Exhibit At FIT Explores Perceptions Of His & Her Style
A new fashion exhibit at the Museum at FIT makes it impossible to skirt the truth about gender and fashion. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed the following report.
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They say it’s man’s world and clothes do make the man, but a new exhibit at FIT shows how men and women’s fashions borrow from each other.
"His & Hers" explores 250 years of fashion in the United States. But certainly the 1970s standout, with its patchwork pants and flowing styles.
“And obviously, they're very bright, colorful fabrics and this is representing not just the hippie style, but a sort of androgynous affect of some of the hippie fashions,” says Colleen Hill, assistant curator of accessories at the Museum at FIT. “So you can imagine the man that was wearing these [patchwork] pants would probably have had long hair, maybe his girlfriend would have wanted to borrow the pants, as well. And there was some criticism from people at this time that it was really difficult to tell menswear styles from womenswear styles, which was kind of the point.”
The exhibit begins in the mid-1700s, with lots of matching ruffles and fabrics. But as time goes on, the menswear becomes less and less decorative. A mannequin couple from the 1980s shows a man just adding a small flourish, like suspenders, while the woman opts for the power suit.
“Especially in the 1980s, when more women were working in professional/executive jobs, they were trying to find a way to sort of balance this power and authority of a suit with femininity,” explains Museum at FIT Assistant Curator of Costume Jennifer Farley. “So we've got a really beautifully tailored suit, you know, a lot of womenswear-appropriate, menswear tailoring. But here, to bring femininity in, you have something like the really decorative blouse with a bow.”
While the exhibit shows women borrow from men and men borrow from women, there's one thing that just hasn't taken off – the man skirt.
“I think in Western fashion there is just sort of an association that's hard to break as a skirt being a feminine garment,” says Farley. “Even though you see it worn by men and women in lots of other cultures.”
Of course, the 1980's hit TV show “Miami Vice” gave men an excuse to look pretty in pink again.
“The man's suit was worn by the character Sonny Crockett, portrayed by Don Johnson in the television series,” says Farley. “And you can see it's a much more relaxed-style suit, much more casual.”
For a time, men bought up these looks like they were going out of style, which of course they did. But it seems borrowing never goes out of fashion.
His and Hers
Fashion & Textile History Gallery
November 30th, 2010 - May 10, 2011