Some key things you get to learn about in this sweet piece by Guy Trebay: 18th-century “molly” houses (yet where is the equally important invention, from even earlier, of the “fop”?); the “tell” as it has changed over time; how things can be “hidden in plain sight”; and how much work it takes to recover a richer knowledge of “history.” But I thought the most moving writing came near the end, with the discussion of Bill Robinson and the generation or more lost to AIDS. As the article suggests, Robinson’s interpretation of queer signifiers in fashion was subtler than many of his contemporaries, which shows a different kind of strength and pride (not to mention wit and style). It’s just one hint here that — despite this article’s headline — the show itself doesn’t encourage us to stress only sameness when we do queer history.
Some things that needed to have been explored more: 1) the article assumes the show suggests the “gay aesthetic” is uniform, but most of the examples point in another direction, hinting that it may not be wise to assuming queering is always the same; 2) the show favors queer, the Times gay: what’s lost in translation?; 3) how to understand the practice of ‘inning,’ the opposite of outing, especially as it occurs in an industry (and a culture) that is both rife with homophobia yet also dependent on queer designers and culture for much of its best creativity; 4) how well does the show balance men’s and women’s contributions?; and 5) what happens when styles originating on the lavender catwalk (as the show and article call it) begin circulating elsewhere, where many viewers and wearers enjoy the aesthetic of something but have no knowledge about its origins or history.