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Uniforms were generated to provide consistency, functionality, control, and conformity in any activity. Uniformity at the Fashion Institute of Technology displays these implementations of uniforms in the military, careers, athletics and academia; furthering driving home the idea that uniforms were created for the purpose of homogeneity among the masses, with the ability to admonish with accessories to differentiate genders, ranks, and so on.
As you walk through the exhibit, you can appreciate the immense role that uniforms play in fashion today as well as throughout the years. Uniforms are unexpectedly stylish, with surprisingly masterful silhouettes. They weren’t just created, they were truly designed, with the responsibility of duty and task in mind.
The exhibit is curated by assistant curator of costume, Emma McClendon. She groups the looks by theme, allowing the visitor to garner a deeper understanding of where exactly these trends fermented from. Each real world representation is juxtaposed by a high fashion designer doppelganger. McClendon’s reasoning behind this is to redefine the idea that uniforms and fashion are so disconnected; showing that this notion could not be further from the truth.
A multitude of designers have drawn inspiration from the stability and invariability of uniforms;Ralph Lauren designed a pantsuit with direct ties to a ‘King’s Royal Rifle Corps’ jacket dating back to the 1900s, Karl Largafeld had an interesting take on waiter uniform’s for a Chanel collection, while Jeremy Scott was ‘loving it’ with inspiration lifted directly from the McDonald’s uniform, for a Moschino line.
The most notable example of uniformity in the fashion world is the immense influence military-style has had on the industry. From camouflage, Breton stripes, metallic braiding, and gold buttons; these aspects have been integrated into the lines of some the most well-known fashion houses such as Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier.
A key piece of the exhibit is the uniform’s designed by former CFDA president Stan Herman. Mr. Herman was responsible for the designs of both the 1970s McDonald’s uniform as well as the same time period’s TWA Flight attendant uniform. The stark differences show how important uniforms were to a brand’s identity, much like in fashion and personal appearance, today.
The exhibition concludes with an ode to academia and athletics; highlighting the historic school and sports uniforms. With the growing popularity of athleisure, the high demand for anything letterman and the brazen display of logos; we can see how this specific example has influenced our fashions today so blatantly.
Overall, this trip down memory lane instills a new view on uniforms and trends today. Everything that was once old, is now new. Everything that is meant to be controlling, traditional and functional is now free-spirited, revolutionary and haute couture. Fashion is funny like that, designers can take any idea and change it into whatever they want it to be, and that, my friend, is the beauty of this ever-changing, always thriving, industry.