There are only a handful of trends that have the same longevity and staying power of American prep. How is it that a trend that originated on college campuses — not on the runway — remain so strong for decades? This is the question that the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology strives to answer in its new exhibition, “Ivy Style.”
The exhibit first introduces visitors to the style and its history. The second room breaks down “Ivy Style” into various looks and gives a thorough overview of main menswear prep designers. The exhibit begins at the birthplace of “Ivy Style:” the ubiquitous Ivy League campus; specifically Harvard, Yale and Princeton. It is to these three well-known universities that we can trace back Oxford button-downs, tweeds, charcoal gray flannel suits, seersuckers and madras shorts, which gained attention post-World War II. During this era, notable menswear brands such as Brooks Brothers and J. Press began taking classic English designs and modifying them for a larger audience: college students.
While the image of the New England prep may not be something all NYU students relate to or prefer, the collection of “Ivy Style” designs is still highly interesting. FIT presents various menswear outfits in an array of locations: from the dorm room to the ballroom, the classroom to the football field. The exhibit is organized thematically rather than chronologically. By integrating designs through today’s heavyweights, such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, FIT strikes the perfect balance between historical accuracy and contemporary relevance. The “Ivy Style” exhibit is only set up in two large halls, and it can easily be seen in 30 minutes, which makes it an excellent place to visit in between classes.
Stern freshman Elecia Allen said she found the exhibit intriguing but could not understand certain looks, like wearing a sweater vest to play rugby or a robe over your tuxedo.
Whatever your opinion is on Ivy preppiness, one cannot deny its continuous influence on fashion. Its aura of affluence and privilege is deeply integrated into the American style consciousness. It is simply a classic. “Ivy Style” at the Museum at FIT is on view until Jan. 5, 2013. Admission is free. For hours and more information, visit fitnyc.edu/museum.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday Sept. 26 print edition. Andrea Cihlarova is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.
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