Tag Archives: History


Our very own Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives owns some truly excellent fashion illustrations. Like these beauts of Chanel getups over the ages.

Here’s a 1916 sketch from the files of Max Meyer (1876-1953), who later became president of FIT. He sent scouts to Paris to copy the fashions so that he could knock them off in America. This gal digs the pockets on her jersey so much, she can’t keep her eyes open.

Lady in blue

Max Meyer sketch of Chanel outfit. (Source: Max Meyer fashion sketches, 1915-1929)

Here, a black tweed Chanel suit drawn for Bergdorf’s custom salon in the fall of 1965. Hue thinks it’s incredibly sexy, sort of schoolteacher-meets-sailor.

Yes, ma'am!

Chanel outfit from 1965. (Source: Bergdorf Goodman Custom Salon sketch collection, 1930-1969.)

And one from the winter of 1990-91, drawn by none other than Karl Lagerfeld for Nina Hyde, the fashion editor who died earlier that year. The confident line, the casual shading, and Karl’s handwriting… Hue is having palpitations.

For Nina, love Karl

A Karl Lagerfeld sketch from 1990. (Source: Nina Hyde collection, 1914-1996.)


Hue noticed a rather interesting passage in Charles James, a book about the designer (1906-1978), sometimes called “America’s first couturier,” who designed the famous “clover leaf” dresses, and other garments (some of which are in the collection of The Museum at FIT).

Charles James

Charles James with his ladies

Curator Richard Martin wrote:

“The term ‘genius’ is often used to describe James and he certainly possessed the explosive temperament often associated with that word.  But his achievement is, in truth, less than that of a genius.  He compromised his 1930s elegance with his work in the 1940s and 1950s, and his pictorial imagination came to surpass his design innovation.  So he was probably not a genius, but he was surely close enough to being one that we can look at his dresses with a combination of awe and the more modest respect.”

Hue wonders what it means to be a “genius” in terms of designing clothes.  Is sheer beauty enough?  Does the garment need to solve problems too?

What a rump!

James’ “Balloon Dress”—probably not being worn by Angelina Jolie any time soon.

Richard Martin (1947-1999) was curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume institute when he died, but he also had a long association with FIT, where he mounted many noted exhibitions.
Check out Martin’s Wikipedia entry.


Back when John Tiffany was in high school, he was researching the 1973 Battle of Versailles fashion show for a speechwriting project, and someone suggested he call Eleanor Lambert, the legendary publicist who organized it.

“She answered the phone, gave me a quote, and wished me luck,” he says.

Eleanor and John

Eleanor Lambert in her golden years, with John Tiffany

When he moved to New York in 1995, she hired him as one of her assistants, and he had free access to her files, rich with celeb photos and news clippings about the Versailles show, Fashion Week, the March of Dimes, the Coty Awards, the Best Dressed List (which Vanity Fair now oversees), and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, all of which she founded. (She also found time to get her hair done every morning.) “I was probably the first person ever to look through those files,” John says. “I found unopened phone bills from the late ’30s.”

Miss Lambert died in 2003, at 100 years old. Much of those archives—the materials about the Coty Awards and the CFDA— ended up at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art but were recently transferred to FIT’s Special Collections department.

And John wrote a book about her. “Eleanor Lambert: Still Here” is a 320-page coffee-table number out Sept. 7 from Pointed Leaf Press. The book covers her youth, her litany of achievements, and the countless designers who owe her big time for their success.

Eleanor Lambert: Still Here

Eleanor Lambert: Still Here, by John Tiffany

“People told her she was an amateur for thinking that American fashion was just as good as European fashion,” John says. “Nowadays, most people in the world have an American aesthetic—we’re not matchy-matchy, we all wear separates—which she first believed in in the mid-’30s.”


Hue is thinking about beginnings.  The beginnings of the Fashion Institute of Technology, for example:

Good old FIT

FIT's Marvin Feldman Center, in progress


The above photograph actually represents a second beginning for FIT: In 1958, the college broke ground on West 27th Street, where it remains today.  However, the college got its first start in the top two floors of the High School of Needle Trades, two blocks south, on 25th Street, as seen in this undated photograph (probably from the 1940s):

Central Needle Trades High School

Beginnings often arouse such hope, yet they can also inspire anxiety.  How will the new enterprise turn out?  Will it flourish, or languish? The suspense is killing us.

This blog, Hue Too, began as Hue, FIT’s faboo alumni magazine.  But Hue Too will go beyond Hue, reaching for content into every corner of every aspect of the college, its alumni, and the various industries it serves, and providing it in a fresh, spontaneous, immediate…well, bloggy way.

That’s a *lot* of ground to cover.

So let’s begin.