Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Extreme views

From the ordinary to the extraordinary

L. Ralph Lauren pantsuit, 2013. R. British mess jackets
The two exhibits currently a the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York couldn't be more different. One focuses on the influence of uniforms--school, sports, military, service industry--on mainstream fashion. The other focuses on one woman's collection of high-end couture fashion.

Both are excellent. And both are free.

Fashion inspired by the ordinary

The Uniformity exhibit, which is in the Fashion & Textile Gallery on the main floor, opens with two  British military "mess dress" jackets c. 1900. The  elaborate braid and soutache patterns, which once served as protection in hand-to-hand combat, continue to inspire contemporary fashion designers. One example is seen below in garments by Yves St. Laurent and Ralph Lauren.
L. Yves St. Laurent, 1967. R. Perry Ellis, 1983

With a focus on four categories of uniforms--military, work, school, and sports--the exhibit provides examples and detailed information to show direct relationships between uniforms and fashion. 

According to signage, Yves Saint Laurent began experimenting with military elements in the mid-60's. Re-appropriating the naval peacoat, his navy blue, double-breasted jacket became one of his signature styles. On a very personal note, his 1967 ensemble (left) is remarkably like the navy blue dress and jacket I made for my going-away suit (remember those?) in.....1967!

Most viewers will be familiar with each and every uniform as well as its vestige in modern interpretation. I think the personal connections make this an engaging show and well worth a visit. 

Uniformity runs through November 19, 2016.

Fashion as unique creations

Distinctly different and on the opposite end of anything derived from lowly uniforms are the extraordinary fashions from the wardrobe of √Člisabeth de Caraman-Chimay, the Countess Greffulhe (1860–1952). The exhibit, Proust's Muse: The Countess Greffulhe, is in FIT's Special Exhibitions Gallery. 

Based on a Paris exhibition organized by Olivier Saillard, director of the Palais Galliera, Mus√©e de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, which is the repository of the countess's wardrobe, this exhibit is a collaboration of Saillard and Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT.

Unfortunately, no photos are permitted in the exhibit so you'll have to make a trip to personally drool over the truly spectacular garments.

Proust's Muse: The Countess Greffulhe runs through January 7, 2017.

Can't possibly make it in person? Check out the museum's online virtual tours at Uniformity and Proust's Muse: The Countess Greffulhe.

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