University of Fashion Blog

Category "Fashion History"

Fashion History Symbolism & Other Fun Facts

Fashion Timeline. (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

Welcome fashion aficionados and history buffs! Fashion is more than just clothes; it’s a rich tapestry woven with culture, politics, and whimsy. Join us on a stylish journey through time as we explore some delightful and surprising fashion facts that have shaped the way we dress today.

THE TALE OF HIGH HEELS

Portrait of Louis XIV of France in 1701. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Think high heels are a modern invention? Think again! High heels date back to the 10th century, and they weren’t originally worn by women. Persian men wore heels while riding horses; the heels helped them stay secure in their stirrups. It wasn’t until the 16th century that high heels became popular among European nobility, both male and female, as a status symbol.

CORSETS

An illustration of a Corset, 1893. (Photo Credit: The Vintage News)

Corsets have been a staple of women’s fashion for centuries, evolving significantly over time. During the 19th century, tight-lacing was common, creating an impossibly tiny waist. Yet, corsets were not just about aesthetics; they played roles in health and social status too. Ironically, the feminist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw women burning their corsets as a symbol of liberation.

MEN IN SKIRTS

Ancient Roman Tunics and Togas. (Image Credit: Albert Kretschmer, painters and costumer to the Royal Court Theatre)

Do you know that in Ancient Greek and Roman times pants were considered uncivilized. Before trousers became the norm, men in many cultures wore skirts and robes. Ancient Egyptians donned kilts, while Roman men sported togas. In fact, the Scottish kilt, a symbol of national pride, remains a traditional garment. Today, many designers have embraced the idea of men in skirts, challenging gender norms and pushing boundaries.

THE BOUNTIFUL BUSTLE

A day dress, French, c. 1870. (Photo Credit: Kent State University Museum)

Travel back to the 1880s, and you’d find women wearing dresses with a distinctive feature: the bustle. This padded undergarment was worn at the back of a skirt to create a pronounced silhouette. Bustle skirts were a marvel of Victorian engineering, often intricately decorated with ruffles, lace, and bows. Although they symbolized opulence, bustles were difficult to move in.

DENIM

James Dean, in Rebel Without A Cause. (Photo Credit: John Kobal Foundation)

Denim jeans, a quintessential American garment, were invented in 1873 by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss as durable workwear for laborers. Originally called “waist overalls,” they gained popularity during the Gold Rush. By the 1950s, jeans became a symbol of rebellion among teenagers, thanks to cultural icons like James Dean. Today, denim is a fashion staple worldwide, transcending its humble beginnings.

HAT ATTACK

Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1972) wears a Bowler hat. (Photo Credit: Alamy)

Hats have made significant statements throughout history. In the Middle Ages, the type of hat you wore indicated your social status. The top hat, introduced in the late 18th century, became a symbol of sophistication along with other famous hats such as the bowler hat, the beret, and the cloche, while the Stetson symbolizes cowboy ruggedness and the American West.

THE BRA REVOLUTION

Mary Phelps Jacob and one of the first bras she created. (Photo Credit: India Times)

Did you know that World War I played a pivotal role in the popularization of the bra? Before the war, corsets were the norm for women, often made with metal boning. As the war effort ramped up, the need for metal in military equipment led to a shortage. Enter Mary Phelps Jacob, an American socialite who invented the modern bra in 1914 using silk handkerchiefs and ribbon. Her invention marked the beginning of a new era in women’s undergarments. Now bras are even worn on the outside, a symbol of the avant-garde.

THE ROARING TWENTIES’ REBELS

A flapper girl look. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The 1920s roared with change, and nothing epitomized this era of liberation more than the flappers. These daring young women defied conventional norms with their short-bobbed hair, bold makeup, and knee-length dresses. Flappers embraced jazz music, dance, and a freer lifestyle. Coco Chanel played a significant role in this movement, designing clothes that allowed women to move freely and express their newfound independence. She also introduced The Little Black Dress (LBD), a symbol of an essential wardrobe piece.

HOLLYWOOD’S PANTS PIONEER

Katharine Hepburn in 1939 wearing trousers. (Photo Credit: Shutterstck)

Long before pants became a staple in women’s wardrobes, one iconic figure in Hollywood was already breaking the mold: Katherine Hepburn. In the 1930s and 1940s, when it was still considered scandalous for women to wear trousers, her preference for high-waisted, wide-legged trousers made a powerful statement. A symbol of independence and defiance against gender norms.

THE BIKINI

French designer Louis Réard created the first bikini in 1946. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Introduced in 1946 by French designer Louis Réard, the bikini was named after the Bikini Atoll, where atomic bomb tests were conducted. The daring design was initially a controversial symbol but has since become a beachwear staple.

THE MINISKIRT REVOLUTION

Mary Quant’s 2019 exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. (Photo Credit: Getty)

The miniskirt, introduced by Mary Quant in the 1960s, was more than just a fashion statement; it symbolized the liberation and empowerment of women during the Swinging Sixties. It was daring, bold, and reflected the youthful rebellion of the era. The miniskirt has since become an enduring icon of fashion history, continually reinvented by designers worldwide.

THE POWER SUIT

Jerry Hall in Armani’s spring 1980 show. (Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal)

In the 1980s, the Power Suit became a symbol of women’s rising influence in the workplace. Pioneered by designers like Giorgio Armani, the suit featured broad shoulders and tailored lines, exuding confidence and authority. It marked a significant shift in women’s fashion, blending femininity with the sharpness traditionally associated with men’s business attire.

SUSTAINABLE FASHION: A RETURN TO ROOTS

Sustainability in fashion might seem like a modern concept, but it has deep historical roots. Before the rise of fast fashion, clothing was made to last and often recycled. In the early 20th century, it was common to repurpose and mend garments. The current movement towards sustainable fashion is a return to these values, emphasizing quality, longevity, both  symbols of environmental consciousness.

Care to share your favorite fashion history moments and symbols?

Looking for a Unique Wedding Dress? Why Not Try a 3D Printed Version?

 

Iris van Herpen first 3D printed wedding dress 2024

Brazilian lawyer, Mariana Pavani, wearing a first-of-it-kind 3D printed wedding dress designed by Iris van Herpen (Photo credit: Yahoo.com)

In the exciting world of fashion where imagination meets reality, a revolution, that has taken more than a decade to gain traction, is finally unfolding. Once a futuristic concept, 3D printed clothing is beginning to literally reshape the very ‘fabric’ of the industry. This cutting-edge technology allows designers to transcend traditional limitations, crafting garments that are not only visually stunning, but also customizable and sustainable. And now, the Queen of 3D, Iris van Herpen, has created the first 3D printed wedding dress. This one-of-a-kind garment required 600 hours to actualize, 41 hours of printing and yielded a file size of 216.7 MB. There are no seams. You could not do this with a typical pattern,” said van Herpen, who used the program ZBrush to draft the bodice design.

IRIS VAN HERPEN

CRYSTALLISATION - Iris van Herpen - 2010

Iris van Herpen created her Skeleton Dress (left) in 2020 but her first 3D-printed pieces were from her 2010 Crystallisation collection (right)(Image Credit: Pinterest.com) 

3D-printed dress for Dita Von Teese in 2013 by Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti. (Photo Credit: Dezeen)

“In 2013, the first fully articulated 3-D printed gown was created for burlesque icon, Dita Von Teese, using Shapeways 3-D technology; Francis Bitonti was the dress’s architect and Michael Schmidt, designer. The gown had nearly 3000 unique articulated joints and was adorned with over 12,000 Swarovski crystals”, according Francesca Sterlacci, co-author of  the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry and founder/CEO of University of Fashion.

In an industry where trends move at lightning speed, when it comes to technology however, it’s been a slow crawl. For example, 3D design software (such as Browzwear & CLO 3D) has taken decades to be integrated into the design and manufacturing process. And the same is true for 3D printed wearable fashion. In our tech-phobic industry, it is finally happening though, thanks to some very ambitious and tech savvy designers who are implementing cutting-edge technology into their collections. Let’s take a look:

 

ANOUK WIPPRECHT

Spider Dress 2.0 by Anouk Wipprecht. (Photo Credit: Anouk Wipprecht)

Anouk Wipprecht stands out for her innovative use of technology in fashion. Her Spider Dress 2.0,  is a prime example. It features robotic spider legs that respond to the wearer’s environment. Similarly, her Smoke Dress interacts with its surroundings, emitting smoke when someone gets too close. These designs are more than just clothing; they are interactive experiences that showcase the potential of 3D printing combined with robotics and smart technology.

THE ETHEREAL INCUNABULA DRESS

Incunabula Dress by Kaat Debo, Alexandra Verschueren and Tobias Klein. (Photo Credit: i. Materialise)

Kaat Debo, alongside collaborators Alexandra Verschueren and Tobias Klein, introduced the Incunabula Dress, a masterpiece of organic design and 3D printing. The dress, with its intricate patterns and fluid form, exemplifies the potential for 3D printing to bring complex, nature-inspired designs to life in ways that traditional methods cannot.

MARINA HOERMANSEDER AND JULIA KOERNER

Smock Corset by Marina Hoermanseder and Julia Koerner. (Photo Credit: AP Photo)

The Smock Corset by Marina Hoermanseder and Julia Koerner is another example of how 3D printing can transform traditional fashion items. This stylized corset combines historical design with futuristic technology, offering a glimpse into how 3D printing can revolutionize not just aesthetics but also the structural aspects of fashion.

threeASFOUR’s INTERDIMENSIONAL AND LAURA THAPTHIMKUNA’S VORTEX DRESS

Interdimensional by threeASFOUR. (Photo Credit: Schohaja)

threeASFOUR’s Interdimensional collection uses 3D printing to explore the boundaries of wearable art, creating pieces that seem to exist in multiple dimensions at once. Laura Thapthimkuna’s Vortex Dress, on the other hand, uses 3D printing to craft a garment that visually represents the dynamic flow of energy, offering a striking example of how fashion can convey abstract concepts through design.

Vortex Dress by Laura Thapthimkuna. (Photo Credit: Laura Thapthimkuna)

GEMS OF THE OCEAN

Gems of the Ocean by Melinda Looi with Samuel Canning. (Photo Credit: i. Materialise)

Melinda Looi’s Gems of the Ocean, created with Samuel Canning, showcases the potential of 3D printing to bring nature-inspired designs to life with stunning precision. This collection captures the beauty of marine life, translating it into wearable art that blurs the line between fashion and natural history.

ADA HEFETZ

Two of the wedding dresses created utilizing 3D printing by Ada Hefetz. (Photo Credit: Stav Peretz)

Ada Hefetz’s 3D printed wedding dress is a testament to how this technology can transform even the most traditional of garments. The dress features intricate lace patterns that are both delicate and robust, offering brides a unique blend of elegance and innovation.

GERT-JOHAN COETZEE

Gert-Johan Coetzee created a 3D printed dress for the Miss Universe pageant. (Photo Credit: Notebook Check)

South African designer Gert-Johan Coetzee took 3D printing to the global stage with a stunning dress at the Miss Universe pageant. This design highlighted the versatility and spectacle that 3D printing can bring to high-profile fashion events.

JULIA DAVIY

A look from Julia Daviy. (Photo Credit: Julia Daviy)

Julia Daviy is a pioneer in sustainable fashion, using 3D printing to create biodegradable garments. Her designs prove that fashion can be both eco-friendly and cutting-edge, addressing the industry’s environmental impact while still pushing creative boundaries.

DANIT PELEG

Danit Peleg Craftbot 3D printed dress. (Photo Credit: Danit Peleg)

Danit Peleg is known for her fully 3D printed fashion collections which she makes available for purchase online. Her work demonstrates the potential for 3D printing to democratize fashion, making high-tech, bespoke garments accessible to a wider audience.

JESSICA ROSENKRANTZ

Jessica Rosenkrantz’s Kinematic Dress. (Photo Credit: Sculpteo)

Jessica Rosenkrantz’s Kinematic Dress is a marvel of design and engineering. Using a system of interlocking pieces, the dress moves and flows like fabric, showcasing the unique capabilities of 3D printing to create flexible, wearable art.

VIPTIE 3D

3D printed ties developed by Viptie 3D. (Photo Credit: Viptie 3D)

Even men’s fashion is getting a 3D printed makeover, with Viptie 3D leading the charge. Their intricately designed ties offer a glimpse into how this technology can bring a new level of personalization and creativity to men’s accessories.

As designers continue to explore the possibilities of 3D printing, the future of fashion looks more innovative and exciting than ever. So tell us, if  you have experimented with 3D Printing?

UoF Launches Adaptive Fashion Series

Poster frames of UoF 5 lesson Adaptive fashion seriesUniversity of Fashion launches their 5-part Adaptive Fashion Series taught by Tracy Vollbrecht of Vollbrecht Adaptive Consulting (Photo courtesy: University of Fashion)

Did you know that there are more clothing options available for dogs than there are for people with disabilities? It took a long time coming, but the fashion industry is finally addressing the needs of the disability community, which is known today as Adaptive Fashion.

Thanks to our expert Tracy Vollbrecht, the University of Fashion is launching its 5-part Adaptive Fashion series to help educate the industry in the Adaptive Fashion marketplace. Our new series covers: the history adaptive fashion, how to design & develop adaptive fashion and how to merchandise and market product for the adaptive fashion consumer.

Headshot of Tracy Vollbrecht - instructor at UoF

Tracy Vollbrecht of Vollbrecht Adaptive Consulting and University of Fashion instructor (Image courtesy: Vollbrecht Adaptive Consulting)

Our series begins with the terminology used when referring to various types of disabilities. Ms. Vollbrecht also offers a downloadable Terms and Definitions document to help understand  appropriate language and terms used is this specialized market segment.

Molly Farrell, a white woman with brown hair, is shown in this photo wearing ULEX, one of the brands Tracy designed and helped launch. Molly is wearing a royal blue wrap cardigan and gray pants, while seated on bleachers. She is smiling brightly and her pink forearm crutches are visible in the photo.

Adaptive fashion designed by Tracy Vollbrecht for Yarrow featured on the Canadian TV show Fashion Dis (Image courtesy: Tracy Vollbrecht)

Ms. Vollbrecht’s history of the adaptive market covers such innovators as Helen Cookman, who in 1955, began researching the market potential of adaptable clothing at New York University’s Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation after being recommended for the role by New York Times style editor Virginia Pope. Cookman would spend the next four years developing a collection called Functional Fashions, which was a collection of 17 items designed to help disabled people dress independently. However, Ms. Vollbrecht explains that upon the passing of Helen Cookman and Virginia Pope the functional fashion movement began to fade and was replaced with clothing intended to make dressing easier for the elderly. It wouldn’t be until 2004-2007 that The Adaptive Fashion Showroom and the company Wheeliechix-Chic, founded by Louisa Summerfield, came into being and would take adaptive fashion to the next level.

Monica Engle Thomas, a white woman with curly auburn hair, is shown in this photo wearing a white Yarrow sleeveless button down that Tracy designed. Monica sits in her black and white manual wheelchair. She also wears sunglasses and jeans, while holding the leash to her small dog.

Monica Engle Thomas wearing a white Yarrow sleeveless button down designed by Tracy Vollbrecht (Image courtesy: Yarrow)

Tracy Vollbrecht Interview

UoF founder  Francesc Sterlacci sat down with Tracy Vollbrecht to learn why she became interested in designing for the adaptive market and her thoughts on where the market is headed.

Francesca: Were you formally trained as a fashion designer and if so, where? What motivated you to pursue a career in adaptive fashion?

Tracy: I am! I graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design. At Kent, I had the opportunity to conduct research on adaptive fashion, which was still in its second-wave infancy. I say second-wave as there was a first wave of adaptive fashion in the 60s (check out the history of adaptive fashion lesson to learn more!). Within the research I conducted, I spoke to over 75 people with varying disabilities to learn about their challenges with clothing. My research culminated in a universally designed collection shown at Kent’s annual fashion show, a published research paper, and presenting my research at various conferences, including the International Textile and Apparel Association’s annual conference. The work I did at Kent showed me that clothing challenges weren’t just an issue my dad, who had MS, had experienced, but an issue that so many people face. This motivates me every day to continue the work I do – clothing should allow everyone to express themselves and feel good, not just some of us.

Francesca: How in demand are designers with adaptive fashion expertise? How did you connect with the companies that you have designed for in this space?

Tracy: Unfortunately, adaptive fashion is still very much a niche portion of the fashion industry, which is what myself and others are working to change. There isn’t a high demand for adaptive fashion designers yet. I’m hopeful that the niche will grow and there will be more demand for designers, merchandisers, buyers, marketers, etc with adaptive fashion experience. The companies I’ve worked with have either sought me out, were referred to me, or that I connected with them through network connections.

Francesca: Can you name the companies that you have designed for and/or who you are currently working for? Are their dedicated online and brick & mortar stores exclusively selling adaptive fashion?

Tracy: My first adaptive fashion role was with Juniper Unlimited where I designed and helped launch their brands’ Yarrow and ULEX. In my consulting work with Vollbrecht Adaptive Consulting, I’ve developed training resources for Target, taught lectures at IFA Paris, conducted research for Open Style Lab, and more. I can’t share who I’m working with at the moment, but I am definitely excited for what’s to come! At this stage, adaptive fashion is almost exclusively online. As we talk about in our merchandising lesson, online shopping has both pros and cons for the Disabled consumer. It’ll be great to see brands start to carry adaptive products in store, where the shopper can find them organically.

Francesca: What are the biggest challenges in designing for people with physical challenges?

Tracy: The biggest challenges for creating adaptive fashion are the variety in needs and the fashion cycle. Within the disability community and even within the same disability (physical or not), there is so much variety in clothing needs, body shape, and challenges. No two disabilities are the same, which is why it’s so important for brands to work with people with disabilities. However, the time and effort needed to properly develop clothing that actually works for all is at odds with the fast-fashion, trend driven nature of the fashion industry currently.

Molly Farrell, a white woman with brown hair, is shown in this photo wearing ULEX, one of the brands Tracy designed and helped launch. Molly is wearing a royal blue wrap cardigan and gray pants, while seated on bleachers. She is smiling brightly and her pink forearm crutches are visible in the photo.

Molly Farrell wearing a top designed by Tracy Vollbrecht from ULEX- one of the brands she helped launch (Photo courtesy: ULEX)

Francesca: Do you see the adaptive market growing since companies like Tommy Hilfiger and other big brands have become more inclusive?

Tracy: Definitely! There is so much potential for brands to tap into the unmet needs of consumers with disabilities. Just because a few brands have gotten into the space doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more brands, all brands really, to get into the market. There will be “enough” adaptive fashion when consumers with disabilities have the same amount of choice in brand, price, and style as consumers without disabilities.

Francesca: What advice do you have for our students who may be interested in designing adaptive fashion?

Tracy: My advice to any student is that adaptive fashion is more than just adaptive design. Every role within the fashion industry (merchandising, product development, buying, marketing, etc.) is needed to make sure adaptive fashion gets into the hands of the consumer. If you have an interest in adaptive fashion, pursue it! Follow Disabled creators on social media; stay up to date on what brands are doing; volunteer for fashion shows. For designers specifically, adaptive fashion is still fashion. Getting experience working for fashion brands is essential. Since the adaptive market is still growing and there aren’t many adaptive design roles, take advantage of learning the process of design and development for non-adaptive fashion as that process still applies to adaptive fashion.

To learn more about Tracy Vollbrecht:

Cell: 732-632-7071

Website: www.vollbrechtadaptiveconsulting.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tracy-vollbrecht/

Company LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/vollbrecht-adaptive-consulting

Learn More About the Adaptive Market

Read the book: All About Adaptive by Michele Chung

Learn how a new store in Pasadena, California caters to Adaptive Fashion consumers: Sewn Adaptive

So, tell us, how will you be pursuing a career in the Adaptive Fashion market?

THE POWER OF THE COLOR

The REDress Project installation. (Photo Credit: ABC News)

Color has long been used to signify social and political status and to convey other critical messages without saying a word. During the Byzantine era, only royals could wear the color purple, which represented rarity, piety, magic, and mystery. In the Middle Ages, red symbolized the blood of Christ and was worn by kings to signify their God-given right to rule. According to Hannah Craggs, senior color editor at trend-forecasting consultancy WGSN, “Throughout history, color has been used as a tool of self-expression and peaceful protest.”

 

demonstrators wearing pink pussyhats

Women wearing pink pussyhats as part of the 2017 anti-Trump Women’s March movement. (Photo credit: Wire)

In present day terms, we only need to look at the first Women’s March in January 2017, whereby millions of women and their allies banded together globally wearing pink pussyhats as a visible symbol of protest to the Trump presidency. At the 75th Golden Globe Awards in 2018, the color black was strategically worn by female actors to support the #TimesUp movement. In 2019, women politicians wore white to the State of the Union as a way to honor suffragists, while also making a pointed statement about the landmark number of women elected to the US Congress. And today, the color purple, used by Alice Walker and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in their novels, The Color Purple and Purple Hibiscus, is used to signify and signal a new awakening and rebirth of their characters.

In last week’s UoF blog entitled Threads of Unity, we discussed Kirstie Macleod’s Red Dress Project, a red dress that took 14 years to complete and was stitched together by the hands of 380 embroidery artisans, across 51 countries.

Today, we will focus on the REDress Project, National Ribbon Skirt Day and the Red Ribbon Skirt Project, projects that draw attention to the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) epidemic in the United States and Canada.

The REDress Project

Video of The REDress Project at the National Museum of the American Indian. (Video Credit: YouTube, Smithsonian NMAI)

Picture a landscape adorned with red dresses hanging from trees, billowing in the wind like ghostly echoes of untold stories. The REDress Project, conceived by artist Jaime Black, is a public art installation that began in 2010, and that breathes life into a poignant symbol aimed at raising awareness about the staggering number of missing and murdered Indigenous women(MMIW) across North America.

The REDress Project installation at the University of Winnipeg. (Photo Credit: National Museum of the American Indian)

Each red dress, carefully selected or donated, represents a life lost or a woman still missing. The installation art project serves as a visual reminder, challenging communities to confront the harsh realities faced by Indigenous women. The choice of the color red is deliberate – the artist chose the color after conversations with an indigenous friend, who told her that red is the only color the spirits can see. “So (red) is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us and have their voices heard through their family members and community”, Jaime Black told CTV news. The artist has also suggested “red symbolizes both vitality and violence” according to The Washington Post.

As these empty dresses sway in the wind, they carry with them the weight of countless narratives, invoking a call to action for justice and systemic change. The REDress Project transcends its artistic origins, becoming a powerful voice for Indigenous communities advocating for the safety and well-being of their women.

The REDress Project installation at the Seaforth Peace Park, Vancouver, Canada. (Photo Credit: Wipkipedia)

The project has inspired other artists to use red to draw attention to the issue of MMIW, and prompted the creation of Red Dress Day, which occurs on May 5th. The first Red Dress Day was observed in 2010 and is a day to honor and bring awareness to the thousands of Indigenous women and girls, who have gone missing or who have been murdered.

National Ribbon Skirt Day

Isabella Kulak was the center around the National Ribbon Skirt Day Movement. (Photo Credit: CBC News)

Amidst the sobering echoes of the REDress Project, a day of celebration and cultural pride emerged – National Ribbon Skirt Day. This event is observed on January 4th and was first celebrated in 2023. The day was inspired by Isabella Kulak, an Indigenous girl in Saskatchewan who was humiliated for wearing a traditional ribbon skirt to a formal dress day at her elementary school in 2020.

The ribbon skirt, a traditional garment worn by Indigenous women, serves as a testament to the strength and spirit of Indigenous cultures. It embodies a connection to heritage, land, and community. Red Ribbon Skirt Day invites individuals to don this symbolic garment, fostering a sense of unity and pride within Indigenous communities.

The Red Ribbon Skirt Project

The Red Ribbon Skirt Project aims to help grieving Indigenous families heal. (Photo Credit: APTN News)

Complementing National Ribbon Skirt Day is the Red Ribbon Skirt Project, a grassroots movement that empowers Indigenous women through art and storytelling. This initiative encourages women to create and share their own red ribbon skirts, each adorned with personal symbols and stories that reflect their unique journeys.

The Red Ribbon Skirt Project transforms the red ribbon skirt into a canvas of empowerment, giving a voice to those who have been silenced for too long. Through the creation of these symbolic garments, women reclaim their narratives and celebrate the strength inherent in their identity.

According to the Museum on Vancouver, “ribbon skirts and dresses have been worn by Indigenous women in Canada since the early 1800s. Large amounts of ribbon were imported by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 19th Century for the Indigenous wives of fur traders and their children. The clothing made with ribbon has become an important part of Indigenous culture. Ribbon dresses continue to represent the wearer’s identity and are viewed as symbols of resilience.”

Jamie Smallboy cuts fabric to make a red ribbon skirt at Strathcona Community Centre in Vancouver. (Photo Credit: APTN News)

Jamie Smallboy/Nohtikwew pisim is Plains Cree but lives in Vancouver. In 2019, she began the Red Sisters Gathering, a group that sews red ribbon skirts for the families of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls—and the skirts were worn at the Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver on Feb. 14, 2022. In 2021, Smallboy also founded the non-profit society Sweetgrass Sisters Healing, which now administers the Red Ribbon Skirt Project.  Below is a video to learn more about the movement.

Video of the Red Ribbon Skirt Project. (Video Courtesy of YouTube, Museum of Vancouver)

In a world where the echoes of the REDress Project linger, and the National Ribbon Skirt Day and Red Ribbon Skirt Project flourish, the power of red becomes a unifying force. It is a hue that transcends sorrow while embodying the resilience, pride, and strength of Indigenous communities. Through art, color, activism, and cultural celebration, these projects invite us to listen, learn, and stand in solidarity with those who have long been marginalized.

To learn more about color, color theory and color relationships, view these lessons: on the UoF website:

Color Relationships                                                                         Color Theory-The Basics

poster frame images of color lesson on UoF website

So, tell us, how has color inspired your work?

ANNE LOWE: CELEBRATING THE LEGACY OF AN AMERICAN COURTIER

In the hushed corridors of high fashion, Ann Lowe stands as a beacon of timeless elegance and innovation. Her creations, woven with meticulous craftsmanship and a touch of magic, have graced the shoulders of First Ladies and socialites alike. Now, a new exhibit at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, which is located in Delaware, promises to unveil the secrets behind Lowe’s enduring influence on American couture.

The exhibit is titled “Ann Lowe: Threads of Elegance,” the exhibition transports visitors into the enchanting world of this unsung fashion genius. As the doors swing open, the ethereal presence of Lowe’s designs beckons from the pedestals, drawing admirers into a realm where every stitch tells a story.

Anne Lowe’s whimsical creations. (Photo Credit: Winterthur Museum)

Ann Lowe’s journey to becoming a couturier extraordinaire was marked by resilience and passion. Born in rural Clayton, Alabama in 1898, Lowe’s early fascination with fabrics and design was nurtured by her mother and grandmother, a former slave and skilled dressmaker. Lowe was only a teenager when she developed not only her expert technical skills, but also her distinctive style—feminine, graceful, and elegant. Her beautiful creations often incorporated her signature hand-made floral elements which society women adored.

Her remarkable career took her through the Jim Crow South, from Montgomery, Alabama, to Tampa, Florida, and in 1928 to New York City, the fashion capital of the United States. Although Lowe’s work made her an asset to wealthy society women around the country, as a young black woman she also experienced the chaotic hardships of the fashion business and segregated America in a period of dramatic change.

Lowe’s creations place her amongst America’s exceptional fashion designers, and her life illustrates a legacy of Black women’s knowledge and skills that began as enslaved labor. With the odds against woman of color at the time, Lowe fought hard and positioned herself as a creative designer, a fashion insider, and a vital contributor to American culture. This legacy of creativity and determination set the stage for Lowe’s rise in the fashion world.

The Winterthur exhibit expertly curates Lowe’s life’s work, showcasing her evolution from an apprentice to a trailblazer who challenged racial and gender barriers in the early 20th century. Each garment on display is a testament to Lowe’s ability to blend sophistication with simplicity, creating pieces that resonate with grace and charm.

Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress when she married John F. Kennedy in 1953. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

A highlight of the exhibit is Lowe’s groundbreaking creation for Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding in 1953. Despite the prevailing racial prejudices of the time, the First Lady’s iconic wedding dress was a testament to Lowe’s unparalleled talent. The Winterthur Museum has spared no expense in recreating the magic of that historic gown, allowing visitors to marvel at the intricate details that captivated the nation.

Jacqueline Kennedy in her Ann Lowe-designed wedding dress. (Photo Credit: Elle Magazine)

In 1964, The Saturday Evening Post referred to couturier Ann Lowe as “Society’s Best-Kept Secret.” Although Lowe had been creating couture-quality gowns for America’s most prominent debutantes, heiresses, actresses, and society brides—including Jacqueline Kennedy, Olivia de Havilland, and Marjorie Merriweather Post—for years, Lowe remained practically unknown to the public. The designer has been given far too little recognition for her influence on American fashion, but this exhibit will surely breath new life into Lowe’s whimsical creations.

Elizabeth Mance wears an Ann Lowe design in a wedding photograph circa 1968. Lowe can be seen behind the bride and her father being escorted into the church. (Photo Credit: Elle Magazine)

As you wander through the exhibit, it’s impossible to ignore the influence Ann Lowe had on shaping American fashion. Her designs were a symphony of elegance, transcending the trends of the moment and becoming timeless classics. From glamorous ball gowns to chic day dresses, each piece is a masterclass in the art of couture.

The Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library have gone above and beyond to create an immersive experience. The exhibit space is adorned with floral arrangements reminiscent of Lowe’s favorite blooms, creating an ambiance that mirrors the grace and beauty of her designs.

Ann Lowe, photographed for the December 1966 edition of Ebony magazine. (Photo Credit: Elle Magazine)

Beyond the couture, the exhibit delves into Lowe’s personal life, offering glimpses into the challenges she faced as a woman of color in a predominantly white, male industry. It’s a poignant reminder that her success was not only measured in the stitches and seams but also in the resilience that defined her journey.

Ann Lowe: Threads of Elegance” is not just an exhibition; it’s a celebration of an artist who broke barriers and left an indelible mark on American fashion. As you step into the Winterthur Museum, be prepared to be transported into the world of Ann Lowe—a world where elegance knows no bounds, and creativity is truly timeless.

Ann Lowe: American Couturier can be purchased at the Wintherur Store online. (Photo Credit: Wintherur Museum.)

If you cannot make it to the exhibit, you can purchase her book which features vivid new photographs of Lowe’s creations—including intricate details of her exquisite handwork and signature floral embellishments. The book also includes essays that explore the trials and achievements of Lowe’s life, contextualize her work, as well as profile Black designers whose work reflects her influence. There are also behind-the-scenes looks at the astonishing efforts to preserve Lowe’s gowns.

Lowe, photographed for the December 1966 edition of Ebony magazine. (Photo Credit: Elle Magazine)

So tell us, which historic designers have had the greatest influence on your designs?

Veteran’s Day: Saluting Style & Strength

- - Fashion History

A look from Sacai’s Spring 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

As we celebrated Veterans Day on November 11th, we honor the brave men and women who have served in the armed forces. It’s a day to express gratitude, admiration, and respect for the sacrifices made by our veterans. But beyond parades and solemn ceremonies, it’s also a moment to celebrate the influence of military history on the world of fashion. We will explore how military-inspired fashion has made its mark on runways and especially acknowledge the remarkable women who played a crucial role during World War II – the era that ignited a fashion revolution.

COMMANDING STYLE

A look from The Attico’s Spring 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Military-inspired fashion has a long history of making a bold statement on runways worldwide. Drawing from the uniform designs of various armed forces, designers have incorporated elements such as epaulettes, camouflage patterns, trench coats, and combat boots into their collections. These garments, often imbued with a sense of authority and structure, have been embraced by fashion enthusiasts seeking to make a powerful fashion statement.

During and after World War II, the military look permeated the fashion world. The iconic trench coat, originally designed for British soldiers, found its place in civilian wardrobes. The “bomber jacket” was adapted from aviation uniforms, becoming a symbol of cool rebellion and youthful style. Even the classic sailor stripe and sailor collar, inspired by naval uniforms, continue to be timeless fashion staples. Join us on a sartorial journey as we explore the chic, commanding and timeless world of military-inspired fashion.

THE TIMELESS TRENCH COAT

A look from Maison Margiela’s Spring 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

The trench coat, born on the battlefields of World War I, has become a symbol of sophistication and versatility. Its distinctive double-breasted design, epaulettes, and weather-resistant fabric exude an air of authority and practicality. Whether cinched at the waist with a belt or left open for a relaxed look, the trench coat is a must-have for every fashion-forward fashionista.

MARCHING ORDERS

A look from Balenciaga’s Spring 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Camouflage patterns, designed to help soldiers blend into their surroundings, have become a high-impact fashion statement. From cargo pants to jackets, the camo trend makes a bold and unapologetic impression. Celebrities, models, and street-style aficionados have all embraced this print, effortlessly fusing military precision with urban street style.

THE BOMBER

A look from Undercover’s Spring 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Originally designed for aviators, the bomber jacket has transcended its utilitarian roots to become a symbol of rebellion and youth culture. Its ribbed cuffs, waist, and collar, give it an iconic silhouette that exudes a sense of edginess. Today, bomber jackets come in various materials and colors, making them a versatile addition to any wardrobe.

REGAL IN OFFICER’S ATTIRE

A look from Ralph Lauren’s Spring 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

Military-style blazers with gold buttons, brass details, and sharp tailoring, lend an air of formality and elegance. Inspired by officer’s uniforms, these garments exude authority and sophistication. Paired with jeans for a casual look or a sleek pencil skirt for a professional ensemble, military blazers are a timeless choice for those who ‘command’ attention.

A look from Balmain’s Spring 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

TIME FOR COMBAT

Prada’s iconic combat boots. (Photo Credit: Prada)

Combat boots, initially crafted for soldiers to withstand the rigors of the battlefield, have become a staple in fashion. With their rugged, no-nonsense appearance, they effortlessly juxtapose with dresses, skirts, and denim, adding a dash of punk rock attitude to any outfit.

EARNING YOUR STRIPES

A look from Schiaparelli’s Spring 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

The classic sailor stripe, inspired by naval uniforms, continues to be a timeless fashion staple. Breton stripes bring a nautical charm to any outfit and can be effortlessly incorporated into both casual and formal looks. Whether it’s a striped tee or a striped dress, this pattern always ‘anchors’ your style.

WOMAN OF VALOR

Women in the Army during WW2. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

On Veterans Day, we should also celebrate the unsung heroines who played pivotal roles during World War II, reshaping history and leaving an indelible mark. We’s like to honor those women of valor – the Rosie the Riveters, the Pin-up girls on the sides of warplanes, the nurses, the secretaries, and all the women who raised their children solo, while their men were off at war. We appreciate their wartime contributions through the ages and the heightened role they play in military service today.

ROSIE THE RIVETER

Rosie the Riveter Poster. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department Of Defense)

Rosie the Riveter, a symbol of female empowerment during World War II, became an icon of resilience and determination. With her rolled-up sleeves, red bandana, and a strong, confident demeanor, Rosie represented the countless women who stepped into factory roles to support the war effort. She inspired not only women in the workforce but also fashion trends with her practical yet stylish jumpsuit, the modern boiler suit, and the fashionable reimagining of the iconic polka-dotted bandana.

PIN-UP GIRLS

World War II,  U.S. Army Vintage Print Pin-up. (Photo Credit: Etsy)

In the midst of wartime uncertainty, pin-up girls adorned the sides of warplanes, bringing both beauty and morale to the frontlines. These alluring images, often featuring glamorous women in patriotic poses, became symbols of hope and inspiration for the troops. Today, the pin-up girl aesthetic continues to influence fashion, from high-waisted bikinis to retro-inspired dresses, capturing the playful and vintage appeal of that era.

ANGELS OF MERCY: NURSES

Navy nurses dressed in new uniforms, in the nurses quarters at Aiea Naval Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii, early March 1945 after liberation. (Photo Credit: Navel History and Heritage Command)

The nurses of World War II, often referred to as “angels of mercy,” played a vital role in caring to the wounded soldiers. Their courage, compassion, and dedication continue to be an inspiration. While their uniforms were functional and practical, their commitment to duty remains unmatched. Today, their spirit lives on in the clean lines and crisp whites of medical-inspired fashion, reflecting an air of professionalism and compassion.

SECRETARIAL DUTY

Women’s Army Corps during WWII. (Photo Credit: Britannica)

The secretaries, typists, and administrative assistants of the wartime era were the backbone of military logistics. They were tasked with managing the ever-growing volumes of paperwork and correspondence. Their contributions paved the way for modern office attire, with pencil skirts, tailored blouses, and sleek accessories. These outfits exemplify the blend of professionalism and elegance that marked the wartime working woman.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

The Women’s Army Corps (WAC)  in WWII. (Photo Credit: National Woman’s History Museum)

So, this Veterans Day, as we remember and honor those who served, let’s also celebrate the intersection of style and strength – a legacy that endures through military-inspired fashion. These designs connect us to the past and continue to inspire us in the present, reminding us of the remarkable women and men who shaped history during wartime.

So, tell us, are you a fan of military-inspired fashion?

JUNETEENTH: Celebrating African American Quilters & Creatives

 

(Image Credit: Louisville Black Creatives – Facebook.com)

Juneteenth marks the day when General Gordon Granger of the Union Army strolled into Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, to announce that the last of the 250,000 remaining enslaved people in the Confederacy were freed from the shackles of slavery, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

To celebrate Juneteenth, this week’s blogpost is dedicated to African Americans artisans, both past and present, who use their creativity to tell stories through the art of quilting. We will also highlight African American quilters and artisans who, through textiles and handcraftsmanship, are modern-day griots, these creatives are continuing the tradition of African tribal storytelling to preserve the genealogies and oral traditions of their culture.

Fashion has always held an important role in the evolution of mankind, whether to express status or as a vehicle for social change. But the art and craft of fashion, specifically quilting, has held an even deeper meaning for the African American community and is as almost as old as the history of America.

One of the first enslaved African women to be officially recorded in the colony of Virginia in 1619 was Angela (likely born in present-day Angola). Angela is considered one the ‘First Africans” and like many Black women to follow, were charged with spinning, weaving, sewing, and quilting on plantations for their enslavers, while often weaving their own family’s clothing to keep warm and survive.

Over time, some African American household slaves became highly skilled in creating quilts and while very few examples of these early quilts survived due to the heavy wear they received, what was initially a tool of oppression became an expression of liberation.

Hidden in Plain View by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD QUILT CODES

The Underground Railroad (UCRR) was a network of people and places that assisted southern slaves escape to free states in the North and Canada prior to the start of the Civil War in 1861. According to legend, a safe house along the UCRR was often indicated by a quilt hanging from a clothesline or windowsill. These quilts were embedded with a kind of code, so that by reading the shapes and motifs sewn into the design, an enslaved person on the run could know the area’s immediate dangers or even where to head next.

In the book entitled, Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad, the authors reveal how enslaved men and women made encoded quilts and then used them to navigate their escape on the Underground Railroad. Quilts with patterns named “the Charleston Code,” “wagon wheel,” “tumbling blocks,” and “bear’s paw”, contained secret messages that helped direct slaves to freedom.

Example of a Charleston Code Quilt – helped navigate slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad

When slaves made their escape, they used their memory of the quilts as a mnemonic device to guide them safely along their journey. For example: a bow tie meant “dress in disguise to appear of a higher status; a bear paw was an instruction to “follow an animal trail through the mountains to find water and food; and a log cabin warned “seek shelter now, the people here are safe to speak with”.

Example of a Log Cabin quilt with an embedded code to help slaves to freedom.

At the end of the Civil War, African American women continued telling their stories through quilting, maintaining the long-standing cultural significance and its profound roots of ‘woven’ resistance. For more on the history of African American quilting as folk-art visit: http://www.womenfolk.com/quilting_history/afam.html

HARRIET POWERS

Quilter Harriet Powers

Harriet Powers 1837-1910 (Image credit: Museum of Fine Arts Boston)

Born into slavery in Athens, Georgia in 1837, Harriet Powers created quilts once she was emancipated. She used quilting as a catalyst for change and to inspire conversations about race. Her storytelling quilts made use of appliqué techniques and the textiles of Western Africa and are notable for her ability to transmit, through the fabric, her religious faith depicting biblical stories, local events, and celestial occurrences. Powers debuted her first exhibit in 1886 at the Cotton States and International Expo.

For much of the 20th century Powers was erased from the art historical canon, but today she is deservedly considered one of the most accomplished quilt makers of the 19th century.

Only two of Powers’ story quilts have survived: the Bible Quilt which hangs in the Smithsonian Institution and her Pictorial Quilt which is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Harriet Powers – Bible Quilt circa 1886 (Image credit: Smithsonian Institution)

Weaving scraps together became a metaphor for threads of resilience stitched together to preserve remnants of culture, faith, and hope in the African American community. Though often not attributed with bringing the tradition of quilting to the U.S., Black women are among the originators of today’s needle and thread technique.

From navigating the Underground Railroad to telling a family’s story, quilts are more than an heirloom to African American families—they are an act of woven resistance.

Close-up of African American ‘Pine Burr’ quilt circa 1920 found in Selma, Alabama. For sale on 1st Dibs $7,500

One of the most beautiful quilt patterns is the Pine Cone or Pine Burr, which is a three dimensional quilt made of overlapping triangles. These triangles are put in a circular pattern starting at the center, giving the look of a pinecone. The quilt pictured above was made by an African American of unknown provenance. It took weeks to make and was found in Selma, Alabama circa 1920. It is for sale on 1st Dibs for $7,500.

QUILTERS OF GEE’S BEND

Gee’s Bend Quilters Jennie Pettway and Jorena Pettway, 1937 (Photo credit: Arthur Rothstein).

Among the most important quilt contributions to the history of art were made by quilters in the isolated African American hamlet of Gee’s Bend, Alabama in the 1930s. Gee’s Bend quilters developed a distinctive style and are known for their lively improvisations and geometric simplicity.

In 2003, 50 quilt makers founded the Gee’s Bend Collective, which is owned and operated by the women of Gee’s Bend and their work has been exhibited in museums across the country, the most notable in 2004 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Gee’s Bend quilters working a quilt 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia.com)

In 2015, Gee’s Bend quilters Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway were joint recipients of a National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

And in 2023, the Gee’s Bend quilters collaborated with generative artist Anna Lucia to create digital works of art on the blockchain in a project called Generations.

Quilt by Anna Lucia of Gees Bend Quilted physical NFT on a clothesline in Alabama 2023 (Image credit: rightclicksave.com)

 

FAITH RINGGOLD

Faith Ringgold in front of her quilt Tar Beach 1993

Faith Ringgold in front of her quilt Tar Beach 1993 (Image credit: Wikipedia.com)

Faith Ringgold is an artist, activist, quilter, educator and author of numerous award-winning children’s books. Tar Beach, her first children’s book, based on a quilt of the same title, has won over twenty awards including the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award for the best-illustrated children’s book of 1991. Ringgold has made a career-spanning commitment to social justice and equity through a variety of media including oil paintings, tankas, soft sculptures, story quilts and prints. If you are in LA, be sure to catch her show at the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery from May 20-August 12.

 

BISA BUTLER

Artist/quilter Bisa Butler – Quilting for the Culture (Image credit & video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P3_61nh3xo)

Bisa Butler has been called a modern-day Griot, but instead of using words to tell stories, she uses stitches and cloth. Her quilts have graced the covers of magazines, have been the subject of numerous exhibitions and she created the striking illustration for the book “Unbound,” the memoir of activist and Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke. Her show entitled “Bisa Butler: The World is Yours“, is currently showing in NYC from May 6 to June 30, 2023 at 18 Wooster Street. You will be dazzled! Here’s a link to the show info: https://deitch.com/new-york/exhibitions/bisa-butler-the-world-is-yours

 

Artist/Quilter Bisa Butler (Image credit: YouTube)

In my work, I am telling the story— this African American side— of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen. My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years. While we have been right beside our white counterparts experiencing and creating history, our contributions and perspectives have been ignored, unrecorded, and lost. It is only a few years ago that it was acknowledged that the White House was built by slaves. Right there in the seat of power of our country African Americans were creating and contributing while their names were lost to history. My subjects are African Americans from ordinary walks of life who may have sat for a formal family portrait or may have been documented by a passing photographer. Like the builders of the White House, they have no names or captions to tell us who they were.” ~ Bisa Butler

AFRICAN AMERICAN CRAFT INITIATIVE

The African American Craft Initiative – a division of the Smithsonian Artisan Initiative (Photo credit folklife.si.edu)

The African American Craft (AACI) Initiative works to expand the visibility of African American artisans and ensure equitable access to resources. Established through a consultative dialogue process with African American makers and organizations, and the mainstream craft sector in the United States, AACI outlines concrete actions for sustainable change.

Through collaborative research, documentation, and public programming, the initiative builds upon the relationship between craft and community by amplifying and supporting the efforts of African American makers to sustain their craft practice.

QUILTING & THE FASHION INDUSTRY

A$AP Rocky and Rihanna 2021 Met Gala

A$AP Rocky and Rihanna at the Met Gala 2021 (Image credit: GraziaMagazine.com)

Quilting continues to provoke conversations and contemplations around identity, heritage, and healing within the African American Community. African textiles are often central to quilters and fashion designers at large.

 

To learn more about African textiles check out these UoF lessons:

 

To learn more about quilting and various quilt patterns visit Quilt Index https://quiltindex.org

To find out where to purchase African fabrics visit: https://www.quiltafricafabrics.com/collections

Have you viewed our West African textiles lessons yet?

 

CELEBRATING KARL LAGERFELD: AS BOTH ILLUSTRATOR & DESIGNER

 

Karl Lagerfeld Sketches His Life video (Video Link:  You Tube)

In honor of the upcoming MET exhibit entitled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,”  we would like to celebrate Lagerfeld’s work as an accomplished fashion illustrator, as well as a prolific fashion designer. It is a common myth that all fashion designers are able to conceptualize their fashion designs via fashion illustration. The truth is that very few designers know how to ‘illustrate‘. It is much more common for designers to execute a quick fashion ‘sketch‘ to get their design idea across.

Another misconception is that all fashion illustrators can ‘design’. Well, just because one can illustrate fashion doesn’t mean that they can also design fashion. In fact, it is quite rare when a fashion designer can do both. As many of our subscribers know, there are other skills including draping, pattern making and sewing that should be honed to become a successful designer.

Therefore, in lieu of the upcoming MET show, this week’s blog post will highlight Lagerfeld’s work as both a designer and illustrator. And, since we just celebrated World Creativity Day on April 20th, we will also be highlighting other famous designers/illustrators whose illustrations are fast becoming collector’s items, that are either sold at auction houses or on their websites for thousands of dollars.

KARL LAGERFELD: THE ILLUSTRATOR

The upcoming Lagerfeld MET exhibit, which runs from May 5 to July 16, is expected to draw fashion enthusiasts and industry insiders from around the world eager to experience the life and work of one of fashion’s most influential designers. It will feature Lagerfeld’s most iconic designs, including his re-imagined Chanel jackets, Fendi fur pieces and his signature accessories. The exhibit will also include a variety of personal items belonging to Lagerfeld, such as his sketchbooks, personal correspondence and photographs. This is definitely a designers’s dream show come true!

Karl Lagerfeld and his treasured cat Choupette in Paris 2018. (Photo Credit: Annie Leibovitz for Vogue)

Throughout his career, Lagerfeld created a wealth of fashion illustrations that captured the essence of his designs and his unique creative vision. His illustrations were often used to promote his collections and even today, they continue to inspire and captivate fashion enthusiasts.

In Lagerfeld’s early illustration work, you can see that he had a much tighter hand as shown in the images below that he did for the House of Tiziani before he joined Chanel in 1983.  His illustrations were characterized by their bold, graphic style and attention to detail. Over time however, Lagerfeld’s hand became looser and less rigid and therefore was able to capture the movement and flow of fabrics, often highly stylized, with exaggerated proportions and abstracted shapes. Despite their abstract nature, Lagerfeld’s illustrations always conveyed a sense of elegance and sophistication.

Four of the fashion illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld auctioned on April 18, 2019 (Image Credit wwd.com)

Whether Lagerfeld was illustrating a Chanel jacket or a Fendi gown, he always managed to convey the unique character and style of each piece. Used as promotional materials, Lagerfeld’s illustrations helped build anticipation and excitement for each of his upcoming shows.

Illustration of Chanel coat, fall 2017. (Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Lagerfeld’s work was also a reflection of his larger creative vision. He was known for his love of art, literature and culture, and his illustrations often incorporated elements from these fields. For example, he frequently incorporated references to classical art, such as Greek statues, Renaissance paintings or iconic monuments such as the Statue of Liberty. These references added an extra layer of depth and meaning to his work and helped to establish Lagerfeld as a true visionary in the fashion industry.

Lagerfeld’s illustration – Anna Piaggi for Liberty of Fashion, Barney’s New York
1986 (Image Credit: 1stDibs.com)

The work of some fashion designers and fashion illustrators are now highly collectable and are sold on websites like 1stDibs.com, iCanvas.com and Artsy.net or in auction houses around the world.

Lagerfeld illustration

A Karl Lagerfeld illustration circa 1960-1970: original yellow and white coat colored pencil fashion sketch – 10k Appraisal 
Includes a Certificate of Authenticity – sold for US$6,950 (Photo Credit: artsy.net)

In addition to illustrating his collections, Lagerfeld also created a number of illustrations for other purposes, such as books, magazines and even a calendar, showcasing his diverse talents and his ability to adapt his style to different contexts. Lagerfeld’s illustrations were always imbued with his signature style and creativity, making them instantly recognizable as his own.

A Chanel illustration for Lady Gaga created by Karl Lagerfeld. (Photo Credit: Facebook.com)

KARL LAGERFELD: THE DESIGNER

The MET’s Lagerfeld exhibit will consist of approximately 150 designs and according to the MET, it will “explore the artistic methodology and stylistic vocabulary of Karl Lagerfeld’s designs through recurring themes across more than 65 years, from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019”. The Costume Institute Benefit (also known as The Met Gala) will take place on Monday, May 1, 2023.

In addition to showcasing Lagerfeld’s designs, the exhibit will explore the designer’s life and legacy. Lagerfeld was known for his larger-than-life personality, his love of art and literature, and his tireless work ethic. The exhibit will delve into Lagerfeld’s background, including his early life in Germany and his rise to fame in the fashion industry. Visitors will gain insight into Lagerfeld’s creative process, his inspirations, and his collaborations with other artists and designers.

One of the most exciting aspects of the exhibit is the opportunity to see Lagerfeld’s designs up close and personal. Visitors will be able to study the intricate details and craftsmanship that went into creating each piece. From the impeccable tailoring of his jackets to the intricate embroidery on his gowns, Lagerfeld’s designs are a testament to his skill as a designer. Here’s a sample of what will be featured in the exhibition:

Wedding dress by Chanel Haute Couture from the Fall 2005 Collection. (Photo Credit: Julia Hetta. Courtesy of the MET)

A Fendi coat from the fall 2000 Collection. (Photo Credit: Julia Hetta for the MET)

The exhibit will also feature interactive elements, including virtual reality experiences and interactive displays. Visitors will be able to explore Lagerfeld’s designs in a variety of ways, from 3D projections to virtual runway shows. The exhibit will provide a truly immersive experience, giving visitors a chance to step into Lagerfeld’s world and see the fashion industry through his eyes.

KARL LAGERFELD’S INFLUENCE IS STILL FELT TODAY

A vintage photo of Karl Lagerfeld. (Photo Credit Getty Images)

Lagerfeld served as the creative director for Chanel for over three decades, before his passing on February 19, 2019.

Perhaps one of Lagerfeld’s greatest contributions to fashion was his ability to keep Chanel relevant. When he took over as creative director in 1983, the brand was struggling to remain fresh. However, Lagerfeld breathed new life into the heritage brand, infusing it with his own unique style and vision. He was unafraid to take risks and experiment with new ideas, while still remaining true to the brand’s classic aesthetic.

Lagerfeld’s re-invention of the Chanel jacket, which he introduced in the 1980s, was a modern update of the classic silhouette. The jacket became an instant classic and remains a staple of the Chanel collection, in various iterations, today. Although he is no longer with us, Lagerfeld’s influence on fashion will continue to be felt for years to come.

Some of Karl Lagerfeld’s best moments at Chanel. (Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar)

OTHER GREAT FASHION DESIGNERS/ILLUSTRATORS

Most designers working in the fashion industry today have little time to sit down and illustrate their ideas. Most execute quick, rough sketches that they hand off to their assistant or to their pattern maker. But there are fashion designers who prefer to  illustrate their creations and who possess a special talent that enables them to better communicate their vision in a unique and creative way. Most designers will hire a professional fashion illustrator to showcase their work for press purposes, for example, the illustration below is by fashion illustrator Janka Letková for Marc Jacobs. See the illustrator’s signature in small script along the vertical sash.

 

Janka Letková fashion illustration

Fashion illustrator Janka Letková for Marc Jacobs (Image Credit: iCanvas.com)

Other designers are more inclined to promote their work using their own unique style of illustration. Here a a few of the talented fashion designers who illustrate their own creations.

DIOR’S MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI

Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director for Dior, creates exquisite illustrations that are characterized by their romantic, ethereal quality. Her illustrations showcase the details and exquisite craftsmanship of her designs which adds an extra layer of depth and meaning to her work.

 

Maria Grazia Chiuri fashion illustration for Dior for Georgia tour

Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri fashion illustration for recording artist Georgia  for her 2019 tour (Image Credit: fashion press.it.com)

CHRISTIAN LACROIX

French fashion designer Christian Lacroix is also known for his illustration skills, which are characterized by their whimsical, and fantastical style. Lacroix’s illustrations often incorporate elements from art history, such as Rococo motifs and Baroque ornamentation. His illustrations showcase his unique creative vision and his ability to blend different styles and influences into his designs.

Fashion Illustrations by Christian Lacroix (Image Credit: Pinterest.com)

ALBER ELBAZ

Alber Elbaz, the former creative director of Lanvin who sadly passed away on April 24, 2021, was known for his playful and  cartoonish style. His illustrations often featured exaggerated proportions with bright, bold colors and were used to promote his collections. His illustrations were considered artwork in their own right.

A fashion illustration by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin (Image Credit: Pinterest.com) 

CHRISTIAN SIRANO

Christian Siriano is a designer who has built a successful career by creating clothing that celebrates diversity and inclusivity. He is also an accomplished illustrator whose illustrations are playful, yet with a sense of drama and impact. Siriano is one of the designers who sells his limited-edition illustrations, ranging from $75-$1,200, on his website ChristianSiriano.com.

Christian Siriano showing his limited edition fashion illustrations

Christian Siriano showing his limited edition fashion illustrations (Photo Credit: ChristianSiriano.com)

JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER

Jean-Paul Gaultier is a designer known for his daring, unconventional designs. He is also an accomplished illustrator. Gaultier’s illustrations often feature precise, graphic lines, like the one below that he did for Madonna’s MDNA 2012 tour.

fashion illustration by Jean Paul Gaultier 2012

Fashion illustration by Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna’s MDNA Tour 2012

Looking for more info on fashion illustration as collectable items, view our blog from March 14, 21, entitled Looking For a Hot Investment Tip? Try Collectioning Fashion Illustrations.

With the advent of computer-assisted design, fashion illustration has become a luxury for most fashion designers these days. However, at UoF we still promote hand drawn fashion through our Fashion Art discipline consisting of 27 Beginner, 39 Intermediate and 17 Advanced lessons. We teach how to draw, render and illustrate fashion design and accessories and so it’s no wonder that we are head-over-heels excited to see the Lagerfeld show at the MET. Viva La Fashion Illustration!  Viva Lagerfeld!

SO TELL US, DO YOU KNOW OF OTHER FASHION DESIGNERS THAT CAN ILLUSTRATE?

 

 

 

 

 

CELEBRATING KWANZAA: FASHIONABLY

 

A lit kinara – celebrating each day of the 7 guiding principles during Kwanzaa Dec 26-January 1

 

KWANZAA –  is a weeklong celebration held in the United States that honors African heritage in African-American culture and is observed from December 26th to January 1st, culminating in gift giving and a big feast. We’d like to take this opportunity not only to celebrate it and discuss its history and its cultural significance, but also what to wear while celebrating the week long event. We’d also like to remind everyone that our once-yearly subscription discount expires on 1/1/23 and is a subscription to UoF is  great gift for yourself or for that fashionista in your life.

Get $40 off a yearly, was $189/now $149. Use discount code WIN1. Click on this link to sign-up https://www.universityoffashion.com/holiday-offer/

Kwanzaa History 

The holiday is relatively new, compared to other holidays celebrated in the U.S. Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Africana Studies at California State University, first created Kwanzaa in 1966. He created this holiday in response to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965 as a way to bring African-Americans together as a community.

The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means first fruits, or harvest in Swahili. Celebrations often include singing and dancing, storytelling, poetry reading, African drumming, and of course, feasting.

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Dr. Karenga created seven guiding principles to be discussed during the week of Kwanzaa. The seven principles represent seven values of African culture that help build and reinforce community among African-Americans. Each day a different principle is discussed, and each day a candle is lit on the kinara (candleholder). On the first night, the center black candle is lit, and the principle of umoja, or unity is discussed. On the final day of Kwanzaa, families enjoy an African feast, called karamu.

image od 7 Kwanzaa Principles

7 Kwanzaa Guiding Principles

 

What to Wear to Karamu

image of Tongoro's Spring 2022 Collection.

Looks from Tongoro’s Spring 2022 Collection. (Photo Credit: Tongoro)

 

Looks from Ahluwalia’s Spring 2022 Collection. (Photo Credit: Vogue Runway)

 

image of Naomi Campbell at Kenneth Ike's fashion show 2019

Naomi Campbell walks Kenneth Ize’s fashion show at Arise Fashion Week in 2019. (Photo Credit: Kenneth Ize)

 

 

Have you Watched our African Textiles Series? 

In early 2022 we announced our new 5-part lecture series on West African textiles created by Mina Dia-Stevens. We are thrilled to announce the launch of part three,West African Textiles: Senegal-Manjak Cloth. Stay tuned in 2023 for parts 4 and 5: WestAfricanTextiles-Ivory Coast and WestAfricanTextiles-Ghana.


UoF lesson preview- West African Textiles: Senegal-Manjak Cloth

 


UoF lesson preview – West African Textiles: Bogolanfini of Mali

 


UoF lesson preview –  West African Textiles: Faso Dani Cloth of Burkina Faso

For more information on Africa’s burgeoning fashion industry, view our blog post OUT OF AFRICA: AFRICAN DESIGNERS ARE FINALLY ON THE FASHION MAP.

GOT THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT? LOOKING FOR THAT LAST MINUTE GIFT?

Five days until Christmas, the clock is ticking and suddenly you remember that you forgot someone on your Christmas gift list. OMG!

It’s too late now to order from Amazon, so what are you going to do? Solution…give a unique gift certificate to the world’s largest fashion education video library!

Our once-yearly sale expires 1/1/23 and so there’s still time to get in on our discount.

Get a yearly subscription for $40 off (was $189/now$149) or $5 off the first month of a monthly subscription (was $19.95/now$14.95). Click here to made it happen: https://www.universityoffashion.com/holiday-offer/

If you are already a University of Fashion monthly subscriber or free member, just log in as usual and look on your left for one or more “Upgrade” offers equivalent to the above! Remember, all subscriptions gives unlimited access to every lesson on our entire website, that’s 500+ lessons!

 

WHY UNIVERSITY OF FASHION?

University of Fashion Home Page

University of Fashion has over 500 fashion education video tutorials, taught by fashion profs and industry pros, that both educate and entertain. We have 13 different disciplines to learn from: draping, pattern making, sewing, fashion art, CAD fashion art, CAD pattern making, menswear, knits, childrenswear, accessories, product development, and a fashion business section that encompasses retailing, merchandising, visual merchandising, branding & licensing,  as well as a lecture series that encompasses textiles, color theory, trend forecasting and lots more. Whether you’re interested in a fashion career, or perfecting your existing skills, or just ‘fashion curious’ – a gift certificate to UoF is THE most unique gift you can give.

Need some convincing? Read some of our testimonials:

“The University of Fashion Online is the most valuable tool that I found in relation to Fashion. It is a complement to my education. It is well structured and very complete. I am grateful to Francesa Sterlacci for having created it. I am also grateful to her Team for their contributions and great effort to put it all together. I love it! it is fascinating. I highly recommend it.” Espie Egger – UoF Subscriber – Switzerland

I was lagging behind in class and didn’t remember all the lessons my professor taught, so I went to the demos on University of Fashion for help. Thanks to the great demos I received a really good grade on the project! ” Chanica Pitaksakorn – Fashion Institute of Technology, Student

Everyone in the fashion industry, whether a student, a hobby aficionado or a professional should have a great resource for reference and support. University of Fashion provides the “how to” at every level for the first timers or just a refresher for the experts. A must have asset.”  Saul Kapilivsky Miami International University of Art & Design, Professor

“I have been teaching middle and high school for over 30 years and today I stand in awe of this amazing fashion tool. The University of Fashion video series is simply too good to be true. Every video is factual and correct. As I watch each video, I say; this is exactly how I teach this. The plus for me is that I do not need to do a demo over and over again before students get it. They can just watch these videos and also broaden their skills even beyond my knowledge. I am so grateful to be introduced to the University of Fashion.”  Callie Melton – Fashion Design Services Instructor/A.P.P.S Chair/FCCLA Advisor/Fort Lauderdale High School

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT WE ALSO HAVE COMPANION BOOKS AVAILABLE?

University of Fashion Book Series: Techniques for Beginners: Draping, Pattern Making & Sewing (Available everywhere)

Our book series was designed to complement our beginner draping, pattern making and sewing video lessons. Each book contains additional information to help with the learning process and they are another a great gift idea! Read some of our Amazon ratings:

DRAPING BOOK TESTIMONIALS 

 

draping book testimonial

draping book testimonialDRAPING BOOK TESTIMONIAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PATTERN MAKING BOOK TESTIMONIALS 

Patternmaking book testimonial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEWING BOOK TESTIMONIALS 

 

 

And for that fashion history buff on your Christmas list, why not get them our founder’s book, Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry?

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry book

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry Second Edition

OTHER UOF PERKS

In addition to our 500+ video lesson library you will also be able to access our Resources library consisting of a fashion terminology A-Z, design tools, a marketplace, fashion books, magazines & blog info and a list of fashion schools and fashion museums. You will also gain access to our free croquis templates:

So treat yourself to a UoF subscription or give it as a gift OR why not do both?