Sunday, 10 July 2016

Stylish Uniformity

A military jacket (far right) inspires two outfits on the left
One of the last few things I saw in New York was the Fashion Institute of Technology's exhibition called Uniformity -- a show on how uniforms evolve and how they can inspire designers in their collections.

Uniforms aren't something we think about much, but this exhibition makes us look at them differently. While the display is small, there are interesting juxtapositions. The collection is divided into four sections -- uniforms for the military, school, work and sports.

Dresses by Maxwell and Gaultier
Curator Emma McClendon says in some ways uniforms are the antithesis of high fashion. "While uniform design focuses on functionality, control and tradition, fashion design promotes constant change, creativity and subversion," she writes.

There are some military wear, the camouflage print that inspired an off-the-shoulder full-length gown by Jean Paul Gaultier, and even an everyday dress nicknamed "speed suit" from 1976 by Vera Maxwell.

Designer Thom Browne draws from military symbols -- the braiding, gold buttons and epaulets for his collection. In a video he talked about finding it interesting to see how people personalized their uniforms. His collection showed his obsession with sharp tailoring and attention to little details that make a suit a kind of armour one wears to work.

Stan Herman is another designer who became known for designing uniforms for corporations. He started by revamping the uniforms for Avis, then TWA, presenting a really colourful collection, and he also did uniforms for McDonald's and FedEx, when Federal Express shortened its name.

Which uniform do you prefer wearing?
For McDonald's the uniform makes a strong statement with its maroon colour, and interestingly when he redesigned the fast-food chain's uniforms, all the franchises had their own versions. Herman standardized the uniforms worldwide.

Standing next to the McDonald's uniform is a mannequin wearing a bright red sweater with a yellow "M" whose golden arch legs are more curved, created by Moschino and at the bottom it says "Over 20 billion served". Cheeky.

We also loved the Chanel "Brasserie Gabrielle", named after Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, where the collection was shown in a recreated brasserie. This particular outfit featured the formal waiter's jacket with a bowtie, while below is a skirt made from artfully placed napkins that look like ruffles.

When it comes to sports, Geoffrey Beene's "football jersey" dress is actually a long white sequinned evening gown with the number "38" on the front, while Gucci created a sports jacket reminiscent of competitive ski wear.

Two colourful outfits designed for TWA
It's interesting to see how designers riff off of uniforms and create their own "uniform" in more stylish terms.

Until November 19, 2016
The Museum at FIT
7th Avenue at 27th Street
New York
Tel: 212 217 4558

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