Tag Archives: museums

FIT makes a uniform statement

Although fashion design is not my element,  it is one of my wife’s great passions. Yet a recent visit to the Museum at FIT – the Fashion Institute of Technology – in New York City’s historic Chelsea neighborhood unexpectedly connected with my interest in history.

John Galliano camouflage evening gown at FIT, New York
John Galliano camouflage evening gown at FIT, New York

The Fashion Institute of Technology is  America’s premiere college for the business and art of fashion design. Its museum’s current exhibit, Uniformity, is an entertaining exploration that will change the way you perceive the entire notion of uniforms. The 200 year retrospective from military to sports uniforms goes beyond the obvious, detailing their influence on everyday fashion from beach to formal wear.

In John Galliano’s camouflage evening gown for Dior in 2001 (above, left) the influence is obvious. Yet I never gave it much thought that this trend is at least two centuries old. What was more surprising to me is that uniforms, clothing meant to make the wearer impersonal, for so long influenced fashion designed to be individualistic.

Fashion based on 19th century British & French naval uniforms
Fashion based on 19th century British & French naval uniforms
Chitose Abe, 2015
Chitose Abe, 2015

As early as the 1840s, a portrait of Queen Victoria’s four year old son, Prince Edward Albert, in a naval uniform made a fashion statement for affluent children’s clothing.  By the 1890s, summer fashion for women (above left) had a decided naval bent and the trend has never lost favor (above right)

Designer Chitose Abe in her 2015 collection for her Sacai label combines British and French naval elements in her cotton and silk ensemble.

 

Yet by the 1940s military uniforms themselves combined functionality and fashion.

(left) 1943 W.A.V.E.S. uniform & (right) fashion influence
(left) Main Rousseau Bocher 1943 W.A.V.E.S. uniform & (right) & later fashion influence
WW II W.A.C. uniform designed by a committee.
WW II W.A.C. uniform designed by a committee.

The World War II uniform designed for the Navy’s new W.A.V.E.S. division was hailed as a fashion success – functional yet feminine. It was also the first military uniform designed by a major American couturier, the House of Mainbocher founded by Main Rousseau Bocher in 1929. But  the Army’s new W.A.C. division uniform was the work of a committee. It was not only dubbed “olive drab,” but blamed for poor W.A.C. recruitment numbers compared to the Navy’s W.A.V.E.S. Even in war fashion made a statement!

1890s American baseball uniforms
1890s American baseball uniforms

Perhaps no genre of uniforms has had a greater fashion influence than sports. From the baseball cap to brand logos, America’s national sport has convinced well dressed people that being a walking advertisement for your favorite team and brands is desirable to one’s identity.

(left) Geoffrey Beene, 1967, Jersey evening gown
(left) Geoffrey Beene, 1967, Jersey evening gown

Of course football followed suit. According to FIT, Geoffrey Beene “shocked the fashion elite” in 1967 with his sequined even gown that’s simply an elongated 1930s football jersey.

FIT’s fine Uniformity exhibit doesn’t ignore the influence on fashion of maid, butler, waiter and waitress clothing.  In 2015 Karl Lagerfeld designed this evening dress for the House of Chanel using the typical uniform of waiters in Parisian brasseries.

Karl Lagerfeld, 2015, French brasserie evening gown.
Karl Lagerfeld, 2015, French brasserie evening gown.

The museum of the  Fashion Institute of Technology, part of the State University of New York, is open Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free. What was even more surprising was the knowledge and enthusiasm of the staff, especially the guards. They were eager to engage in conversation and added to the pleasure of the exhibit.

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When your only requirement is an internet connection

Dawn on Boca de Ciega Bay, St. Petersburg, FL
Dawn on Boca de Ciega Bay, St. Petersburg, FL

I’ve not posted on Travel with Pen and Palate since May.  After many years in Philadelphia a permanent move to a warm climate was the order from my very intelligent wife.  After all why not?

Maximo Seafood Shack, St. Petersburg, FL
Maximo Seafood Shack, St. Petersburg, FL

As a travel writer my only requirement is an internet connection. I’m not a stranger to living in a  warm climate. I spent nine years at the start of my career in Puerto Rico. I love traveling to warm climates, and on the USA mainland Florida is our tropics.

a silver afternoon on Boca de Ciega Bay
a silver afternoon on Boca de Ciega Bay

No doubt selling a house, packing up three decades of art and antiques and moving to St. Petersburg, FL, does disrupt a writing and traveling schedule. I’ve had to turn down several great press trip invitations including  El Salvador and Italy because my wife somehow thinks I should be involved in house hunting…yes, we moved without first knowing where we were going to live. Of course we had no way of knowing our house would sell in 6 days…but that’s all part of adventure.

Adventure for me as a culinary and culture travel writer is focusing on what makes a destination exciting for those who already call it home.  A tourist can always find the best beach,  the newest luxury hotel or today’s trendy restaurant by simply spending time on social media.

this cricket makes gardeners cringe in FL
this cricket makes gardeners cringe in FL

But will they discover the best cupcake? Will they think that discovery will be found in an art museum that features the glass work of Dale Chihuly? Or that an effusive city booster will be a Scot immigrant of 20 years who’s your server in a terrific cafe? I’ve discovered that and much more in my first three weeks in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Want to know about the cupcake…and Picasso’s lover…and a city that’s become a cultural mecca…with good beaches?

Please read more…

Cupcakes and fine art in St. Petersburg Florida

 

Cupcakes as edible art at the Morean Arts Center
Cupcakes as edible art at the Morean Arts Center

 

You can read all my articles and subscribe to my Examiner columns at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Insights

Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

International Travel Examiner

Philadelphia Fine Dining Examiner

Food & Recipes Examiner

Suite 101

 

Sunset over Boca de Ciega Bay, St. Petersburg, FL
Sunset over Boca de Ciega Bay, St. Petersburg, FL