27 Jun Pride 2014
This weekend is pride weekend in Minneapolis, that time when LGBTQIA come together and celebrate our community and it seems, yearly, celebrate the steps taken in the past year in a race toward equality for all.
A little back history, June sees the most pride festivals in the United States and this correlates with the Stonewall Riots in 1969 when VERY brave men and women stood their ground against police that were intent on arresting and harassing patrons of the Stonewall Inn. In this mix of men and women were a number of transgendered patrons that would be arrested for wearing the clothes that made them most comfortable.
While Stonewall is the movement known ‘round the world’, there were actually earlier organizations that were advancing the cause of same-sex relationships. One of the earliest, if not the earliest was the Mattachine Society found in part by fashion designer Rudi Gernreich.
Rudi Gernreich began designing clothes under his own name in the late 1940s and continued with several partnerships manufacturing his line until 1960 when he established RG Designs. With the freedom of having his own fashion house he flourished into the futuristic designer we remember him as. These were the years he was developing the “Monokini” a topless bathing suit that created a HUGE scandal when it appeared in 1962. It was available commercially and locally at Dayton’s. It is said while hundreds were sold in 1963, very few were ever worn.
Rudi continued designing modern fashion-forward sportswear over the next several years which lead to his first COTY award in 1963 (the Coty award, given by Coty Cosmetics, was the highest award given in American fashion). In protest, the first COTY award winner, Norman Norell gave back his award in protest saying that it didn’t mean anything to him anymore. As time went on, dear reader, know that Rudi and Norman came to be close friends and Mr. Norell eventually understood Rudi’s genius in fashion.
So…I brought up Gernreich because of the Mattachine society and of course you want to know all about it. Rudi Gernreich was the partner of Harry Hay, a longtime activist described as the “father of gay liberation.” In 1950 Harry was starting to form a gay support organization. After rejecting other names such as “Bachelors Anonymous”(a play on Alcoholics Anonymous) Hay and the group decided on “The Mattachine Society” (after a secret French fraternity during the renaissance of unmarried townsmen that did dances and rituals in opposition of the elite) and began protesting and focusing on rights of the gay community.
Gernreich and Hay remained partners for 2 years. Rudi supported the society generously throughout his life, however did so privately as he thought that being open about his sexuality would be detrimental to his career.
Rudi’s work has been shown repeatedly since his death in 1985 and today his clothes are highly collectible and sought after. If anyone wants to sell a Monokini….for Heaven’s sake bring it in, and if you have the Dayton’s bag…even better.
Finally, I just want to say THANK YOU to all the brave men and women that were in this movement long before I was even born, and to those that came after me…I hope in some small way I made it a little easier.