How the LGBTQ+ Community Has Impacted the Fashion Industry
Perhaps considered a less notorious fashion event of the season, this weekend brought many members of the LGBTQ+ community descending upon Manchester to celebrate Pride. With the masses in attendance, the sheer number of sequins and rainbow inspired colour palettes were bound to be in the thousands.
With the likes of singer Kim Petras taking the Manchester Pride stage in a co-ord resembling the transgender flag, and drag queens gracing the city in their finest drag couture, the community were definitely out in force to make a bold statement.
The LGBTQ+ community is made up of some of the finest creatives and forward thinkers when it comes to fashion, and the exhibition of it doesn’t stop at Pride marches. It is no surprise to see their influence on runways and in storefronts alike, impacting even the mainstream consumer. With older collections from Jean-Paul Gaultier being inspired by the fashions found at gay clubs and the bisexual actress Marlene Dietrich being the muse for Yves Saint Laurent’s infamous Le Smoking Suit, queer people have been impacting fashion for decades.
Sadly, the LGBTQ+ community’s impact on fashion isn’t always communicated to the consumer in the way in which YSL’s Le Smoking Suit was. Many of the innovative and flamboyant fashion trends that young queer men style themselves in now, originate from the African Americans and Latin Americans who were estranged or rejected from their own families so joined Houses in major cities which offered safety, shelter and a chosen family.
This underground queer subculture often met in ballrooms, in which each House would ‘walk’ in a plethora of categories, encompassing the art of Voguing, fashion and theatre. Commonly referred to as drag ball culture or house-ball culture, it is now admired in popular culture. First seen by many through Jennie Livingston’s documentary ‘Paris is Burning’ in 1990 and more recently Ryan Murphy’s series ‘Pose’, the fashionable ideas created by members of this subculture weren’t always as explicitly celebrated as they are now.
The drama, glamour and theatrics happening at the balls was an obvious attraction to many and therefore it wasn’t uncommon to see ‘scouts’ looking to be inspired for their employer’s next collection. From Marc Jacobs to Vivienne Westwood, ball culture seemed to be the perfect muse. But with the ongoing AIDS crisis and political system working ferociously against queer people at the time, designers’ attempts to steal the community’s aesthetic may always be viewed in bad taste.
As we stride towards further equal rights for LGBTQ+ people, the ultra-glam aesthetic worn in the 80s by queer Latin and African American people has returned as we head into a new decade. Gay men can now openly experiment with gender and clothing, without having to hide behind a facade like those unfairly outcast before them. Fashion houses can now play with the idea of what it means to be ‘masculine’ and emulate that through their collections.
With fashion houses like Dsquared2, Alexander McQueen and Emporio Armani centring their menswear collections around sheer and translucent fabrics, the modern man is becoming far more metrosexual. Though moving into a territory which could perhaps be deemed as sexualising men (an issue that women have been fighting against for decades), it could also be seen as a liberation.
With the direction of these designers, men are now becoming more experimental with their personal styles and ditching the classic button up. With a translucent overall from Dior and lace vests from McQueen, why wouldn’t you? This shift in attitude towards men’s fashion not only empowers heterosexual men to perhaps wear a more metrosexual aesthetic, but also welcomes queer people to the mainstream market.
The impact of the queer aesthetic being utilised in mainstream collections has led to the fashion industry being even more inclusive than it was before. The LGBTQ+ community has helped form trends for decades through underground subcultures, and now members of that same community are heads of iconic fashion houses. We owe a great deal to the legends of the ballroom for the freedom we now find in the aesthetic that they surely fought so hard to be acknowledged. Without them, fashion just would not be the same.