In this section

His and Hers

His and Hers
Fashion & Textile History Gallery
November 30, 2010 through May 10, 2011
Visit the Online Exhibition

"His and Hers" MFIT "Museum at FIT" "His and Hers" MFIT "Museum at FIT" "Alexander McQueen" "His and Hers" MFIT "Museum at FIT" "Mr. Fish"
Men's 3-piece court suit, striped silk velvet and multicolor silk embroidery, France, c. 1785, museum purchase. Alexander McQueen, evening dress, black leather, white silk, black tulle, fall 2008, France, museum purchase. Mr. Fish, man’s suit, stenciled beige velvet, circa 1970, England, museum purchase.

His & Hers explores changing perceptions of "masculine" and "feminine" dress from the mid-18th century to the present. Side-by-side comparisons of men’s and women’s clothing highlight their differences—and similarities. Featuring more than 100 garments, accessories, and textiles, the exhibition begins with complementary "his and hers" clothing by 20th-century designers who have created fashions for both men and women. For example, Yves Saint Laurent’s role as an influential proponent of trousers for women is exemplified by a navy blue woman’s pantsuit from 1967. It is shown alongside a man’s suit in dark blue velvet, also by Saint Laurent.

The historical timeline begins with a pairing of elaborate 18th-century court costumes, illustrating that the fashions of upper-class men and women were similar in many respects. The man’s suit, in ornately embroidered velvet, underscores that while lavish materials and adornments usually appear "feminine" to the modern eye, they were considered “aristocratic” in the 18th century.

During the 19th century, menswear was typically dark and somber, in contrast to women’s brightly-colored dresses. However, men did wear colorful, exotic garments at home. For example, a brightly patterned man’s dressing gown from the 1840s will be shown alongside a woman’s demure, white cotton morning robe.

Moving into the 20th century, His & Hers features a sporty man’s suit from the 1920s paired with a checked silk day dress by Louiseboulanger. While this decade is sometimes considered the first to feature "androgynous" styles, the dress reveals that it was more a desire to look youthful and modern that was influencing women’s styles. In the 1930s, women’s preferences for broad-shouldered suits preceded a similar trend in menswear, and an example of each will be shown side-by-side.

An ostentatious, stenciled velvet man’s suit by the English label Mr. Fish exemplifies the "Peacock Revolution" of the 1960s. Meanwhile, many women began wearing miniskirts that showed off their legs, as well as trousers for day and evening. Similarly styled "mod" pantsuits for both men and women highlight the trend for androgynous clothing.

"His and Hers" MFIT "Museum at FIT" YSL "Yves Saint Laurent" "His and Hers" MFIT "Museum at FIT" "His and Hers" MFIT "Museum at FIT"
Yves Saint Laurent, suit, black and white checkered wool, silk charmeuse, fall 1983, France, gift of Roz Gersten Jacobs. Miami Vice man’s suit, white linen, magenta cotton knit, aqua cotton, 1989, USA, gift of Universal City Studios. Yves Saint Laurent, woman’s tuxedo, black wool, black satin, ivory silk, circa 1982, USA, gift from The Estate of Tina Chow.

His & Hers also includes a 1980s woman’s "power suit" by Yves Saint Laurent, which corresponds to the growing presence of women in the workplace. The suit, with its “feminine” soft bow tie and animal print blouse, is shown next to a man’s power suit by Alan Flusser. A pastel man’s suit (made for the trend-setting television show, Miami Vice) exemplifies the “new male” of the 1980s.

Although many contemporary designers continue to subvert gender codes in various ways, most collections today are still clearly defined as menswear or women’s wear. His & Hers concludes with clothing from labels such as Burberry Prorsum, which successfully bridges the male/female divide in unique ways.

Curated by Jennifer Farley and Colleen Hill.

Read the Press Release here.

Join Our Mailing List Copy of Calendar of EventsMuseum HomeCalendar of EventsSupport MFITIn the NewsCollectionsExhibitionsPlan Your VisitAbout the Museum