The mini skirt. Claimed to be invented by Mary Quant in London, and premiered around 1964, this now iconic skirt style has become both the symbol of fashion in the 60s and an image of a youth-oriented fashion, still alive today. But while Mary Quant was creating her version in London, so was Pierre Cardin in Paris, surrounded by many other designers that, along with him, created newer, fresher fashionable styles, filled with the livelihood of a younger generation born in the offset of the war. Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Sonia Rykiel… they were all members of the new innovative class of fashion designers that emerged in Paris during the decade, reshaping the decades-old couture scene in France, and reviving—refashioning—the city. This new livelihood is precisely what Paris Refashioned, 1957–68, on view on the main gallery in the Museum at FIT until this Sunday, April 15, explores.
Two—or rather, three—years ago, I embarked on what has been the wildest adventure of my life: getting a Master of Arts in Fashion Studies from Parsons School of Design. I still remember waking up one day and deciding to send my application, rushing to meet my Professors to get recommendation letters from them, trying to find inspiration to write my application letter, and even having to fly out of town to get the required standardised test done. And even if I tend to think doing things last minute doesn’t turn into positive situation, amidst the rush and the stress, I always knew I was going to get in. Somehow, I always knew I belonged to Parsons.
One of the topics that has interested me the most throughout my academic life is that of gender, as well as the performative nature of femininity. When I started the MA in Fashion Studies, one of the first classes I chose to take was “Fashion and the Body.” This short essay was part of my coursework for the class.
On 11 May 2014, Conchita Wurst rose like a Phoenix to win the Eurovision Song Contest, one of the most important TV shows in Europe, and the biggest singing competition in the world (“The Story”). When seeing Conchita Wurst’s performance at the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, it takes one full minute before the video shows a close-up of her face, revealing she is not the typical female pop star, since one of the most noticeable aspects of her face is the presence of a manly beard (Conchita Wurst). But other than the beard, she portrays all the common characteristics of female pop stars; she wears a beige “mermaid” dress with golden embroideries, has a slim body with subtle curves that lies within the Western ideal of female beauty, her hair is long and wavy, and she wears astonishing jewelry and makeup. Once the details of her face are revealed, her beard stands out as the most important characteristic of Conchita Wurst’s appearance, making her gender almost impossible to define, and marking her difference from the crowd.
The field of Fashion Studies can be a little bit of a muddy area, and it constantly confuses many. Most people, when they hear me say I’m doing a Master’s Degree in Fashion Studies, think I am studying to be a designer. But I’m not. And although it’s difficult to explain exactly what Fashion Studies means, mainly because it’s a multidisciplinary field and is influenced by a wide variety of areas of study, ranging from home economics to cultural studies, it is definitely not a design field—although I believe knowing about it is useful to designers.