“Uniformity” Exhibit at FIT

Chanel, “Brasserie Gabrielle” ensemble, fall 2015, wool, silk, cotton, leather, France, gift of Chanel, 2015.64.1

Unravel the history of uniforms at the Museum at FIT’s upcoming exhibit

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

For a society that dares to be different, we have a rich history of being the same – at least when it comes to our dress. From military uniforms to McDonald’s uniforms, the Museum at FIT’s “Uniformity” exhibit will explore the role of uniforms in our history.

On view from May 20 through November 19, 2016, “Uniformity” is organized into four different categories of uniform: military, work, school, and sports. The exhibit opens with a display highlighting each of these themes, including a Royal Highland Regiment uniform from 1900, a fireman’s uniform from the 1950s, a contemporary schoolgirl uniform from Japan, and a professional cyclist’s uniform from 1985.  Overall, the exhibit features more than 70 objects from the museum’s permanent collection, many of which are on view for the first time.

Although uniforms are one of the last things we think of when it comes to fashion, the exhibit shows how certain aspects of uniforms have made it into the collections of celebrated designers like Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, and Christian Dior. Military uniform motifs like camouflage, middy collars, Breton stripes, and gold buttons have been particularly popular in high-fashion designs, and are highlighted in the exhibition. “Uniformity” also investigates the sexualization of the school uniform and the modern day use of sports uniforms for brand sponsorship and advertising.

If we weren’t the ones running after the school bus in itchy knee-highs and a starched button-down, we certainly didn’t envy those who were. But whether or not uniforms are considered fashionable, the Museum at FIT’s “Uniformity” exhibit proves that they have heavily influenced the world of fashion. For more information on the exhibit, visit http://bit.ly/1q9nP9s.


Geoffrey Beene, “football jersey” dress, fall 1967, silk and sequins, USA, museum purchase, 2015.77.3


Stan Herman, TWA flight attendant uiform, 1975, synthetic blend, USA, gift of Stan Herman, 2016.3.1–2


Stan Herman, McDonald’s uniform, 1976, polyester, USA, gift of Stan Herman, 2016.3.3


Jean Paul Gaultier, ensemble, 1992, cotton, France, (top) gift of Antoine Bucher, (pants) gift of Michael Harrell, 2012.56.1 and 2015.89.8


(Left) Comme des Garcons (Rei Kawakubo), ensemble, 1998, wool, Japan, museum purchase, 2005.7.2; (right) U.S. Army World War I service uniform, 1914-1918, wool, USA, gift of Mrs. Roswell Gilpatric, 68.146.52


Rudi Gernreich, “Japanese Schoolgirl” ensemble, fall 1967, wool, USA, gift of Gabriele Knecht


Princeton University blazer, 1944, wool, USA, museum purchase, 2012.2.1


Mainbocher, U.S. Naval Reserve WAVES officer dress uniform, 1942, wool, USA, gift of Mrs. C.W. Vernon Jr, 84.203.1