Category Archives: History

A piece about FIT and/or fashion history.

HOW TO GET INTO FIT, COURTESY OF SAVED BY THE BELL

Hue is eagerly awaiting today’s Future of Fashion runway show, a collection of the best looks from this year’s graduating BFA Fashion Design students. It will be streamed live today at 7 pm on the Future of Fashion website.

By some bizarre coincidence, the fashion show episode of Saved by the Bell was on TV a few days ago. (And no, Hue was not curled up in a cashmere blanket, binge-watching E! over a double-cup of Swiss Miss Marshmallow Lovers cocoa.)

Many of today’s graduating students have probably never seen Saved by the Bell, that classic early-’90s sitcom about the ka-razy hijinks of a group of high school friends who spend most of their lives in a diner. In fact, a lot of them weren’t even alive on September 26, 1992, when this episode originally ran.

Zack Morris warns Screech to stay on script in a fashion-show episode of Saved by the Bell.

Zack Morris warns Screech to stay on script in a fashion-show episode of Saved by the Bell.

In it, “The Bayside Triangle,” Lisa wants to get into FIT, or “The Fashion Institute,” as they also call it. (The word “Technology” is such a tongue-twister!) Instead of applying, which would really be quite boring to watch, she does what any high-school fashionista would do: she puts on a fashion show for an FIT recruiter, who flies in from New York to see it. (Did the writers know FIT is a public institution?)

Jessie and Kelly model Lisa's designs. Hue loves the shoulder pads.

Jessie and Kelly model Lisa’s designs. Hue adores the shoulder pads.

Of course the show wows the recruiter with such avant-garde designs as olive-green denim pants and blazers “made of pure Belgian wool.” And despite Screech’s attempts to derail the show, the recruiter proudly states that, “I know fashion talent when I see it. And I am recommending you for admission to F… I… T!”

If only life were so easy.

The recruiter, in the blue skirt suit, confers her recommendation.

The recruiter, in the skirt suit, confers her recommendation.

FIT ILLUSTRATORS REFLECT ON JOHN F. KENNEDY AND MARTIN LUTHER KING

A new show at The Museum at FIT puts a collection of dreams on display. Inspired by two 50-year anniversaries—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the delivery of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech both took place in 1963—the exhibition features stark images, some hopeful, some less so, by students and faculty from the college’s MFA program in Illustration.

Entitled Dreams Lived/Dreams Shattered: MLK, JFK 50 Years Later, the show includes works that range in media from scratchboard and canvas to pen and ink, clay sculpture, and digital print.

“I like bringing the culture of our times to our work,” said Melanie Reim, chair and associate professor of the program. “It’s important to remember that visual interpretations are potent, powerful ways of assigning a feeling to the written word, and in today’s world the illustrator is more powerful than ever with the combination of media they have at their disposal.”

In order to deepen the students’ understanding of these two seminal events in America’s history, Daniel Levinson Wilk, associate professor, American History, provided background, and Matthew Petrunia, associate professor, English and Speech, followed with the key aspects of great speeches. The students were then asked to interpret the events of half a century ago in any way they chose.

“Islands,” by Bruno Nadalin

Bruno Nadalin used the metaphor of Hurricane Katrina and the rooftops of New Orleans to represent the “lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity” that Dr. King spoke of in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Maria Carlucco’s “Marching for Freedom,” above, is also featured in the exhibition.

The show runs until December 7.

BROOKLYN WRITER DESPERATELY SEEKING AN UNMARRIED IDEA

What’s the hardest part of writing a compelling narrative history? Finding an idea, said Matthew Goodman, author of three nonfiction books, including most recently, Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World (Ballantine Books, 2013). Goodman took some time off from searching for ideas to visit FIT last week, guest-teaching classes and reading from his book.

“It’s not because there aren’t great stories,” he said. “You have to find a good story with a fascinating character. You have to find a story that reveals something larger. It has to never have been done before. And you need thousands of pages of research material to draw from.”

For Eighty Days, he was reading about Nellie Bly, an investigative journalist from the 19th century, when he came across an intriguing sentence, something to the tune of, “In 1889, she raced around the world.”

With a little more research, he discovered that her opponent was an equally compelling heroine, a writer and reporter named Elizabeth Bisland. Not only did the story have a built-in narrative arc (a race around the world to beat the “80 days” laid down in Jules Verne’s novel), but it starred two interesting characters who both wrote memoirs after they made their way back to New York. And there was a larger story about the changing roles of women in the late 19th century.

Author Matthew Goodman signs books for a first-year creative nonfiction class for Presidential Scholars.

For years, he practically lived in the bowels of the New York Public Library, reading everything he could about the era and the race so that he could write a novelistic story without inventing a single detail. “On a good day I’d get a paragraph’s worth of material,” he said. “It started to feel like trench warfare.”

But the challenge of writing it had nothing on the struggle of finding the next big idea. “It feels a little like finding a wife,” he said. “You’re looking and looking and looking. You find ideas, you go on a date with these ideas, and they don’t work out. Or you find out someone has already written it, and it’s like this woman has married someone else.”

Matthew Goodman poses with Professor Amy Lemmon, who invited him to FIT.

THOUGHTS ABOUT ELAINE STONE, PROFESSOR EMERITA, AND HATS

by Alex Joseph, managing editor of Hue

“Fashion fades; style is eternal.”—Yves Saint Laurent

The subject of the day is hats.

Those of us who knew Professor Emerita Elaine Stone, who died August 6, knew her as a hat wearer par excellence. I never saw her without one.

Elaine Stone once told me she had 60 to 70 hats.

Thirteen years ago, when I first came to FIT, I was a little afraid of Professor Stone. She was tall. She was always impeccably dressed. Tales of her steadfast, iron-clad will approached legend. But it was her hats that fascinated me. I didn’t yet know anything about fashion, so that’s what I thought they were: I thought her hats signified fashion.

As time went on—and those of you who’ve been at FIT a while, you might know how this happens—I caught the fashion virus myself. I watched as what I paid for individual items of clothing went up…and up…  I bought a few hats myself. Then a few more. For a while, people referred to me as “the guy with the hats.”

When that phase passed, my feeling for hats died out. Elaine kept right on wearing them.

Stone began wearing hats when she worked as a buyer at Macy’s.

At first the persistence puzzled me, but as I watched Professor Stone more, I slowly came to understand. For her, hats weren’t just a phase, or a trend. They weren’t a slavish attempt to fit into some time period. They represented ideas, if you will. They—she—stood for something.

That something was not ephemeral; Elaine had been in fashion business all her life. She wrote the book on it—literally. Although the industry changed over time (“That’s the definition of fashion,” she reminded me), the need for outstanding merchandising never flagged. That’s what Elaine Stone stood for; those were her values.

So I came to learn that a piece of clothing, an accessory, can come to mean something quite deep. More than achieving a surface effect, it can indicate character.

And that was the richest lesson I learned from Elaine Stone.

NEW DEAN DIGS CLASSIC ROCK

In July, Dr. Mary Davis started as dean of FIT’s School of Graduate Studies. She used to chair the music department at Case Western Reserve University—and she was the university liaison to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Hue is jealous.

Davis loves rock and roll, and she knows how to talk about it. Hue asked her to name her three favorite songs of all time. This is what she said.

1. “Aretha Franklin plays a role in American History—as a woman, in the civil rights movement, and, over the arc of her career, for the evolution of music. Think is an empowerment song. It’s got a great vibe. She always had an incredibly tight band, and she’s a total perfectionist in keeping everything solid and well controlled. The freedom you hear in her voice—what comes across as pure, raw power and spontaneity—there’s something way more complicated going on behind that.”

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“Without Aretha, we wouldn’t have Lady Gaga. Aretha pioneered wigs and crazy theatricality. Though Aretha never wore a meat dress—to my knowledge, at least.”

2. “Bring it On Home to Me by Sam Cooke is a soulful late-night song from 1962. It’s a pop song, but it’s also very sexy. The song marks the moment when pop music shifted over from an orchestral sound to the roots of rock and roll. You can hear the orchestra interacting with him—he’s got an incredible voice—and then you hear a sax section. The classical strings and the low-down, raunchy club music find a meeting place in the song.”

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“When I worked with the Rock Hall, we honored an important figure in rock and pop for a week every year. Sam Cooke was our American Music Master for 2005. I’ll never forget this: During the tribute concert, Morgan Freeman was singing Bring it On Home to Me in my ear during the performance.”

3. “Tom Petty is one of my favorite artists of all time. His lyrics are compelling narratives, all condensed into three minutes. He really understands the human condition. Like Aretha, he is a total perfectionist, and he has a driving band influenced by early ’70s rock and a little bit of punk. The juxtaposition of personal lyrics and kick-ass music comes through in a lot in his songs.”

“It’s hard for me to pick one song. I love Free Fallin’. It’s built out of three chords, over and over again. Out of nothing more than the most basic elements of music, he built a whole world.”

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