Icons of Style – HMFA

Fashion expresses an era’s Zeitgeist in a very personal and universal language. While this exhibit could have been entitled 100 years of Vogue, iconic images keep the imagination contextualizing the culture of the times, weaving together influences from advertising, art, music, literature and science.

Women were emancipated from their corsets and yards of hair in the 1920’s with the advent of flappers, who listened to jazz and broke as many feminine stereotypes as they could. Natural, almost boyish body types vied with more bodacious curvy styles over the next decades. Androgyny and gender fluidity are on the rise in the 21st Century, but have always been an important element of culture and style in every era. Psychology suggests there are both masculine and feminine elements in each of us. Sometimes they blend.

I was struck by repeating stylistic themes over 20, 30 and 40 year periods, as well as our evolving gender freedom of expression. Akwafina’s portrait was the last image in the show. Today’s It girl, she uses a sliding scale of feminine to masculine traits, depending on her character and audience. Transgender creatives are becoming increasingly influential in mainstream culture, prioritizing and refining what it means to be human. It’s really about time.

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