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OUT at CHM event puts queer fashion in the spotlight
by Melissa Wasserman
2018-04-04

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OUT at CHM ( Chicago History Museum ) proved queer fashion never goes out of style with its program "Celebrating and Contextualizing Queer Fashion" on March 22.

OUT at CHM, now in its 15th year, examines and displays various topics within the history of Chicago's LGBTQ communities. "Celebrating and Contextualizing Queer Fashion" is the first of three programs of the OUT at CHM 2018.

"I was aware of this program but I knew that my community wasn't—my community of young people—and I wanted more young folks to know their history and know that they didn't have to reinvent the wheel and that folks had come before them and paved the way for what we're able to accomplish now," said Andie Meadows, a volunteer on the OUT at CHM committee who spearheaded "Celebrating and Contextualizing Queer Fashion."

Kicking off with a reception, the main event was the fashion show featuring performances that showed off queer designers' creations.

The history museum deals with fashion a lot and queerness is often there, but Meadows said this event allowed for it to be explicit.

The Chicago designers included Authentic Skidmark's Kaleigh Moynihan, who makes eccentric queer designs often found in clubs and nightlife; Gnat Rosa Madrid, of GNAT Glitter Kin, who creates femme-centered kink and fetish wear; and Sky CubaCub, of Rebirth Garments, with collaborators Compton Quashie and Jake Vogds, focusing on trans, genderqueer and disability-specific needs in lingerie and swimwear.

"These are a lot of just my dear friends who are just doing amazing work and making hyper visible spaces for our community, which is something I think about and care about very much as a fem sort of straight-passing person, so I wanted to give that space in a large institution like this but also contextualize it within their own histories and our histories of being queer," said Meadows, joyfully calling the evening magical.

Following the show, Ciera Mckissick, founder of lifestyle brand and Chicago-based incubator space AMFM; and JoJo Baby, who has been working in the nightlife scene since the age of 13 and has experienced queer fashion's movement throughout their career, joined the designers for a panel discussion. Kelly Reddy-Best—a queer fashion historian and assistant professor in apparel, merchandising and design at Iowa State University—moderated the panel.

"Having JoJo on the panel was everything because JoJo, as a club kid and a DYI sort of person fucking it up on the scene in the '80s and' 90s, really made space for these designers to exist in clubs today," said Meadows. "So, putting them in the same room was really special."

"It's creating intergenerational spaces, so getting our elders in the same room as our young folks who are carrying on their legacy and occupying their spaces," said Meadows of the program, which welcomed a little over 300 people. "The more we can make that happen, the more we are able to learn and when we need to change spaces that have been built for us, it's not as contentious or a battle over ownership, it's much more smooth when we have that relationship with our elders. Also just bringing queerness to a history museum and shouting really loudly that it's here."

For more information, visit ChicagoHistory.org/event/out_fashion/.


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