The Mary Alice Anderson Reinhardt Gallery features student and faculty work and showcases collection objects in interpretive exhibitions. Students and faculty curate and install all of the exhibitions.

Mary Alice was an alumna of the Textiles and Clothing program (1949), and her family funded the gallery in her honor. It has a total of 504 square feet, with a dramatically curved wall of glass forming a large display area.

Current Exhibitions

Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus, Queer Spaces, Collectives Styles, and Activist Dress, 1984 to the Present

October 1, 2021 – January 15, 2022

During the 1970s, people in the United States founded gay and lesbian choruses for political activism, coming out, and celebration. In 1984, John Schmaker founded the Des Moines Men’s Chorus (DMMC) in his basement, then a small group of about eight to ten members. The word “gay” was excluded from the original chorus’ name because of significant homophobia in Iowa during the early 1980s, especially amidst the AIDS epidemic when President Reagan refused to speak publicly about the public health crisis that disproportionality impacted gay and bisexual men. There was much concern over backlash against group members. In 1991, the DMMC lost its director and could not find another, resulting in a ten-year hiatus. In 2001, the group chose a new leader, Dr. Randal Buikema, to direct and conduct. Along with this change, the group rechristened itself as the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus (DMGMC). With the inclusion of “gay” in its new name, the ensemble signaled pride in an overt queer identity. In this mini-exhibition, we examine how the DMGMC members fashioned and styled themselves during various performances, and consider how gay men’s chorus members navigate entanglements of tradition, gayness, and music while also reclaiming oppressive symbology.

DMGMC members perform three concerts per year, selecting music that reflects the organization’s values and goals. One is a formal solstice concert held in December, and another is a formal spring concert held in March. For these concerts, members almost exclusively wear tuxedos for the entire performance, but some choose to accessorize with rhinestones or glitter, reflecting feminine-leaning aesthetics adopted by some gay men.

The chorus’ cabaret-style concert began in 2009 and they now occur every June as a celebration of Pride Month. In contrast to the other two main concerts, the cabaret show is an opportunity for the chorus to “let their hair down” and “to do something a little bit naughtier, a little bit riskier, a little bit off the choral path that is not your Bach or your Andrew Lippa” (Paul Hengesteg, DMGMC member since 2011). For these performances, chorus members wear various campy outfits such as a nun’s habit or kink styles, such as harnesses.

In addition to the three main concerts they perform each year, the chorus also performs at nonrecurring engagements such as funerals, weddings, festivals, and other events, which are not limited to the Des Moines metro area. Many of these public engagements emphasize activism, and some, like Pride events, specifically focus on queerness. For these, members wear overtly activist fashions, such as slogan T-shirts.

Schmaker’s founding of the DMGMC precipitated the creation of a vibrant gay men’s community space in the Midwest, and the group evolved amidst changes to the social and political landscape for queer Midwesterners. They negotiated queer sensibilities, the choral tradition, activism, politics, and community building through their T-shirts and performance costumes in complex ways. The DMGMC produced, distributed, and consumed queer representations as it created a temporary queer space during the AIDS crisis, highlighting how community formation and visibility have been—and continue to be–significant in the history of gay America.

Curators

Isaiah Sents, undergraduate student, Apparel, Merchandising and Design

Kelly L. Reddy-Best, associate professor, Apparel, Merchandising and Design and director and curator, Iowa State University Textiles and Clothing Museum

Kyra G. Streck, masters student, Apparel, Merchandising and Design and Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet endowed graduate research and teaching assistant

Fashion Forward: Centering Justice in Fashion History

October 1, 2021 – January 15, 2022

Social justice philosophies are moving to the forefront of many cultural organizations. To form a just society, institutions must ensure equitable distribution of opportunities, wealth, and privilege. Within North America and Europe, numerous communities, including people of color, the queer and trans communities, women, immigrants, and those of a lower socioeconomic status have experienced significant marginalization due to their social identities within capitalist economic systems. Some individuals have experienced multiple layers of oppression from their intersecting identities (e.g., Black women). However, an increasing number of museums are beginning to address racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism, and/or other interconnected systems of oppression in their operations, collecting practices, and exhibitions.

Fashion Forward: Centering Justice in Fashion History confronts the traditions and practices of the past by reinterpreting a selection of objects from our collection using justice-oriented lenses. Since the founding of the Textiles and Clothing Museum in the 1920s, museum artifacts have been used as a teaching resource in the classroom and the gallery, further arguing for a thoughtful consideration of the stories they are used to tell. The chosen objects were previously featured in the exhibition and corresponding catalog Treasures of the Textiles and Clothing Museum (2013). The use of the word “treasures” implies that these objects have great significance, value, or prestige, but this assessment has also been based largely on traditional, dominant understandings of history. Objects within collections–ours included—are biased toward the histories of white, heteronormative, and affluent individuals, those who have traditionally held more power in society. By centering and uplifting marginalized voices, we reveal additional stories that often have been omitted from mainstream narratives, inviting visitors and other scholars to consider and create fashion histories that are forward-thinking, equitable, and just. In the exhibition we use a number of themes to explore expanded and rich justice-oriented perspectives on the artifacts in our collection. Cultural Appropriation and Imperialism outlines issues related to appropriation, and cross-cultural distribution and consumption of cultural materials, ideas, and products. Racial Inequities investigates objects belonging to white-appearing individuals, whose stories have been widely told, while their non-white counterparts have not. Shifting Masculinities uses a variety of familiar fashions to discuss issues such as how the gender binary has been historically constituted through fashion and differing perspectives of what constitutes masculinity in different historical eras. The contributions of women fashion innovators, women’s suffrage efforts, and changing views of the institution of marriage are some of the topics explored in Women and Feminism. Socio-Economic and Class Barriers and Environmental Justice examine ideas related to access and participation in fashion, as the impact of fashion on humans and the environment, respectively.

Curators

Kyra G. Streck, masters student, Apparel, Merchandising and Design and Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet endowed graduate research and teaching assistant

Ginger Stanciel, masters student, Apparel, Merchandising and Design and Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet endowed graduate research and teaching assistant

Joshua D. Simon, masters student, Apparel, Merchandising and Design and Agatha Huepenbecker Burnet endowed graduate research and teaching assistant

Kelly L. Reddy-Best, associate professor, Apparel, Merchandising and Design and director and curator, Iowa State University Textiles and Clothing Museum

Jennifer Farley Gordon, lecturer, Apparel, Merchandising and Design and digital curator, Iowa State University Textiles and Clothing Museum

Need More Information?

Textiles and Clothing Museum

Morrill Hall
603 Morrill Road
Ames Iowa 50011-2100

Mailing address
31 MacKay Hall
2302 Osborn Drive
Ames Iowa 50011-107

Kelly L. Reddy-Best
klrb@iastate.edu

Open during Morrill Hall building hours. Please check exhibitions page for dates when the exhibitions are open for viewing.