Hello everyone! I’m Stella, a rising senior AHMP student and this summer I had the incredible experience of interning through the ArtBound program in Berlin, Germany at SomoS Arts, an art gallery and artist-in-residency space located on the border of the Neukölln and Kreuzberg neighborhoods.
While at SomoS I got to help promote, plan, and execute the exhibition Gauche Obsessions, a solo-show by William Beck, and I aided in the preparations for our upcoming show Enraptured by Benedict Yu, both artists being artists-in-residence at SomoS. Some of the things I did at SomoS include writing for social media and press releases, designing promotional graphics, taking notes on how each artist-in-residence’s projects are progressing, visiting other artist residencies and studio spaces around Berlin, and assisting with the preparation for exhibitions, workshops, and events.
I not only got hands-on experience working in a gallery setting, but I also got to see how an artist residency program is conducted and I absolutely cherish the community that I made at SomoS with the residents and team. Having the opportunity to learn about the arts scene in the heart of Berlin was an unmatched experience and I feel so lucky to have been able to do this. If anyone has any ArtBound questions or questions about Berlin in general please feel free to ask me!
By Emma Sosebee (AHMP’23), Thursday, July 13, 2023
The wives or daughters of fishermen, otherwise known as fishwives, were an essential part of the local economy and culture of Scotland until the dominance of industrialization in the mid-twentieth century made small-scale fisheries obsolete. While their husbands or fathers were off at sea, these women––in combination with caring for their large families––were responsible for cleaning the men’s fishing lines and attaching a variety of new bait, gutting and cleaning the day’s catch in freezing water, and carrying heavy loads of freshly prepared fish for miles to sell at city markets or from house to house. Besides their physically demanding jobs and sharp tongues, these women were also known throughout the country for their distinctive dress. In an effort to increase fashion history scholarship that focuses on working-class communities, this essay will discuss the outfits that Scottish fishwives commonly wore while laboring and for cultural celebrations.
Although existing documentation of the usual uniform worn by these women is unfortunately scarce, past interviews with former fishwives of Newhaven (a district in the City of Edinburgh, Scotland) provide some insight. Their work clothing was relatively simple, and consisted of a navy blue cot, otherwise known as a petticoat, made out of thick flannel; a dark, possibly wool, gown put on over top; and even a white and navy woolen brat––the word for cloak in the Scots language––for days with harsher weather conditions (see fig. 1 and 2). Both their petticoats and dresses were significantly shorter than the ankle-length garments that were common at the time. While they displayed more of the leg than was typical for women’s fashions, the rather practical calf-length gave fishwives greater freedom of movement and kept their skirts clean. To finish off the look, these fisherwomen typically wore dark wool stockings and black leather lace-up shoes with short heels.
Many historic photographs seen nowadays that exhibit the clothing of Scottish fishwives were heavily staged and thus show the women in their traditional ‘gala-dress,’ rather than their working uniform as discussed above (see fig. 3 and 4). These gala-dresses were worn on special events only; namely, for Sundays, Harvest Thanksgiving and other festivals, and the Fisherlassies’ and Fisherwomen’s choirs. When describing such outfits, the 19th-century writer Lady Eastlake claimed: “With a heavy load of petticoats as of fish . . . She was laden with clothes, petticoat over petticoat, striped and whole color, all of the thickest woolen material.”
Fishwives in their gala-dress were generally observed wearing two layers of heavy woolen petticoats tied around their waists. Both were made of a broad, vertically striped fabric (see fig. 5 and 6). The first petticoat was often made of a vivid red and white material, but the second one’s colors differed depending on location: Newhaven women usually wore yellow and white, whereas those from Fisherrow (a harbor and former fishing village, now incorporated into the town of Musselburgh in Scotland) wore blue and white. The yellow or blue and white petticoats had a kind of padded undergarment, or bustle, to assist in supporting the weight of the creel (i.e., woven basket) worn on a fishwife’s back. A cotton apron of blue and white stripes, pinned to the inside of the second cot, and a medium-sized pooch––the Scots term for pocket (see fig. 6)––were also tied around the waist; as famously shown in depictions of fishwives, their aprons would be kilted up over the top petticoat and pinned to hang in a neat point in the front. Furthermore, the women would don shor’goons, which were long blouses with short sleeves, of various colors and patterns.
The finishing touches to the upper half of the gala-dress were the addition of a broad satin ribbon, tied into a bow and pinned to the wearer’s chest with a brooch, as well as a shawl that would be draped over their head and shoulders. Sometimes, fishwives could also be spotted with stiff white caps over their hair. Similar to their daily outfits, they wore white worsted stockings and high-quartered shoes. What is most interesting is the fact that the entirety of this festive costume lacked any buttons or hooks and eyes; instead of having such efficient closures, which would have required sewing to be attached, these outfits were held together by a multitude of ties and pins and made putting them on quite the hassle.
Both the atypical length of the petticoats seen in the daily, functional uniforms of fishwives, as well as the elaborate and haphazardly assembled outfits they wore on special occasions, undoubtedly stand out in fashion history. As a consequence of the global turn toward industrialization, the economic and social role that such hardworking women of Scottish history played is over; within the last few years as well, the majority of the remaining generation of former fishwives have passed away from old age. Nevertheless, thanks to the documentation provided by charmed 19th and 20th-century writers and photographers alike, the intriguing fashion of these traditional fisherwomen lives on.
About the Author
Emma Sosebee (she/her/hers) is a 2023 graduate of the AHMP program and one of the curators of Claire McCardell: Practicality, Liberation, Innovation at The Museum at FIT (April 5-16, 2023). Throughout her undergraduate career, Emma developed an enthusiasm for how arts institutions care for their numerous objects. She hopes to pursue her interest in the collections management field and is currently an intern in the Collections Department at The Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, New York.
An Interview with AHMP alum and Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) Assistant Curator Darnell-Jamal Lisby, by Dina Pritmani, Friday April 21, 2023.
Darnell-Jamal Lisby, Cleveland Museum of Art Assistant Curator of Fashion and Curator of Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession, currently on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art, sat down with Dina Pritmani, AHMP (’24) to answer a few questions. Darnell joined the CMA in 2021 to develop projects rooted in fashion studies that range across the museum’s various curatorial departments. Before coming to the CMA, he had gained experiences and worked at other institutions such as the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where as a MuSe intern he helped research the 2018 landmark exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, and The Museum at FIT. Darnell is a proud AHMP alum, who has published extensively on academic and mainstream platforms, including the Fashion and Race Database, Cultured magazine, and Teen Vogue. Starting out with an AAS in Fashion Merchandising, he received his Bachelor of Science in the Art History and Museum Professions (AHMP) program here at FIT before continuing finishing his MA in Fashion and Textiles Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice, also at SUNY FIT.
DP: Many Congratulations on the Egyptomania exhibition! Thank you for taking the time to do the interview. I would like to know more about the background of the exhibition. What inspired you to organize an exhibition with this theme? Why is the topic so important?
D-JL: Like most people, ancient Egyptian culture intrigues me as well. After seeing a handful of recent collections by different ateliers, inspired by ancient Egyptian art, I thought it would be pretty timely to execute the project. Additionally, when I started curating the show, it was the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of Tut’s tomb, so again, I thought it would be timely to produce this exhibition.
DP: How do you create a narrative or theme for an exhibition, and what strategies do you use to engage and educate your audience?
D-JL: Like any curator, you try to find glaring stories that connect the various objects I was thinking about compiling for my checklist. One of which was about cultural appropriation and if it applies to the use of ancient Egyptian culture as inspiration. Finding topics, like cultural appropriation, that connect with contemporary events are accessible ways to engage the audience. Furthermore, I used the broader topic of ancient Egyptian art and culture as inspiration for fashion to peak audience’s interest and then guided them to the denser topics like cultural appropriation and identity.
DP: Could you walk us through the process of curating the exhibition, from selecting the artwork to designing the installation?
Well, it can get complicated, making it difficult to convey in a few short words. With said, I looked at different topics that I felt inspired to explore such as, cultural appropriation, the identity of ancient Egyptians, and how we and audiences over time connect with ancient Egyptian culture. From there, based on the budget I was given, I had to be very deliberate about which contemporary fashions spoke to the topic as well as ancient Egyptian art from the Cleveland Museum of Art collection that helped support the theses. Additionally, I had to lay out the history of Egyptomania and early Egyptological research that spurred the Egyptomania movement; thus, I had to pull examples across the CMA collection from decorative arts to drawings to help develop that foundation. As part of the CMA strategic plan, which strategic plans help guide the mandates of each museum employee, I also had to think about an intervention in our CMA Egyptian gallery (The second photo attached is of the intervention). Interventions are ways that you can bring outside art into permanent collection galleries, emphasizing new ways to analyze various works of art and collections. I wanted to have one of the fashions that I chose displayed in the Egyptian gallery, in which I chose a Givenchy ensemble from the fall 2016 collection the Givenchy archive graciously allowed me to use. Some of the other houses I displayed include Chanel, Balmain, and Cartier. Additionally, I wanted to highlight Egyptian fashion design voices, so I incorporated two gowns by Egyptian designer Yasmine Yeya for her house Maison Yeya and a purse by Sabry Marouf. Once I developed the checklist, I had to develop the didactics, illuminating what I found in my research that I was developing as I chose the checklist. Once the didactics went through rigorous edits, then it was time to work with the exhibition design team to create the physical show. I worked with them to create the blueprints and what inspirations I wanted to evoke. Lastly, in conjunction with the conservation team, headed by Sarah Scaturro, who was the former chief conservator of the Costume Institute, we figured out what type of dress forms we wanted to use. We also partnered with renowned costume dresser, Tae Smith to help dress the forms. After that, the rest is history… All things considered, the point is that each part of the process requires collaboration with departments from project management and exhibition design to production and conservation. To reiterate, every decision always comes back to the budget. Because I’m starting the fashion department here at the CMA, jumping to have the same budgets as somewhere as the Costume Institute at the MET is unrealistic, so I had to manage what I could with what I was given to do my best to give audiences the best experience as possible.
DP: Who inspired you to become an art curator, and how did you get started?
D-JL: After studying Andrew Bolton’s career way back in high school, it was his journey that encouraged me to become an art and fashion curator. I started just like you, in the Art History and Museum Professions program at FIT, taking in every bit of education and internship experience I could. After finishing the program, I matriculated into the MA in Fashion and Textiles Studies FIT Graduate program, and again, I absorbed as much as I could through my education and internships.
DP: What are some of the challenges you face as a curator, and how do you navigate issues such as limited budgets, conflicting stakeholder interests, and ethical considerations?
D-JL: I think the biggest challenge is just getting institutions to understand the value of fashion in the art historical realm because once that’s understood, life becomes easier from budgets, stakeholders’ interest, and ethical considerations. As mentioned, budgets can be tough, but at some point, you must go with the flow and know that God will provide a path moving forward. Philippians 4:6-7 is one of my favorite quotes to reference, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Of course, everyone’s path to peace is different, but this is my recipe. I think understanding that also understanding that in a place like Cleveland, which is not a fashion center, my work is going to be a slow burn to get a certain level of international recognition that leads to various degrees of support, from financial to cultural. And that’s okay. I think most people think they’ll be the next big thing, but staying true to yourself and going along with the process will take you where you need to be. I think, especially when I was an AHMP major, we could change the world. That’s still true, but it’s going to take a lot more politicking than one can imagine. Also, being one of the Black curators in the world involved in this work and heading my own department is a blessing certainly that I thank the CMA for, but also using my platform to expand representation in fashion and pulling up others along the way is what I live for.
DP: What are some of the most memorable exhibitions you’ve curated or participated in, and what made them stand out for you?
D-JL: When I helped curate the Willi Smith: Street Couture exhibition with Alexandra Cunningham Cameron and Julie Pastor at Cooper Hewitt, I had the best time exploring the stories of all the people Smith knew during his life and how much they loved him. It was those stories that helped develop the exhibition and accompanying assets. When I curated the Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession, I found all my research discoveries very exciting too, like understanding that the ancient Egyptians were unified by religion, not racial identity – as race is recent construct in our human history. I also loved dressing the mannequins and physically mounting the exhibition, seeing all the work we did at the CMA come to life.
DP: How do you see the role of fashion curators evolving in the future, and what do you think are some key trends and challenges facing the field?
D-JL: Fashion curators will continue to push boundaries, including searching for new topics that lean into contemporary culture to discovering new contributions by unsung figures and cultures, because fashion is such an accessible medium that touches on so many audiences’ lived experiences. I think the biggest challenge right now for fashion historians is not being afraid to tackle dense topics. As curators, our jobs are to make a complicated topic layman. Moreover, looking to diverse perspectives and celebrating a broader degree of contributions is very important and will help solidify fashion as a critical part of academia.
DP: Thank you so very much for taking the time to answer the questions. Many Congratulations on Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession!
Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession will be on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art until January 24, 2024. The exhibition website has more information and extras on related events and more. Follow the work of Darnell-Jamal Lisby.
About the Author
Dina Pritmani is a junior at FIT’s AHMP program, and currently a Facilitator in The Museum at FIT. Dina is passionate about Western Asian Art, jewelry design, and learning about ways to decolonize museums. The interview was an opportunity to discuss these aspects with a Museum Professional as part of an assignment for MP 361 “Museum Professions and Administration.”
What Shall I Wear? The What, Where, When, and How Much of Fashion was the only book Claire McCardell wrote in her lifetime; just two years before her death, the book was originally published in 1956 by Simon and Schuster of New York. Accompanied by a variety of delightful illustrations created by Annabrita McCardell––whose specific relation to the designer is now unknown––the text is quite practical in essence. Witty and sincere, the book reads like a fashion advice column: from how to tie a scarf to suit one’s figure to sharing the importance of creating a signature look, McCardell used her professional insight to help American women in the 1950s dress with intention for any occasion. Though developing a sense of fashion may feel elusive due to the industry’s ever-changing trends, McCardell’s belief was that any woman could train her eyes to recognize good style and get her wardrobe in line; all it takes is a good teacher.
What is most interesting about What Shall I Wear is how much of the book remains appropriate for women’s lives (and, really, anyone interested in fashion) today, despite its 67-year-old status. As a product of an America quite different from the contemporary period, the book obviously has its moments of traditional 1950s thought––from glove etiquette to suggestions for appeasing one’s husband. Nevertheless, many of the designer’s ideas about fashion and how women should dress were relatively progressive for her time. In the first chapter, “What is Fashion,” McCardell addresses what I would argue was her most important philosophy: that clothes are for real people, and should therefore be designed in ways that are fully functional for the wearer. She adds that clothes are “made to be worn, to be lived in. Not to walk around on models with perfect figures.”
On a similar note, the designer also uses her introduction to remind her audience that there is no such thing as a “type” to fit into––if something in fashion does not feel right, there is no reason to force yourself into a certain style just because it is popular on the runway or the city streets. She recommended women wear the fabric or silhouette they feel best in, have fun, and play around. Fashion, though it can be intimidating to the average person, “isn’t meant to be taken too seriously.”
Instead of trying to confine women to a particular style––in which she very well could have used the book to only promote her latest collections––McCardell’s What Shall I Wear humbly served its readers by acting more as a general fashion guide. Better yet, it helped women of all ages to regain a sort of individual agency; to the American designer, understanding Fashion with a capital ‘F’ was not about conformity. A person’s chosen style should reflect their own imagination, thought, time, and energy. In other words, “The more yourself in your clothes, the better.” Evidently within her sportswear she stressed physical ease, but McCardell also hoped to impart the importance of “mental ease.” Above all, a woman should wear what makes her feel confident and comfortable.
With chapters on what clothes to pack for different trips, suggestions for mothers worried about their teenagers’ following certain trends, and even a helpful glossary of fashion-associated terms the designer labeled as ‘McCardellisms,’ What Shall I Wear was a necessity for 1950s women who were looking to both develop their personal taste and to understand the fashion world at large. The book’s reissue in 2022 with a foreword by contemporary fashion designer Tory Burch speaks to McCardell’s continued relevance within the industry.
About the Author
Emma Sosebee (she/her/hers) is a senior in the AHMP program and one of the curators of Claire McCardell: Practicality, Liberation, Innovation, on view at The Museum at FIT starting April 5th. Throughout her undergraduate career, Emma has developed an enthusiasm for how arts institutions care for their numerous objects. She hopes to pursue her interest in the collections management field upon graduation.
This whimsical Claire McCardellyellow silk dress from 1950 features a unique pattern of various bugs in navy blue, chartreuse, and lavender alongside fishing lures and the printed words ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ in bold lettering (Figures 1-2). McCardell’s short-sleeve shirt dress with a slightly gathered skirt and black buttons trailing down the front is distinctive due to the textile used. For many reasons, the dress typifies the ‘American look’ that McCardell is recognized for.
The dress has a looser, unrestricted silhouette in comparison to the ultra-feminine ‘New Look’, a style originated by French couturier Christian Dior in 1947. The expansive use of wool, a previously rationed fabric during the war, within the original skirt of Dior’s design was emblematic of post-war European fashion that emphasized more above all else. Despite the small gathering at the waist of McCardell’s dress, the garment features an otherwise loose fit that neither requires shapewear or forces the consumer into a restricting style. Following her desire to allow women to get dressed themselves, McCardell uses center-front placed buttons as a closure as opposed to a side or back zipper that would require the aid of another person.
Whereas Parisian couturiers including Dior added surface detail to their designs through embellishment and various passementeries, McCardell’s designs often featured checkers, stripes, and unique patterning. During the post-war period, when McCardell was already considered a household name, American textile manufacturers were seeking new ways to promote their home-grown products. The magazine American Fabrics was particularly influential, encouraging USA textile brands to find their inspiration in fine art. This task was taken on by Dan Fuller, president at the time of Fuller Fabrics, who reached out to five of the most famous twentieth-century artists of the mid-century: Fernand Léger (1881–1955), Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Marc Chagall (1887–1985), Joan Miró (1893–1983), and Raoul Dufy (1877–1953). The collaboration between these artists and the American manufacturer resulted in what was referred to as the Modern Masters Series.
McCardell’s bug-patterned dress appears like a prototype of the garments she made in collaboration with Fuller Fabrics, launched in the Fall of 1955. The Museum at FIT holds one of the garments from the collaboration which features a similar ‘shirtwaist’ style reminiscent of the bug dress (P92.9.1). The museum’s example is filled with graphic designs from the artist Fernand Léger, and it feels like a piece in conversation with her earlier work in that they both make use of playful textiles whilst remaining true to a simplistic, and inherently McCardell, American silhouette.
Since McCardell was already an established designer by 1955, she added prestige to the Modern Masters collection. By then, she had already had successes with her Monastic and Popover dresses and was one of the few designers featured on the cover of Time magazine. In the November 14th, 1955 issue of LIFE magazine, Claire’s collaboration was featured in the article “New Fabrics Put Modern Art in Fashion” alongside images of models in her resort designs posing next to the artists Chagall, Picasso, and more (Figure 3). The Picasso ‘fish’ pattern textile, featured in a dress of the LIFE photo essay, similarly resembles the bugs of her 1950 design (Figure 4). It is clear that patterning was an important design feature over the years of McCardell’s work. Whether it be the floral designs that marked her playsuits or the stripes featured in her variations of Popovers, patterning served as a way for McCardell to add uniqueness to her creations while at the same time not betraying her dedication towards simplicity.
About the Author
Nico Frederick (they/them/theirs) is a senior in the AHMP program and one of the curators of Claire McCardell: Practicality, Liberation, Innovation, on view at The Museum at FIT starting April 5th. Following graduation, Nico will be attending the Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, and Museum Practice MA program here at FIT, hoping to one-day work with costume and dress within an archival or museum setting.
Claire McCardell: Practicality, Liberation, Innovation highlights unique designs from The Museum at FIT Study Collection, introduces archival materials from FIT’s Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC) and McCardell’s now classic book, What Shall I Wear? The What, Where, When and How Much of Fashion (1956, 2022). The exhibition was conceptualized, organized and curated by our AHMP (’23) senior students Nico Frederick, Christina Pene, and Emma Sosebee during an Independent Study Course HA 499: Exhibiting Art and Fashion at FIT in the Spring of 2023.
Introducing beautiful garments from our MFIT Study collection, the exhibition highlights important aspects and key themes throughout the career of Claire McCardell (1905–1958). We invite the visitor to engage with a leading and inspiring designer who was so popular that she was featured on the Time Magazine cover, won multiple awards, and one who remains influential in the fashion industry to this day. She is among the few woman designers in the world who was honored with a statue. In preparing the exhibition, we became inspired by McCardell’s innovative approaches to fashion design, her pragmatism, and her legacy.
We are indebted to The Museum at FIT colleagues and staff at Gallery at FIT who were so very generous and kind to lent us their knowledge, wisdom and practical advice. We owe particular thanks to Dr. Valerie Steele, Director of The Museum at FIT; Colleen Hill, Curator of Costume and Accessories; Michael Goitia, Senior Exhibition Manager; Gabrielle Lauricella, Campus Exhibitions Coordinator; Tommy Synnamon, Museum Installation Assistant; Zoe Taylor, Education and Collections Assistant; Tamsen Young, Museum Digital Media and Strategic Initiatives Manager; Ken Wiesinger, and everyone else from The Museum at FIT and the Exhibitions Team. We also thank everyone from the Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC) team, in particular Karen Trivette, April Callahan and Samantha Levin.
Financial and logistic support came from FIT’s Dean of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Division, and we are particularly grateful for the support from Mary Tsujimoto, Patrick Knisley, Nanja Andriananjason, and Professor Amy Werbel, acting Chair of the History of Art Department.
In the fall, three current AHMP students were fortunate to spend an entire semester at the University of York as part of an exchange program developed a year earlier. Formally established only in 1963 and therefore younger than FIT, the University of York has almost 20,000 students enrolled, two of whom came to New York in exchange. Enjoy some of the photographs one of Chloe Foster, one of our AHMP students kindly shared, including of a statue unveiled in honor of the late Queen in November, and photos from trips to beautiful Edinburgh, Manchester, London, and other places.
ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION is the first entirely AHMP senior student class curated exhibition at the FIT Gladys Marcus Library on the State University of New York’s campus in downtown Manhattan. The Art History and Museum Professions program developed out of a Visual Arts Certificate program in the early 2000s. Today, many AHMP alumni are successful curators, archivists, educators, and writers.
Inspired by the many holdings related to Greece throughout the FIT campus collections, we began research for this exhibition in January 2022. It became quickly evident that there are actually so many exciting archives, materials and stories related to Greek speaking designers, Greek illustrators, Greek influencers and writers in our Museum at FIT and in our Special Collections and College Archives.
Pre-internet, physical photographs and illustrations were an easy and affordable way to circulate and share ideas and inspirations for young designers. Scrapbooks with postcards and photographs cut out from books and magazines were one way to appreciate and learn about other people and cultures around the world since collecting actual fashion designer’s work for the campus displays in a more organized way did not began in a more organized way until 1969. These early FIT Scrapbooks speak to us in understanding past methods of class-room education in Manhattan, as photographs and archives mattered then as they do today.
According to a handwritten note, the photograph in this scrapbook compiled by an FIT educator or designer in the 1960s is an illustration cut out a from a magazine In Greece. Quarterly, though no year is given. “Men dancing in traditional Greek costume” is the title of a photograph by Elli Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari, better known as “Nelly” (1899–1998). Nelly’s photographs, especially those portraying people dancing, gained great popularity in the 1930s and later, and she inspired entire generations of photographers. Born in Aydin, now part of Turkey, and spending years in Athens in Greece and in Dresden in Germany, she first arrived in New York City in 1939 with an official mission to assist in overseeing parts of the decoration of the Greek pavilion for a World Fair in Queens.
This is when Nelly’s love affair with New York City began. Soon thereafter, she began photographing sites, people, and events in New York City. One series of photographs featured the New York Easter Parade, a tradition particularly important for Greeks. Nelly owned a Studio on 57th Street close to Central Park and lived in New York City for over 34 years before she died back in Athens in Greece in 1998. Many of her photographs, including some she shot in New York City, were later donated to the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece. The photograph in the FIT scrapbook displayed connects us to the legacy of a photographer who is not uncontroversial today as is her influence and legacy as a photographer of inter-war Greece.
Sometimes there are other stories that develop from engaging with a scrapbook collection and archives such as those housed at FIT. In some cases, the name of the person who compiled the scrapbook is even known. This is the case with a series of little scrapbooks compiled by artist Deirdre Bialo. One scrapbook contains sets of cut out photographs and postcards from Greece. It contains, among many other items a commercial postcard of the painting Οι Πρόσφυγες (“The Refugees”) by Greek artist Theodoros Rallis (1852–1909). Would it not be interesting to sometimes go back in time and listen to the conversations of those who painted, to those who later photographed, those who distributed the photographs and compiled these in scrapbooks?
Zacharia, Katerina. 2015. “Nelly’s Iconography of Greece,” In Camera Graeca: Photographs, Narratives, Materialities, edited by Philip Carabott, Yannis Hamilakis and Eleni Papargyriou. London: Routledge: 233–56.
This guest photo essay was written by Harlem based photographer Christopher Huot. It was developed under and curated by Joi Berry (AHMP’23) as part of the initiative “Black Futures” sponsored by the FIT Diversity Collective in 2022. These are the words of Chris.
I am grateful for this opportunity. Coming from East Harlem, a place where opportunities feel slim, sometimes people lose sight of the goals they once had. In a setting where materialistic values are glorified, for the most part, it can feel hard to breathe when your dreams are larger than life. In this essay, most of the people photographed come from the same neighborhood as I. They understand the emotions I feel whether it be the joy of going outside on a hot summer day or mourning the loss of a close friend. I selected these photos because of the feelings they exude.
Every photograph in Freedom Within holds emotions that are dear to me. Some make me more emotional than others. Some hold darker, deeper emotions than others. All in all, they are very important to me and what I stand for. I truly believe that freedom is within us. I am a person who is easily swallowed by my emotions, and I tend to be less vulnerable than I could be. I have lost many things. Material and sentimental alike. When I decide to step back and look at my life for what it is, I realize that even though all the things I have gone through I am truly blessed. My journey has not been an easy one. Yet, from a different perspective, it is clear to me that my journey has only begun.
These photographs feature upcoming Harlem artist and musician Roseboy Siah. Siah, being the young man that he is, consistently comes to me to get commission work done. Starting his rap career at 14, his music has been getting more and more popular over the last five years. His image as an artist is important to him, and as his go-to photographer, his image is important to me as well.
Here is why the “Bell Ringer” photograph matters to me. When you come from a neighborhood where word travels fast, the positive things you do get spread quickly by the people around you. The second photograph features Siah in a place he is most happy. The studio has become his sanctuary. “Beginnings” was taken in the middle of the George Washington project houses in East Harlem, the neighborhood Siah built his support group. Siah’s music is loved by many, especially the people from here. Many of our mutual friends were raised in these housing projects. He has made it his mission to become an artist bigger than just a neighborhood star, he wants to become an international star. His community is what fuels him, and it is what he wants to give back to. This is something we both feel deeply about.
“Beyond the View” features models Kash and Josiah. The boat in the background was my main subject for this photo. I feel it tells a story of hope, while the simplicity of the actual atmosphere during the shoot was something I wish to feel every day. Just young people seeing the beauty of the ocean.
“Ootaman”features upcoming Harlem artist Dotty Boom. This is one of the first of many photos I took for my friend Dotty, whom I’ve known since middle school. This was also my first time using a point-and-shoot film camera. I wanted Dotty to be the first person I shot with the camera and this scene ended up being perfect in my eyes. From the outfit to the weather, everything was exactly how I wanted it to be. This photo opened my eyes to the beauty of film photography.
This essay is written as an assignment for the AHMP senior class “Exhibitions” project ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION. The exhibition is on display at the State University of New York’s FIT campus Gladys Marcus Library in Spring and Summer 2022.
James Galanos (1924–2016) designed this chiffon dress for his spring/summer 1970 collection, tapping into his Greek heritage by using fabrics featuring motifs inspired by ancient Greek pottery. This particular garment is reminiscent of red-figure style Greek pottery, which is characterized by drawings of delicate linework on raw terracotta base set against a darkly glazed background.
Motifs on the dress include lions, a sculpture resembling David standing over the head of Goliath, and swirling shapes evocative of ionic columns. The chiffon used in this collection was designed by Tzaims Luksus (born in 1932), an American designer and textile artist who was also a guest lecturer and consultant at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Born to Greek parents in Philadelphia in 1924, Galanos began drawing from a young age. He enrolled in the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York City at the age of 18 with dreams of becoming a costume designer for film. However, he only stayed at the school for a few months before leaving in search of more hands-on experience. After a few years of working in Paris and New York, Galanos headed west to California, where he created his first fashion collection in 1951. He took the finishing techniques and workmanship he had learned in Paris and applied it skillfully to his own garments, referring to his work as “custom ready-to-wear” rather than couture. His first collection was purchased by Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills and Galanos’s renown grew from there. In 1954, at the age of 29, Galanos became the youngest winner of the Coty Award (considered the “fashion Oscars” of the time) and proceeded to win the award again two years later. In 1984, he became the first recipient of the Coty Lifetime Achievement Award.
This dress from 1970 is notable for the way that it is both distinctly characteristic of Galanos yet also daring for its time in terms of fashion trends. Chiffon was one of Galanos’s design trademarks throughout his career, and this collection showed off the smocked chiffon that he was known for. What made Galanos’s 1970 collection surprising at the time, despite its solid connections to Galanos’s typical design style, was its length. The miniskirt had been the hallmark of the 1960s, and though some designers were cautiously experimenting with longer skirts, none of them went as far as Galanos did as he ushered in the maxi skirt trend of the 1970s. Although his designs for this collection drew from the past, Galanos was designing for the future.
Note: From November 1976 to February 1977, FIT celebrated “Galanos – 25 years.” Among those attending the opening gala on November 23, 1976 were the Greek Ambassador and his wife, philanthropists and members of the wealthy Greek elite in Manhattan including Dora Goulandris Voridis and members of the Coumantaros family.