Los Angeles fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (1922–1985) introduced the topless swimsuit, the thong, unisex clothing, pantsuits for women, and enough inventive clothing to earn him a worldwide reputation. His democratic and dynamic fashions continue to resonate today. Now on view at the Skirball Cultural Center in Brentwood, Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich explores the visionary and progressive fashion ensembles that trespassed rigid social expectations and liberated those who wore his clothing.
The exhibition spans Gernreich's early career as a dancer for the Lester Horton Dance Theatre to his role as a founding member of The Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization. The exhibition features more than 50 Gernreich ensembles, along with accessories, original sketches, photographs, ephemera, and newly filmed interviews of friends and colleagues.
All mannequins for this exhibition were custom produced with flat feet—a deviation from industry standard. Flat feet were a design feature Gernreich emphasized, dressing his models barefoot or in sensible short-heeled or flat shoes.
Affirming women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community as full participants in the public sphere, Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich celebrates how the designer utilized fashion to embrace cultural diversity and social inclusion.