University of Fashion Blog

Category "Festival Season"

THIS COULD GET UGLY:  THE HISTORY OF THE UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER

Friends wearing Christmas sweaters. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to express that festive cheer than by donning the most outrageous, garish, and downright ugly Christmas sweater you can find? The ugly Christmas sweater trend has become a beloved tradition, transforming from fashion faux pas to a global phenomenon that brings joy and laughter to holiday celebrations. Let’s unravel the colorful history of this quirky trend and explore its meteoric rise to popularity.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Early Christmas sweaters. :Photo Credit: Britain Does Vintage)

The ugly Christmas sweater began in the post-war era, where hand-knit woolens were cherished for their warmth, not their style. Families gathered around the fireplace, sipping cocoa, adorned in sweaters with quaint reindeer and modest snowflakes. Little did they know these simple garments would lay the foundation for a future fashion phenomenon.

As the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s unfolded, so did a shift in the perception of fashion. Bold patterns, psychedelic colors, and unconventional designs became the norm, and the Christmas sweater was not exempt from this vibrant revolution. Suddenly, Santa’s donned sunglasses, Christmas trees twinkled in psychedelic hues, and the humble sweater was no longer just a winter necessity but a canvas of holiday expression.

Matching mother and daughter candy cane sweaters from Leisure Arts, 1989. (Photo Credit: Smithsonian Magazine)

Enter the era of excess—the 1980s. As shoulder pads grew larger and hair higher, so did the embellishments on Christmas sweaters. Glitter, sequins and pom-poms adorned every imaginable surface. The once-modest snowman became bedazzled, and the simple snowflake transformed into a dazzling disco ball of knitwear. It was a time of unapologetic extravagance and the Christmas sweater was no exception.

Authors of “The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book”. (Photo Credit :Getty Images)

As the world entered a new millennium, a wave of nostalgia and irony swept through pop culture. Vintage finds and thrift store treasures became the epitome of coolness and the ugly Christmas sweater found itself thrust into the spotlight once again. Ugly sweater parties began to emerge, inviting revelers to celebrate the holiday season by embracing the kitsch of yesteryear.

UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATERS ON THE SILVER SCREEN

Colin Firth in Bridget Jones’s Diary film. (Photo Credit: Miramax)

The trend’s popularity soared to new heights when it made its way into the world of cinema. Films like Bridget Jones’s Diary, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and The Night Before featured characters sporting these festive eyesores, further solidifying the ugly Christmas sweater as a cultural phenomenon. Iconic moments on the big screen, coupled with social media’s ability to showcase these quirky fashion choices, catapulted the trend into the mainstream.

Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation film. (Photo Credit: Warner Brothers)

THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE: UGLY IS THE NEW CHIC

Young woman taking a selfie in her Christmas sweater, (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

With the advent of social media, the ugly Christmas sweater tradition received a global platform. People shared their most outrageous finds and DIY creations, turning the act of finding or making the ugliest sweater into a sport. Instagram, Twitter (X) and Facebook became virtual runways for festive fashionistas showcasing their holiday knitwear masterpieces.

TRADITION MEETS TREND

Comedian Jimmy Fallon embraces the ugly Christmas sweater trend. (Photo Credit: CNN)

In the present day, the ugly Christmas sweater has solidified its place as a cherished holiday tradition. It’s no longer just about embracing the tackiness; it’s a cultural phenomenon that unites people in laughter and joy. Major retailers offer an array of intentionally garish sweaters, and the tradition has expanded to include festive 5K runs, charitable events, and even formal gatherings dedicated to the art of the ugly Christmas sweater.

A young couple with Christmas sweaters. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

As we navigate the wintry landscapes of the 21st century, let’s tip our festive hats to the ugly Christmas sweater—a humble garment that has withstood the test of time, transforming from knitted oddity to a cherished symbol of holiday cheer. So, this holiday season, let your fashion sense be as bright and bold as your Christmas sweater, and may your festivities be as vibrant as the knits that have woven their way into our hearts.

Holiday Wishes From UOF. (Graphic Credit: UOF)

Hurry, our once-a-year sale ends December 31, 2023

Get a yearly subscription for $149, that’s $40 off our regular price of $189. Use promo code: BEST

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Give the Gift of UoF Books that Compliment our Videos

University of Fashion beginner book covers- draping, pattern making and sewing

University of Fashion’s step-by-step Beginner Techniques: Sewing, Draping and Pattern Making

Our 3- part book series is the perfect gift for anyone interested in learning how to become a fashion designer. Techniques for Beginners: Sewing, Techniques for Beginners: Draping and Techniques for Beginners: Pattern Making are all step-by-step, frame-by-frame, compliments to our video lessons. Each book contains additional industry tips & tricks and tons of historical information. Our inspirational fashion runway images reinforce techniques used in the industry and at the best fashion colleges.

Click the links on the book titles above to the Amazon pages where the books can be purchased.

So, tell us, will you be creating your own ugly Christmas sweater this season?

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 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.

Props to Bergdorf

Emerging Designer Showcase Event

No one appreciates, more than I, what it means when a major department store decides to showcase your work, because once upon a time, that designer was me. During the 1980s, I was fortunate enough to have my own business, Francesca Sterlacci Ltd., built on a shoestring. I’m proud to say that for 10 years I had the support of many great stores and was fortunate to have my clothes featured in store windows, at  perrsonal appearances and sold in prestigious NY stores including Saks, Bloomingdales, Barney’s, Bendels, Bergdorf’s and Bonwit’s (known in the day as the 5 ‘Bs’). So you can imagine how special it was for me on Saturday September 8, when I took time out to meet a few emerging designers on Bergdorf’s 6th floor Modernist shop. One of the big questions our University of Fashion subscribers ask us is, “will I be able to market and sell my designs to stores?” Well, after seeing and meeting the designers that you are about to read about, and by talking with Madison Nagy, Assitant Buyer for BG’s Advanced Designer department, the answer is yes, but “You have got to be different.”

Let’s take a look at what that means.

 

BODE

 

Bode luxury unisex brand: Designer Emily Adams Bode

Bode (pronounced Bow-Dee) is a luxury unisex RTW brand created by Atlanta-born designer and Parsons grad, Emily Adams Bode. The brand launched in 2016 and Bode took off! The brand began with one-of-a-kind garments composed entirely of antiques textiles and continues to envigorate American menswear through the art of storytelling. Each piece tells a story and is tailor-made in New York. Her work expresses a sentimentality for the past through the study of personal narratives and historical techniques. Modern workwear silhouettes united with female-centric traditions of quilting, mending, and applique shape the collection. The collection is organized around that single simple rule: slow fashion is better.

Bode was the first female designer to show at NYFW: Men’s and had her first runway show in Paris in June 2019. She was named as a finalist in the LVMH Prize for young fashion designers, was recently the winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and Emily Bode was even included in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. Click on the link to see one of Bode’s fashion presentations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmZk8R7zGn0

BERNADETTE

Bernadette luxury RTW brand: Mother & daughter Bernadette & Charlotte De Geyter

Bernadette is luxury ready-to-wear label based in Antwerp by mother and daughter Bernadette and Charlotte De Geyter. Their collections are defined by easy-to-wear silk dresses and refreshing prints, designed exclusively in-house by Charlotte who graduated with a master’s degree from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. A love of nature and the arts are leitmotifs that run through Bernadette’s aesthetic. Ultra feminine, metropolitan glamour is juxtaposed with a poetic vision of a life somewhere remote and paradisal. Clean lines add a graceful note to the label’s silhouettes while colorful prints echo a timeless and free-spirited allure. Check out their website at https://www.bernadetteantwerp.com

Deveaux New York

Deveaux New York. Designer: Tommy Ton

Deveaux New York was originally formed as a menswear collection by Matthew Breen and Andrea Tsao. In February 2018, Deveaux launched its womenswear collection and announced the appointment of industry veteran, photographer Tommy Ton as Creative Director. Tommy Ton is a Canadian photographer first known for his fashion blog Jak & Jil and his street style coverage of fashion weeks on Style.com and GQ.com.

With an encyclopedia knowledge of what is being worn in the streets, Tommy Ton brings a keen knowledge of the relationship between the runway and the consumer. Together with Andrea Tsao as Head Designer, as well as Matthew Breen, who heads business development, the team is comprised of a unique set of backgrounds that aspires to re-contextualize classic items in the modern world through fit, fabrication and silhouette. It explores the idea of a ‘uniform’ in an effort to make a truly authentic wardrobe. Bergdorf has the NY exclusive distribution of Deveaux for 3 seasons. Check out Deveaux New York’s website: https://deveauxnewyork.com

LouLou Studio

LouLou Studio: Designer Chloe LouLou De Saison

LouLou Studio is a knitwear brand created by fashion influencer/fashion consultant Chloe LouLou De Saison. Her Instagram is a glimpse into a universe which revolves around her vision of the modern Parisian woman. Chloe says of her brand, “I just wanted what I couldn’t find anywhere else: the perfect basic knit with a twist, but also good quality clothes at affordable prices. Everything revolves around well-being. Our pieces are designed to make life easier for women. Putting on a nice sweater in the morning is comforting and reassuring. We want to arouse this feeling with our knitwear collections.” Bergdorf has the NY exclusive distribution of LouLou for 3 seasons. See more of LouLou Studio at https://louloustudio.fr/en/

Also on BG’s Radar

Although the following designers were not on the selling floor while I was there on Saturday, the following brands were also listed among BG’s emerging designers.

Coperni

Coperni luxury RTW designers: Sébastien Meyer & Arnaud Vaillant (Courtesy Coperni Instagram)

Coperni– a luxury women’s wear collection launched by former Courrèges designers Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant on Instagram this Fall – check out the interactive display to watch the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure inspired video series! Coperni takes its name from Nicolaus Copernicus. “He revolutionized astronomy and we were inspired by that,” says Sébastien, who met co-designer Arnaud when both were students at Mod’ Art International in Paris. Their fledgling label, which won the 2014 ANDAM Award, is at once innovative and timeless. “The most important thing for us is to make clothes that are perfectly cut and draped and that women enjoy wearing,” explains Vaillant. “We want our clients to have an emotional connection to our pieces, a real feeling, and we won’t achieve that by making collections that fall out of fashion after a season.” Coperni is currently exclusive to BG in NY.

KHAITE

KHAITE. Designer: Catherine Holstein

KHAITE (pronounced Kate) is a women’s RTW collection that reimagines classic American sportswear for the 21st century. Designed to be cherished, each piece proposes a fresh balance of opposing elements – past and future, masculine and feminine strength and softness, structure and fluidity – while embodying a signature sensuality and ease.

 

Founded in 2016 by Catherine Holstein, New York-based KHAITE evolves with each new season, building upon a foundation of robust and polished items distinguished by exceptional materials and subtle yet striking details. The collection takes its name from the Greek word (xaitn) meaning “long, flowing hair.”

Sies Marjan

Sies Marjan. Designer Sander Lak

Sies Marjan (pronounced seez mar-john), is a luxury designer label established in 2016 and based in New York City. Designed by Dutch Creative Director Sander Lak, the brand evokes a narrative of color, proportion and subversive fabrication. The name Seis Marjan, signifies the first names of his father Sies, and his mother Marjan. In 3 short years, Sies Marjan has developed a strong multi-category business to include Women’s RTW, Men’s RTW, footwear and handbags soon to come. The brand has 150+ global luxury stockists including Bergdorf Goodman, MatchesFashion, Sssense and Net-a-Porter.

Sander was nominated for the CFDA Swarovski Award for emerging talent in 2017 and won the prize in 2018. He was also a nominee for the CFDA 2019 Womenswear Designer of the Year. Check out his Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/seismarjan/ 

ROTATE by Birger Christensen

ROTATE by Birger Christensen

ROTATE is a Copenhagen-based brand designed by Danish stylists and influencers Jeanette Madsen and Thors Valdimars. Birger Christensen, the parent company, boasts a 150-year-old history, having opened its doors in the heart of Copenhagen in 1869. Finn Birger Christensen, a third-generation furrier, built the company by offering a well-curated collection of luxury names alongside its own brand of fur and accessories. When Denise Christensen joined the family business as chief executive officer in 2017, she initiated a new chapter in the brand’s history by opening Rotate, featuring bold prints and textiles in 80s inspired silhouettes with an emphasis on party dresses.

Check out Rotate at https://rotatebirgerchristensen.com

As NYFW marches on this week, it is nice to see attention being paid to emerging designers. Stay tuned….

All I want for—fill in the holiday—is the gift of fashion

Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 9.08.08 PM

If you’ve been keeping up with the U of F blog, you’ll know that the Gen Zers on your holiday lists crave experiences. And when it comes to gift giving in 2018 (and beyond), the University of Fashion has experiences galore for the fashionistas in your life, no matter their age. In fact, we have unique gifts that will inspire year-round learning and making for the fashion lovers you know. Read More

Ball Culture: Inspiration from the LGBTQ Underground Scene

Pride month – there’s no more colorful month of the year. And what better opportunity to acknowledge a part of LGBTQ history that has influenced fashion, music, dance and culture for almost four decades?

Attention, legendary children!

We are about to give you the basics of ball culture.

Since the early 1920s (and possibly even earlier), LGBTQ people have been coming together, often in underground secret spaces, to celebrate the art of dressing a part, dance and creating a safe space for creative expression. In the 1980s, these gatherings, or balls, were where those often cast out from society (many black and Latino) could be whoever they wanted for a night.

And while many equate balls with drag shows, there is much more to ball culture than sequins and feathers. Runway competitions included categories like “Executive Realness” allowing LGBTQ people of color the opportunity to dress the part of a Wall Street executive—an option not available to minorities during the day. And for young LGBTQ kids kicked out of their homes, ball culture offered a family, shelter and safety.

Thanks to the summer’s breakout hit show Pose on FX, a new generation is getting schooled on what life was like for a segment of the LGBTQ community in the early 80s in NYC. Severe shoulder pads and all.

Pose is ground-breaking in that it stars/employs more transgender actors and extras than any other scripted show currently on the air, however, Pose is hardly the first show to document ball culture. In fact, any in-the-know designer should immediately move the documentary Paris is Burning to the top of their must watch Netflix list.

In addition to a primer on late 80s/early 90s fashion, Paris is Burning reveals the roots of voguing as a dance and art form, so named from the model poses seen on the actual pages of Vogue magazine. And as an emerging designer, the deeper your understanding of history, the bigger pool of inspiration you have to draw from for your future collections.

So sit back, children, and learn your ball culture. If you are a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race (anyone else #TeamAquaria this season?), Mama Ru’s catch phrases are about to make much more sense.

Houses and Families

At a ball, participants walked as houses. Houses were often named after fashion houses or beauty icons, for example, House of Saint Laurent. Each house has a mother who sets the tone/rules for the house and takes in new family members. Family members often adopt the last name of their house, not only showing their loyalty, but also creating a sense of belonging not provided by a biological family. And house mothers refer to their children as legendary.

Walking in a Category

Balls are made up of runway competitions and each competition fits into a theme or category. The emcee of the ball will call out, “Category is….” and all those who are participating will prepare to show off their best super model, evening wear, military, school girl, uptown/downtown, etc. garb.

Serving (Category) Realness

In order to win a runway competition, participants are judged on realness, or how likely they are to actually pass in real life as the individual they are representing on the runway. Serving Park Avenue realness means the participant could fit right in strolling down Park Avenue with the ladies who lunch.

Mopping

Because the ball participants of the 80s had very few resources, some mopped or stole the materials they needed to create their runway looks. We don’t advocate stealing at U of F, however, we know many designers are operating on a shoestring budget and therefore, studying ball culture can be pretty inspiring to see what those who had nothing can create on no budget at all.

Reading and Throwing Shade

To read another participant in ball culture is to ruthlessly insult another’s outfit, look, walk or presentation without breaking a sweat. Reading is in good fun, and thus, the phrase “the library is open,” often clears the floor for a good read. Throwing shade is a more subtle form of reading, saved for the most clever and witty of readers. The library doesn’t necessarily have to be open for shade to be thrown.

From Marc Jacobs to Alexander McQueen to Jeremy Scott to Vivienne Westwood to…the list goes on and on… designers have drawn inspiration from underground club scenes over the course of history. You can, too. Just make sure to learn your history before attempting to throw shade, darling.