Tue–Fri, 12:00–5:00 pm
Sat–Sun, 10:00 am–5:00 pm
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Skirball Cultural Center

This is a past exhibition

This exhibition was on view at the Skirball
May 9–September 1, 2019

About the Exhibition

Los Angeles fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (1922–1985) introduced the “monokini,” the thong, unisex caftans, pantsuits for women, and enough inventive clothing to earn him a worldwide reputation. Yet Gernreich was far more than one of the most prominent designers of his time—his clothing was fearless. Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich explored the visionary and progressive ensembles that transcended rigid social expectations and championed authenticity above all.

Gernreich, a Viennese Jew, immigrated to the United States from Austria in 1938, fleeing the oppressive and anti-Semitic Nazi regime. Beginning with his life in Los Angeles, the exhibition examined the circumstances that enabled Gernreich to grow into a trailblazing designer—from his early career as a dancer for the Lester Horton Dance Theater to his role as a founding member of The Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization. It showed how Gernreich dovetailed his personal background with his design vision to champion freedom of expression through his work.

The exhibition featured over eighty 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. Illustrating how Gernreich challenged conventional notions of beauty, identity, and gender, Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich revealed how the designer redefined style in ways that continue to influence fashion today.

More to Explore

How dance inspired Rudi Gernreich's designs: Fashion designer Renee Firestone

Hear fashion designer Renee Firestone on how dance inspired Rudi Gernreich's designs.

Rudi Gernreich "was a mensch": Fashion model Léon Bing

Former fashion model and friend of Rudi Gernreich Léon Bing fondly remembers him as a "mensch."

Rudi Gernreich's support of individuality and comfort: Fashion model Barbara Flood

Former fashion model Barbara Flood on Rudi Gernreich's support of individuality and comfort.

Modeling for Rudi Gernreich's "Unisex" collection: Fashion model Renée Holt

Hear former fashion model Renée Holt on her experience modeling for Rudi Gernreich's "Unisex" collection.

Donor Support

The exhibition and its related educational programs at the Skirball Cultural Center are made possible by generous support from the following donors:

Larry Bell
Barbara Timmer and Catherine Benkaim
Stephanie and Harold Bronson
CNL Mannequins
Marcia Israel Foundation
Karsh Family Foundation
Suzanne and Jenni Kayne

Additional support provided by:

Sandy and Hank Abouaf
Barbra Streisand

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