Polly Whitehorn, Fashion Design ’75, who appeared in Hue’s summer issue, was delighted to encounter a former professor last year after many years.
Whitehorn, who practices art photography when she’s not working at eCareDiary, participated in the Long Island Center of Photography’s free family portrait day at the African American Museum of Nassau County. “Many in the underserved community had never had their portrait taken,” she says.
An elderly couple stepped up for a sitting. Whitehorn didn’t recognize them at first.
Whitehorn’s photo of Mrs. Burke and her close friend.
Whitehorn says: “When the woman opened her mouth, I realized it was Mrs. Burke, Beverly Burke, my first and favorite professor at FIT! She taught the required professional sewing course. She wanted us to leave the methods of ‘loving hands’ at home and learn to sew according to industry standards. She left such an impression on me. I took the class during the summer. It was about 98 degrees with no air conditioning, and in she walks, wearing a beautifully tailored suit, her makeup perfectly applied, not a bead of perspiration anywhere. All I wanted to do was sew like Mrs. Burke.”
Who was your favorite professor? Tell us in the comments below.
A friend of Hue received this T-shirt as a gift from his grandmother in 1990:
My oldest shirt
It’s a little too sheer now to wear out of the house, but our friend still sleeps in it. He would never give it away.
You can't buy holes like this.
It represents his grandmother’s dreams.
What’s the oldest piece of clothing you own, and what’s the story behind it? Send a picture to email@example.com
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 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?
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.