RUDI GERNREICH, Austrian-born fashion designer was born on this date (d. 1985); A fashion designer and early Gay activist. Born in Vienna, he fled Austria at age 16 due to Nazism. He came to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles. For a time, he had a career as a dancer, performing with the Lester Horton company around 1945.
He moved into fashion design via fabric design, and then worked closely with model Peggy Moffit and photographer William Claxton, pushing the boundaries of “the futuristic look” in clothing over three decades. An exhibition of his work at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2003 hailed him as “one of the most original, prophetic and controversial American designers of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.”
He is perhaps most notorious for inventing the first topless swimsuit, or monokini, as well as the pubikini (a bikini with a window in front to reveal the woman’s pubic hair) and later the thong swimsuit. He was also known as the first designer to use vinyl and plastic in clothes, and he designed the Moonbase Alpha uniforms on the television series Space: 1999.
Along with Harry Hay. Gernreich was an influential co-founder of the Mattachine Society, the USA’s first Gay liberation movement. The group first met in L.A., on November 11, 1950, with Gernreich, Hay, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, and Dale Jennings in attendance. In his will, Gernreich established a defense fund for Gay men who were entrapped for sex by police.
In Jon Marans play The Temperamentals Rudy Gernreich was brought to flesh and blood life by MICHAEL URIE from television’s Ugly Betty, whose birthday also happens to be today.