Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Follow me on Twitter!

For those of you on Twitter, I'll be tweeting from the Costume Society of America's National Symposium starting tomorrow, May 26th. Although it's been somewhat taxing these past few weeks, I think overall it's going to be a worthwhile experience.

So look out for my updates! You can follow me here. I'll also be updating for the blog, WornThrough. Check out their Twitter here.

See you in Kansas City!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The New Curatorial Generation: What Do We Need to Know?

Exhibition case from the 2010 Graduate exhibition, "Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes"

At FIT, upper level graduate students get the chance to develop and execute an actual exhibition, staged in the graduate galleries at MFIT. This has always been a challenging but rewarding experience, mainly because it is the first time (for many) that students get to put their studies into practice. Students act as curators, conservators, registrars, public relations people, and many other positions that are meant to emulate those available in any given museum setting.

I'm excited to see who will serve in each position, because I know our class is strong. I have a few inklings as to who will get what, and I think that those people are very appropriate choices. There are certain jobs which I know I'd be good at because I've done them before, but I'm compelled to apply for a position that would broaden my skill set and make me a more well-rounded job candidate upon graduation.

Museums were particularly hit hard by the recession, but employment progress is slowly starting to regain strength. Still, many over qualified people have to fight for small positions that require more responsibility, experience and skill requirements than probably are needed. For example, I've worked in museums before where several jobs were crunched down into one because of budgetary reasons. Having a lot of experience in one field is, of course, beneficial, but anyone who's worked in a museum before can tell you that unless you're at the Met or a Smithsonian institution, a curator is never just a curator.

I've interned at the Charleston Museum and the New York City Police Museum and can tell you first hand how many hats a curator can wear. The curator of textiles at the Charleston Museum was also the registrar, and was responsible for designing and installing her own exhibition layouts, ordering supplies, handling and conserving the objects. The collections manager at the NYCPM also worked on the museum's development, archival materials and collections database entries. Most museums don't even have area-specific curators. With this ever shrinking field, we need to be prepared for any task that comes our way.

For those of you who currently work or have worked in museums before, what has been your most valuable work-related experience? Are there any positions you particularly enjoyed? And what kinds of new and interesting positions do you foresee developing in the near future? Post your thoughts and advice!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Who Dressed The Beatles?: Pierre Cardin, Douglas Millings and the Collarless Suit of the 1960s

Below is a little snippet from a paper I just wrote for my History of 20th Century Fashion class. The paper is a comparison of the collarless suits created by Pierre Cardin and Douglas Millings, tailor for The Beatles. In my research I've often come across statements like "Pierre Cardin designed the iconic suits of The Beatles" and that "The Beatles made Pierre Cardin's suit fashionable in the 1960s" but I don't believe that Cardin deserves so much credit for this accomplishment. Although Millings is well known to Beatles fans, he is often only an afterthought when it comes to analysis of Beatles fashion.

I've included a section which compares the historical context and designs of the two suits. They are very similar, but I think their differences allot enough distinctive qualities. Let me know what you think...


It is important to realize that the collarless suits of Pierre Cardin and those rendered by Douglas Millings are similar, but not identical. It is highly likely that Millings drew his inspiration from Cardin's initial design. However, careful research reveals that the Cylinder style and the suits worn by The Beatles are unique enough to distinguish themselves apart.

Cardin's design of the 1960s are the epitome of simplicity. Part of the reason his designs were not favored by the fashion press initially was because they lacked the familiar features of menswear from that time – boxy, rigid jackets, stiff white shirts with angular collars, and broad trousers that were pressed so hard, they gave off the appearance of finely sharpened razor blades.[i] These suits of the 1940s and 1950s made young men look old, and old men look even older. This made for an even more apparent contrast between youth dress influenced by the edginess of Rock 'n Roll, and their fathers and grandfathers who still abided by a very formal style of dress.

Cardin’s final product was a slim, sleek design which had never been seen before from a menswear couturier. Cardin's models buttoned all five jacket buttons to the neckline, displaying just a peek of their tucked-in shirt collars and straight-form ties. Autumn ensembles were made of corduroy, with one breast pocket and two hip pockets on the jacket, and the spring ensembles were made of cotton, without pockets. The sleeves were purposely cut short to reveal the cuffs of the shirts underneath, highlighting Cardin's penchant for cufflinks.[ii] The trousers were pressed, but hung loosely on the hips of the student models.

Cardin's designs created a balance between the worlds of old and new. Still honoring the art of the tailored suit, he utilized his skills to soften the overall appearance of the male form. By removing bulky embellishments like lapels, tails, collars and cuffs, and tapering the trousers, Cardin created an outfit that literally “suited” a younger, hipper and burgeoning intellectual type of man. By using materials like corduroy and cotton, he also revoked the stereotype that men's clothing should be uncomfortable and stiff – Cardin, always looking to the future, knew that his suit was designed for a progressive generation.

Cardin's "Cylinder Style" suit (left) and Millings' Beatle suit (right). Notice the differences in design and construction.

Millings too could see this shift in the way the younger generation responded to fashion. Whether or not he studied Cardin's designs intently - or even followed the fashion press at all – is unknown, but he must have been somewhat in-touch with fashion enough to realize that his suits would truly set the standard for menswear of the time. An employee of Millings by the name of Tom Gilbey once remarked, “I think it’s fair to say that they [The Beatles] did steal that look fro Pierre Cardin. But their look did evolve from that.”

Millings never (publicly) admitted to where his inspiration came from regarding his collarless suits. In an interview he once said, “…I dreamed up the round-neck collar. I make no claims I invented it, but we did add individual touches - the bell-shaped cuff with the link button; this strange collar with the four buttons.”[iii] Indeed, Millings' design was strikingly similar to that of Cardin's. But obvious details make the collarless suit of 1963 different from the collarless suit of 1960.

The original suits from DA Millings and Son were made of gray wool mixed with mohair and came in several colors, some of which The Beatles never wore.[iv] This material was luxurious but comfortable, durable but flattering and the design proved easy to replicate for Millings once public demand for “Beatle suits” arose. The original suits also had mother-of-pearl buttons, which changed to more conventional materials after Epstein ordered several other sets for the band.[v]

Millings varied his construction from that of Cardin's suit. The most obvious detail was that he outlined the edges in black piping. The jackets have slit pockets angled at the hips – only some of Cardin’s suits had pockets, and when they did, they were patch-style. Millings’ suits also only have three buttons, which are buttoned to the neck in the same fashion that the Cylinder suits are shown. But the neck of Millings’ suits have an opening that slightly wider in circumference than Cardin's.[vi]

Millings also beveled the sleeves and added working buttonholes. The back of Millings’ jackets have 2 small, vertical slits that allow for comfort and ease of movement during performances – also a non-constrictive benefit when running from crowds of teenage girls. Scrutinizing these unique details shows that Millings created a “variation on a theme” that proved to be more successful than Cardin’s original designs.

[i] Joshua Sims, Rock Fashion, (London: Omnibus, 1999), 22-23.

[ii] Richard Morais. Pierre Cardin: The Man Who Became a Label, (Bantam Transworld LTD, 1991), 96-97.

[iii] Paul Gorman, The Look: Adventures in Pop and Rock Fashion. (London: Sanctuary, 2001).

[iv] "Liverpool Museums - Beatles Suit." Liverpool Museums - National Museums Liverpool. Web. 12 April 2010. .

[v] Douglas Martin, “Dougie Millings, 88, the Tailor for the Beatles,” New York Times, October 8, 2001, Obituary section.

[vi] Russ W, Lease, "Cardin vs. Millings Paper." Telephone interview. 29 Mar. 2010.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Americans in Paris: FIT's Graduate Student Symposium

No new post for this week, I've got two papers to write this weekend: one on traditional Czech dress under Communism, the other comparing the collarless suits of Pierre Cardin and DA Millings. I've got a good start, but I still have a lot of work to do...

Anyway, for those of you in the Tri-State area, please come out and support the graduating MA students from FIT! A few of them are presenting some really cool papers pertaining to fashion correlations between America and Paris. I'll be there, and you should be too!

Check out the lineup here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

CSA Conference 2010 - Anyone Going?

As a cross-reference to Worn Through, who is planning on attending the Costume Society of America's National Symposium this year?

This is my first year as a member, and my first year presenting as well (I'm doing a research exhibition on Blue Jean Culture and Transformation in 20th Century Czech History). I know a lot of people who usually attend are not going this year, and to be honest, I'm not very surprised. The location is new for me but doesn't have the same kind of "vacation" attraction appeal that some larger cities do. The overall conference price - even at the discounted student rate - is also a bit of a reach for those suffering from the economic downturn.

I plan on tweeting during the conference, so be on the lookout for those updates. I'll be there from Wednesday, May 26th to Saturday, May 29th (my birthday!), presenting that Saturday morning. I'm excited to meet the other members and hopefully stir things up a bit. I've heard from many people that they are looking for ways to build up younger membership, and I've got a few ideas...

So, who is going? If you're not going, what has prevented you? I'm willing to address any issues or concerns - from both members and non - with the higher-ups of the CSA. They are no-doubt concerned about this year's low attendance and would welcome any feedback or ideas you have.

See you there!