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Kelsie

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Pelletier

A Parsons Exhibit Traces the Evolution of Workwear

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t first glance, the Workwear exhibit presented by the Parsons MFA Fashion Design and Society is underwhelming. At second and third glance, too. The exhibit consists of eight installations by designers, artists, and directors. The word “workwear” calls to mind images of young professionals, chic in their fitted suits and stilettoed heels. Garment district and Midtown types who work in high-rise buildings and bring home six-figure salaries. The exhibit, however, focuses on the more literal use of the word. Undercover police officers’ XXL t-shirts are displayed in museum cases, and New York City’s white collar workers’ distinct uniforms are showcased in Shelley Fox’s Office, 2010. Utility is stressed, in the exhibit’s message that one’s job defines one’s sartorial choices. This is showcased most strongly in a “utility suit,” which was a collaboration between Norton & Sons and Jeremy Deller. The jumpsuit is a rugged khaki, belted high on the waist with beige, utilitarian buttons up the front. Patches adorn the shoulders and cascade down one thigh, patches that proclaim slogans like “lone star council.” Deller says he wanted to create a “hardwearing outfit that was practical

and gave the impression that I looked at first, it is in its subtleties that the like I knew what I was doing on my workmanship of the craft of constructravels through the Southern United tion shines through. States.” However, by looking at this piece the fashion aspect of Parsons’ exhibition begins to emerge. The jumpsuit is impeccably tailored, fits the mannequin like a glove, and wouldn’t look out of place on any of the adventurous fashion mavens of the Lower East Side. Workwear seems to be tracing the evolution of fashion from a necessity to a deliberate choice, a choice that is no longer singularly defined by one’s profession. To reinforce this transition, Donna Karan’s video installation A System of Dressing translates white-collar workwear into her high-fashion runway aesthetic. Karan harnesses the colors of the pavements of New York and infuses her basics with “fashion drama.” She emphasizes that her workwear is “all so simple and all about the woman.” In her tailoring, she calls to mind the structure of the utility suit. However, in her accessorizing choices, Karan injects a “strong, sophisticated, and powerful” feminine sensibility. From need to desire, Workwear provides a comprehensive examination of the evolution of fashion. Though 4 the exhibit may appear underwhelming


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