Tag Archives: campus life

Influencers at FIT – Valerie Steele

Here at FIT we have a vast resource at our fingertips: the Museum at FIT (located below the Gladys Marcus library). In addition to the numerous exhibitions held every year, students also have access to the study collection where garments, accessories and textiles can be seen up close.  Valerie Steele is the curator of the Museum, a prolific fashion academic, and the editor of the journal Fashion Theory. I sat down with Ms. Steele to discuss her impressive history as well as the museum’s past and future:

Credit: Aaron Cobbett

Credit: Aaron Cobbett

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication


Since this interview is for the Admissions Blog, I wanted to ask you a little about your own education. What did you find most helpful about your university education?

Hmm…well, I’ve never been asked that before. I guess that the most important thing I learned, both as an undergraduate at Dartmouth and a graduate student at Yale, was how to do research–learning how to use primary research. I know when I used to teach in the graduate school here at FIT, that was something I pounded into the students, the difference between primary and secondary research. That was something I thought was especially important.

You said that while getting your PhD the study of fashion was really vilified. Being here in New York, which is one of the “big four” fashion capitals, and also being here at FIT one of the best design schools, it may seem like this has passed, but do you think there has actually been change outside of this bubble?

Well, I think fashion is much more accepted as a field of serious study. There are many more people around the world working on articles, books and exhibitions about fashion. On the other hand, there are still very few places that offer a doctorate in fashion studies. It is still very much an interdisciplinary field. So, if you want to go ahead and study fashion you still have to think, “Will I be in an art history department or history or cultural studies? Where can I find someplace to study that?”

And you never studied museum-ology or museum theory, so was it difficult to transition from academic writing to more creatively focused exhibitions?

It’s interesting you should ask that. My doctorate is in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History, but I did every single class, except one, and my dissertation in the history of fashion. When I started teaching in the graduate school at FIT, it was in what was then the Museum Studies Costume and Textiles Department, now it is called Fashion and Textiles Studies: History, Theory and Museum Practice. So I was teaching fashion history, but within the framework of a museum studies program. Obviously it was exciting and new to actually be putting on exhibitions here. That was a big thrill. It is not that different from the kind of research you do for putting together a big article or a book. In fact, all my big exhibitions here are accompanied by a book as well, so it is the same kind of research procedure.

In that same vein, who do you see as the audience of the Museum at FIT, and how do you pique their interests?

Well, our audiences are multiple. Obviously the FIT community is one of our core audiences, and then people in fashion and design-related fields are another. A third is just the museum-going public, and that is very much an international public. So, we try to do shows that represent original research, but that are also accessible to people at all levels of sophistication. A lot of the FIT community or designers who come to shows really know a lot about fashion history and design so you have to give them more, extra in-depth things. But you also want to be accessible to people who walk in off the street. They might be anyone from a six-year-old to a grandma who might not know very much about fashion, but you have to intrigue them as well. That is the idea to try and present it in a way which is visually stimulating and exciting so that whether they know anything about the topic or if they bother to read anything, they can still get something out of the show.

I actually have noticed a lot of children when I am in the museum, and I am amazed they are not only interested, but they comment on stuff!

Oh they will! Absolutely! A colleague of mine brought her two-year-old son to the corset show, and she said he just sat down on the floor and gazed up at this Vivenne Westwood corset-dress. She thought it was wonderful, she said, “oh there he is fantasizing about the eternal feminine.”

What do you think the hardest part about developing a show is? Is it picking the topic or is it finding people to work with or…?

Oh, I don’t know if there is a “hardest” part. I think one of the challenges is actually getting your hands on the things you want to put in the show. You’ll do all kinds of research, and you’ll think, “Okay I want this dress, I want this dress…” but then you have to find out who owns that? And will they lend it to me? And how much will it cost to borrow it, how can I raise the money to borrow it? Et cetera, et cetera.

Well, that leads me into my next question. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute collection is the only one, at least in New York, that can even compare to the one at the Museum at FIT. So what is your relationship with them, do you borrow and lend a lot for shows?

We do borrow and lend with them. I wouldn’t say a lot, but every few shows they will borrow something from us or we will borrow from them. Two pieces in the dance exhibition are from the Met, and we’re lending I think four pieces to their China exhibition which will open in the Spring.

So it is only a few pieces then. I guess you both have such huge collections neither of you need to borrow anything.

Well, it is interesting, we will borrow back and forth for a few key pieces, and both of us have a pretty good idea of what is in the other collection. We also borrow and lend from the Museum of the City of New York, which also has a fantastic collection. Most of the older things, for example, if there is a 19th century thing, we will try and borrow from them. We also loaned to their Stephen Burrows show a year ago.

Oh yes, I saw that show and I have to admit I was a little surprised. I didn’t think the Museum of the City of New York had that much fashion, but I guess they do.

Oh, they do! They have a really wonderful fashion collection.

Is there one specific exhibit that sticks out in your mind as being particularly exciting or difficult or just interesting for you?

Well, a couple. I loved working on Gothic: Dark Glamour. That was the first time we did a really immersive mise-en- scène with a graveyard, a laboratory, and a ruined castle and things. That was great fun, and I think good preparation for upcoming shows like our fairy tale show, which we will do in 2016 that will similarly have dramatic mise-en-scènes. And then, of course, A Queer History of Fashion won us a lot of prizes, particularly for the work that we did both in reaching out to the LGBT community and doing media online. I think that was also good preparation for remembering to focus on diversity themes in all of our shows and also remembering to emphasize media media media! It is a great way to reach out to people. Even if they cannot come in the door of the exhibition, they can still get information and images online.

Who writes for Fashion Theory, which is your journal?

It is mostly curators and professors and graduate students.

So is it mostly people you have met? Or do people apply?

No, no it is a peer-reviewed journal which means that people send things in, and then I have to find one or two experts in their field who will peer review it and say whether or not it is good enough to go in, or absolutely not, or can it go in only if they make x, y, z changes. It is much more prestigious and important for scholars to be published in a peer-reviewed journal than just a regular magazine.

I just wanted to introduce the readers to the Couture Council, because I think a lot of people don’t even know that it exists. And to be honest, I don’ t know that much about it because there isn’t that much information available.

Yes, the Couture Council is a friends group, which many museums have. It is a membership group; members pay $1,000 a year and young members under 35 pay $350 a year. They can come to various events, and the money–their membership fees along with the awards luncheon–help fund exhibitions, public programs and acquisitions for the museum. We get some money from corporations and foundations, but the Couture Council is nice because it is reliable. No matter what our show is about, whether it is a kooky one that we can’t get any corporate sponsors to fund, or it is controversial in some way, we know the Couture Council is there to help support all our exhibitions and all our public programs.

Lastly, is there anything you would like to do professionally that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?

Well, of course, if you had your own television show, you could reach a bigger audience. I do a lot of [appearances on] TV shows, but I think there is a lot more that could be done. Now, of course, television is becoming a bit outdated, so you really have to think in terms of the world-wide web. We have a new department specifically focusing on media and new initiatives. Many of the videos shown in the lobby are on the YouTube page. On YouTube there’s a little of this and a little of that. Each of the fashion exhibitions has its own website and we’re increasingly doing videos for those.

Yes, I have used the exhibition websites for information for some class projects. They are done really beautifully. Well, thank you so much for sitting down with me. It was a pleasure talking to you!

Of course, with pleasure! Thank you, it was nice talking to you!

–Emily–

Curious About the Dorms?

Wondering what the dorms are actually like? Take a look at some FIT student’s room tours!

Nagler:

Alumni:

Coed:

Kaufman:

How to Apply for Housing:

Hope that answers some questions!

–Emily–

All My Other Bags are Prada…

Seeing as this is a fashion school, form always trumps function, right? Well, not really. I scoured the best dressed and hardest working FIT students to see what are the pros and cons of their most important school accessory: the backpack (or satchel, or messenger bag, or tote, or purse, or…you get the idea).

The Backpack:

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 7.23.43 PMPros:

  • fits everything
  • comfortable
  • weather proof
  • your hands are free to do things
  • never have to ask someone to hold it
  • very durable

Cons:

  • it’s hard to get things quickly (i.e. wallet, phone, id, etc.)
  • it is not very safe – outside pockets are good for easily locating small things but are vulnerable to pick pockets
  • you have to take it off in the subway
  • you tend to knock things over when turning around
  • backpacks are not always extremely stylish – more utilitarian

The Purse:

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 7.23.56 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 7.23.32 PMPros:

  • can use it to separate your personal items from school items
  • not as heavy/painful
  • small – not bulky
  • there are a lot of choices for everyone’s style

Cons:

  • small – doesn’t hold everything you need
  • often have to carry extra bags
    **every person I talked to with a purse said they only were using it because they didn’t have a class earlier that day

The Carry-All

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 7.23.22 PMPros:

  • can carry everything you could possibly need
  • don’t need extra bags
  • durable

Cons:

  • very utilitarian – not very stylish
  • pretty much every fashion design student uses it so it is not extremely personal
  • Gets used so much that it is hard to keep it in good shape
  • Hard to keep organized

Forget which brand of laundry detergent or what color bedding you should get. This is the important stuff to consider when packing for the new school year.

–Emily–

OK to Post

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 6.54.07 PMIf you have ever been to FIT, you have probably seen one of these boards before. Despite being very adept at technology, as our name suggests, FIT still uses good old paper posters to advertise upcoming events and clubs. I, for one, am grateful for this, because as someone who receives a mammoth amount of emails each day, passing these every time I use the escalator is much more attention-grabbing.

Posters are put up almost all over the school, but the best place to find out what is going on is on these boards that are on every level of the escalators in the Feldman Center and the Baker School of Business and Technology.

There are all sorts of events advertised here. This one includes posters offering open studio and tea time in the Student Center, “FIT in Discussion” hosted by the LGBTQ and Supporters Group, the Drag Pageant Committee, a runway show inspired by the movie “The Virgin Suicides”, the Public Relations Student Society of America at FIT, several movie screenings, extra hours for the writing studio to aid with final papers, a random “Goodbye Fall” party, Super Smash Bros for the Wii U free play, Fall flee market dates, volunteer opportunities, a talk on a history of psychiatric views on homosexuality, upcoming classes for animation, playwriting, computer graphics, digital literacy for designers, and more!

Even with finals upon us, there is plenty to do here at FIT!

–Emily–

The Style Shop

    Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 10.43.13 PM

Have you been to the Style Shop yet? Definitely a necessary stop for any open house or admitted students day. Sure other colleges have bookstores or maybe even fancy boutiques, but I have never seen another university with a store run by students, for students with products made by students.

The Style Shop, located in the Dubinsky Student Center (turn left as you walk in), is run by the Merchandising Society. The Style Shop opened in 1996, and since then has been giving  students real-life retail experience right on 27th street. I sat down with co-manager Cathleen Cataldo to talk about the successful enterprise.

Co-managers of the Style Shop Cathleen Cataldo and Nicole Gabriel with Olivia Kim, the Director of Creative Projects at Nordstrom

Co-managers of the Style Shop Cathleen Cataldo and Nicole Gabriel with Olivia Kim, the Director of Creative Projects at Nordstrom

It seems like every FMM (Fashion Merchandising Management) student works or wants to work for the Style Shop. Why do you think there is such a huge interest?

I think a lot of people want to do it because it gives you real life experience on how to run your own business, especially for freshman coming in who may have never had retail experience before, and it’s something they can talk to interviewers about and put on their resumes. For management positions it is also really great experience because we are completely running the whole business on our own.

So how does the Style Shop work? What are the basics everyone needs to know?

There are four different buying teams. First there is the industry buying team that goes out to different wholesalers throughout New York City and buys mostly costume jewelry. Then we have our vintage buying team that goes out to different thrift stores and buys cool and unique clothing for the most part. There is the designer buying team that buys from FIT faculty, students and alumni. They are buying one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces made by the FIT community. Lastly, there is Product Development that actually works with vendors to create FIT slash Style Shop branded merchandise like printed t-shirts, laptop bags, in the past they have done iPhone cases, stuff like that. What was a huge huge seller for us this year was the “spirit jerseys”  that say “Fashion Institute New York” on the back. Yeah, that was definitely our biggest seller and we’re actually waiting for a new shipment to get in today hopefully. They sold out on the first day.

The popular spirit jerseys

The popular spirit jerseys

So what sells the best? Industry, Designer Vintage or Product Development?

A lot of people come into the store looking for merchandise made by FIT students –  the designer stuff. However, industry makes the most sales penetration wise, just because their merchandise is very inexpensive. So those are the top two departments overall for sales. Okay, if you want me to go through all of them: for product development, the spirit jerseys are the top seller. For designer, I mean it’s a combination of things. Everyone likes the jewelry, but right now designer has some great velvet chokers that have been selling really well. For industry, just the statement necklaces always do really well, and for vintage it’s their cool, unique clothing. It’s not necessarily “vintage” but it is all bought at thrift stores. Just cool pieces that can’t be found at your average store.

Who are the main players within the Style Shop team?

I’ll explain the entire management process. So, myself and Nicole Gabriel are the two co-managers and we oversee twelve different departments. The four buying teams which I mentioned earlier, plus the visual merchandising team that does all the visuals for the store. We also have a marketing team, a PR team, we have store operations, human resources, and the finance, planning and digital teams.

So how long have you been in the Merchandising Society?

I’ve been in since by first semester at FIT…

And you’re graduating in May so –

Yeah, so all four years. I started out in the Style Shop with a small management position my first semester. So I’ve been very involved for all four years and that’s how I got to where I am today.

Cuffs designed by FIT student Libby Merritt

Cuffs designed by FIT student Libby Merritt

So what’s your favorite piece in the store right now?

Favorite piece right now? Oh man, that’s really tough. I’d have to say, umm…there’s a lot of vintage pieces, like our vintage buyer brings in a lot of really cool, unique vintage clothing and those are always some of my favorites. And those velvet chokers, those are really cool.

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Stay in touch with the Style Shop with:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

Tumblr

and any questions about the Style Shop can be sent to styleshopfit@gmail.com

If you’re interested in the Merchandising Society you can visit their website here.

–Emily–

Student Life at FIT

Recently, I saw a comment asking us to talk more about what student life is like at FIT. And I had to stop and think about it before I could come to a clear realization about life here. We are not like any other school in the country. Many larger, more traditional colleges will proclaim their student life “highlights” in brochures or on Admitted Students day, but we aren’t a traditional school. We don’t have a football team that everyone goes and watches on the weekends, or huge theatrical events that involve hundreds of people.

At FIT student life is what you make it. There are many amazing events on campus, which I think a lot of my fellow bloggers have talked about extensively (see Brendon’s post Girl Code @ FIT or Kailee’s post about No Impact Week at FIT), but really all of New York City is an extension of our campus. While there are a lot of posts about what is going on at the school, there are also plenty about things we have done outside of school, for instance Aya’s post about NYFOL or Ashley’s Guide to NYC Talk Show Tickets. Being part of the crossroads of the world is a huge opportunity and advantage of going to school here.

Honestly, no matter what you apply it to, life is what you make of it. So if you are someone who loves getting involved with your peers there are a multitude of ways to be involved in school events. However, if you are someone who likes to do stuff more on your own, or with friends outside of school, there is obviously more than enough to experience in the city. My only advice would be not to get too caught up in school work. Yes, it is important and the reason you are here, but being a successful and well rounded person requires getting out there and meeting people, whether that be through a club or at a concert.

That being said, I think we all will be conscious of trying to show more of what student life at FIT is like if that is what people are interested in. And if you have any other questions or topics you would like to hear more about leave them in the comments!

–Emily–

Instagram Savvy

At FIT, students are constantly updating, tweeting, instagramming, and blogging to build their social media presence.  Among the hundreds of social media sites, Instagram appears to reign as one of the best.    Even the departments at FIT have their own instagram accounts to keep everyone updated on events, what’s happening in the offices, and to ensure that you don’t have any FOMO (Fear of Missing out).  If you want to stay in the loop here are the top instagrams to follow here at FIT:

  • Fashion Institute of Technology: @fitnyc
    This is an obvious one.  They instagram everything from events to contests, and my favorite, the throwback pictures of the students and campus from the 80’s.
  • Student Life: @studentlife_fit
    If you don’t want FOMO, this is the instagram to follow.  Paired with the weekly “This Week at FIT” emails, you won’t be out of the loop with fun events happening every week.
  • Res Life: @fitreslife
    This one is great to follow if you are in the dorms.  There are always events and contests going on in the residential halls, that you don’t want to miss.
  • PRSSA at FIT: @FIT_PRSSA
    FIT PRSSA is the Public Relations Student Society of America at FIT.  Their motto is “Everything you do and say is public relations.”  Follow their instagram for info and events on how to best market yourself.  They are one of the wonderful clubs here at FIT!  If you want to join, email them at PRSSA_club@fitnyc.edu for more info.
  • Style Shop at FIT: @The_StyleShop
    The Style Shop is the student-run boutique in the lobby of the Dubinsky Student Center.  I truly believe it is one of the best assets of FIT.  Whether it be the student/faculty made apparel and jewelry to the quaint shop and decorations, The Style Shop is FIT’s gem.

Happy following!

Ashley

We Like Sportz and We Don’t Care Who Knows

The FIT Tigers

The FIT Tigers

You better sit down, because I’m about to let you in on some information that might rock your world. FIT has sports teams. Yes, real sports teams that have practices, and uniforms and compete in competitions.

We are part of the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) which is like the NCAA, only it’s for two-year schools. (Yes, I realize you can get a bachelor’s degree at FIT over four years but I don’t make the rules here people.) Unfortunately, this means that a student can only compete in a sport for two years. However, I have been told that a student can compete for one sport for two years, and another sport for the other two years.

There are men and women’s teams for cross country/half marathon, dance team, table tennis, tennis, track & field, and swimming & diving. Women can also participate on the soccer and volleyball teams.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 9.07.39 PM

I play for the tennis team, and we just won regionals over the weekend. The FIT athletic teams have actually been very successful. If you go to the gym in the basement of the Business and Liberal Arts Center there are trophy cases filled to the brim with past regional and national championships.

Our first singles Regional champion, Nicole!

Our first singles Regional champion, Nicole!

We’re not playing Division 1 schools, nor is anyone getting scholarships based off their athletic abilities here, but sports are a part of life at FIT that many people do not realize. The tennis team has practice every day between classes and plays matches every weekend  in September and October. Because we won regionals we are continuing to nationals which are being held on the same courts where the U.S. Open is held!

Just because you are a student at a predominantly arts oriented university, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your love of competing in sports.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 9.08.09 PM–Emily–

The Beauty of Student Life

Being a student aide in the Student Life offices has really opened my eyes to all the events that are constantly taking place on campus.  The Student Life offices are located on the 7th floor of the Dubinsky Student Center.  Here are some perks of visiting the Student Life offices:

  • Movie tickets are sold 2 for $16 to any AMC movie theatre
  • Broadway show tickets are sold every couple of weeks. Be sure to check those weekly emails!
  • There is a Breast Cancer walk this Sunday!  Here is the link if you want to sign up: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?px=38287345&fr_id=62564&pg=personal
  • We are distributing tickets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12-2 to when Girl Code (YES the MTV show) comes and does a show here at FIT!
  • We can provide contact information if you want to join a club!
  • There is almost always an event happening in The Center and it usually involves free food.
  • We have a massive game room that is basically any kid at heart’s dream world.
  • Bonus: EVERYONE IN STUDENT LIFE IS SUPER NICE!

Come visit us!

Ashley

Like, Share, Retweet, Follow – FIT is All Over That Social Media Game

Want to stay updated on all things FIT? Well here is an easy map to make it easy for you:

INSTAGRAM

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

FIT’S EVENTS CALENDAR

THE GLADYS MARCUS LIBRARY

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

FIT’S LIBRARY INSTAGRAM

PINTEREST 

THE SPECIAL COLLECTION’S FACEBOOK

THE SPECIAL COLLECTION’S TWITTER

STUDY ABROAD

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

BLOG

THE MUSEUM AT FIT

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

EVENTS CALENDAR

FIT has endless blogs, Twitters, Facebooks, Instagrams, etc. so feel free to comment with one you found and particularly liked and I will keep updating this list. These were just some highlights I thought most would find helpful and interesting.

–Emily–