Fearless Fashion

From April 7 through Sept. 26, Phoenix Art Museum presents Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich, an exhibition that focuses on the significant social and cultural impact of the work of Rudolph “Rudi” Gernreich (1922–1985), the acclaimed designer best known for innovative designs such as the “monokini” topless swimsuit, the thong, unisex clothing and pantsuits for women.

Peggy Moffitt modeling ensemble designed
by Rudi Gernreich, Resort 1968 collection.

Organized by the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Fearless Fashion presents more than 80 ensembles, along with original sketches, letters, personal papers, photographs, press clippings and newly filmed oral histories of Gernreich’s friends and colleagues, to provide a broader understanding of the late designer’s life and how his work continues to influence fashion trends and current perceptions of beauty, gender and identity.

Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich offers a significant opportunity to explore how fashion has the power to effect social change,” says Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Sybil Harrington director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “The exhibition sheds light on Gernreich’s life and how his forward-thinking designs responded to and challenged societal pressures and cultural forces that attempted to marginalize him and others. We are excited to share this meaningful exhibition with our audiences in Arizona and to continue our commitment to presenting artworks that present a diversity of thought, experience and action.” 

Born in 1922 in Vienna, Gernreich, who was Jewish, fled Nazi oppression as a teen and immigrated to Los Angeles, where he continued to face discrimination. He eventually found safe haven in the performing arts community and the gay rights movement, which drove him to seek social change and promote a truer expression of self through fashion design. Gernreich was propelled to fame when he launched his “monokini” design and, throughout his career, continued to create trailblazing designs that illustrated his dedication to inclusivity, non-conformity and liberation.

Fearless Fashion is such a timely and important exhibition,” says Helen Jean, the Museum’s Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design. “It underscores Gernreich’s rejection of conventional ideas of identity and his commitment to promoting gender fluidity, body positivity and the equality and beauty of all people. This inclusive approach to humanism and the desire to empower others to define who they are and who they are not through the clothing they choose to wear is something that will resonate with contemporary audiences, many of whom are still advocating for the same issues and rights that Gernreich also fought for through his work, blazing a trail decades earlier.” 


Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich

April 7 – Sept. 26

Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

For more information, visit phxart.org.

About Perrine Adams

Perrine Adams is the Managing Editor of The Red Book and Lifestyle Editor for Frontdoors Magazine.

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