Dissonance, ritual, ideology, innovation: these are just a few of the defining concepts behind the fiber science and apparel design department’s exhibit entitled, “Street Fashion and Youth Subculture: An Ethnographic Costume Exhibition.” The exhibit is an ode to fashion subculture — an exploration of an ill-understood face of a stylized world.
Finally on display after a three-year study of local youth fashion subculture, the exhibit showcases a medley of styles whose wearers represent “detachment and departure from mainstream fashion,” said Denise Green ’07, a student researcher and prime collector of the exhibit’s materials.
Green and fellow student researchers, led by Profs. Van Dyk Lewis and Charlotte Jirousek, fiber science and apparel design, constructed a collection showcasing a variety of styles deviating from today’s fashion norm. Jirousek is the curator of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection. The collection consists of hand-made goods, thrift store finds, reworked vintage and local buys. It was meticulously pieced together to create what they call a “teaching collection.” As fashion speaks highly of its historical context, the team hopes that its work will remain in Cornell’s Costume Collection as a paradigm of today’s world for future students.
The team began its research by taking to the streets. “Fashion begins on the street,” said Green, acting as a “venue of exchange, interaction and influence.” Thus, the team conducted interviews, took photographs and spent time with subjects as they picked out and doctored clothing. They then worked closely with subculture informants to emulate each subculture in its method of collecting material and piecing together outfits for the exhibition. Researchers focused on fashion and its related ideologies, particularly its social implications. While members of the subculture were found to vary dramatically from one another in personal style, they were alike in purpose, hoping to make a stylistic statement that would define them as people.
“These individuals are not just ‘mimicking fashion,’” said Green. “They are making it.”
Taking initiative when it comes to their own personal style, members of the fashion subculture identify themselves and unite with one another using unique visual symbols.
“Fashion isn’t just about the clothes. The way you walk, talk, and do your hair are all components that make up the visual self,” said Green, who added that “[it is not] to be considered trivial or superficial.
The street-fashion exhibit is “a unique, creative and intriguing way to explore an aspect of fashion,” said Nicole Herz ’10.
The exhibit is located in the Elizabeth Schmeck Brown Costume and Textile Gallery on the third floor of Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, the exhibit is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.