposium we've held yet. Over the course of two days, an international array of scholars, authors, designers, and curators discussed historical and contemporary issues related to queer designers, icons, fashion, and style.

It has long been recognized that gays appear to have a special relationship with fashion and style. However, A Queer History of Fashion was the first symposium to explore the gayness or queerness of fashion, and to examine the contributions made to the modern history of fashion by gay men and lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. Invited speakers included designer John Bartlett, Simon Doonan, Fran Lebowitz, and Hal Rubenstein.

Watch symposium videos on YouTube!

The videos are 5-minute edited selections from each talk.
The full-length symposium video is available for checkout at the Gladys Marcus Library.


Queer History of Fashion symposium

Read the speaker biographies

  Friday, November 8


910 am Check-in, registration
Haft Auditorium, Feldman Center, second floor
10 am1 pm Dr. Joyce F. Brown, president of FIT, Welcoming remarks
Dr. Valerie Steele, A Queer History of Fashion
Simon Doonan and Fred Dennis, in conversation
James Gager, MAC: All Ages, All Races, All Sexes
Professor Christopher Breward, Couture as Queer Auto/Biography
John Bartlett, My Life as a Gay Designer
Dr. Monica L. Miller, All Hail the Q.U.E.E.N.: Janelle Monae and A Tale of the Tux
12 pm Lunch break
25 pm Fran Lebowitz and Valerie Steele, in conversation
Kevin Sessums, The World was Safer Sitting Under my Grandmothers Singer Sewing Machine:
A Sissys Remembrance of a Boyhood Filled with Butterick Patterns and Bouffant Palaver
Vicki Karaminas, Born This Way: Lesbian Style Since the Eighties
Liz Collins, Art Dykes and Hag Fags: An Insiders View of Queer Style Icons
Hal Rubenstein, Do Gay Clothes Have More Fun?
  Saturday, November 9
910 am Check-in, registration
Haft Auditorium, Feldman Center, second floor
10 am1 pm Randolph Trumbach, Man-Milliners and Macaronis: Clothes, Same-Sex Desire, and the 18th-Century Origins of the Modern Sexual System
Elizabeth Wilson, What Does a Lesbian Look Like?
Dr. Deirdre Clemente, Life in the Closet: Deconstructing Liberace's Wardrobe
Shaun Cole, Queerly Visible: Gay Men, Dress, and Style 1990-2013
Jonathan D. Katz, Queer Self-Fashioning
12 pm Lunch break
25 pm Ralph Rucci, The Greatest Gay Fashion Designers
Reina Lewis, Out of the Closet and Into the Wardrobe
Joel Sanders, Closet Space: Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph and the Runway
Omar Sharif, Jr., The Fashion of Philanthropy
Fred Dennis, Reality Check: Gay Bashers and Bullies
Watch recordings of the speakers presentations on YouTube:

The symposium was presented in conjunction with the exhibition A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk,the first museum exhibition to explore in depth the significant contributions to fashion made by LGBTQ individuals over the past 300 years. Join the conversation on the exhibition Facebook page.

The Fashion Symposium was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Coby Foundation; MAC Cosmetics; the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the New York Council for the Humanities; the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT; the Student / Faculty Corporation; and the FIT Presidents Diversity Grant Fund.