Uniformity Exhibit

So I finally had a chance to check out the uniformity Exhibit at The Museum at FIT in New York City. The uniformity Exhibit is an exhibit that explores the history behind the different uniforms that only focuses on only four categories of uniforms: military, work, school and sports.

According to Jennifer Craik, a fashion historian, in our society, we encounter uniforms everywhere on soldiers, flight attendants and school children. It was interesting to learn that the military uniforms have more of a high fashion than any other type of uniform most of the time because the designers borrow the elements like the gold buttons, metallic braiding, epaulets and camouflage.

It was also interesting to learn that the work uniforms are designed to distinguish between employees of different occupations immediately identifiable. For instance, the McDonald’s uniforms have distinctive colors and symbols of the company logo to transform each employee into an extension of the company’s branding. Uniformity was such an awesome exhibit to check out and I’m glad I had the opportunity to check it out on the last day. Check out the photos I took in the exhibit.

Sports Uniforms (Man’s track uniform, circa 1925, USA)

Athletic uniforms visually and psychologically band a team together. They also help to distinguish one team from another. It can be helpful for the player because uniforms ensure that a player does not pass the ball to a member of the wrong team. Bold colors and contrasts are mainstays of athletic uniforms, as seen in the photo above. A level of differentiation is maintained by the use of player number.


 School Uniforms

School Uniforms emerged during the 16th century at religious schools for low-income students. They resembled ecclesiastical robes and to instill discipline through standardization. More elite schools adopted uniforms during the 19th century, they chose modes of gentlemanly dress to distinguish students from their religious counterparts. From this came the school jacket, which is commonly known today as a “Blazer”.


The Royal Highlanders (Black Watch)

Uniform (Circa 1905, Scotland)

Red wool, metallic braid, leather, feathers, silk



Yves Saint Laurent began experimenting with military elements during the mid-1960s. His signature styles was considered the dark blue, double-breasted coat, which originally inspired by the naval “Peacoat” worn by sailors to keep warm. As you can see the ensemble brings in the military details with it’s gold buttons and standing collar.

Yves Saint Laurent (Ensemble, Circa 1967, France)

Dark blue wool and metal


Perry Ellis transformed the silhouette of formal “Mess dress” uniforms into fashionable women’s wear for this look. He served in the coast guard during the 1960s, and military elements were a key source for his inspiration. He made his name during the 1980’s for his distinctive take on American sportswear.

Perry Ellis (Jacket and pants, 1983, USA)

Dark blue wool, brass




Claire McCardell flirtatious and slightly subversive version of the World War II uniform pairs an “Ike” jacket with matching shorts and a red halter top. The “Ike” jacket moved quickly into civilian clothing after World War II.

Claire McCardell (Ensemble, 1947-1950, USA)

Olive and Red Cotton 


The “Ike,” or “Eisenhower,” jacket was added to regulation U.S. Army uniforms during World War II. It was officially called the M-1944 jacket and was designed to be worn on its own under a larger field jacket. The name comes from Dwight D. Eisenhower (nicknamed “Ike”), who helped approve the style.

World War II U.S. Army Air Corps Uniform (1945, USA)

Olive drab wool, cotton, metal


This particular uniform was issued to the members of the Women’s Army Corps (W.A.C.) during World War II. It is made out of the same olive drab like the men’s uniforms, but the jackets are tightly tailored and the skirt add feminine notes. 

World War II Women’s Army Corps (W.A.C.) Uniform (1943, USA)

Olive wool



Rei Kawakubo turns the olive drab U.S. uniform into a high fashion look. The uniform was replicated by her with faithful precision, but removed the sleeves, seemingly ripping them from their arm holes. The rough, frayed edges remain as a form of decoration.

Rei Kawakubo (Ensemble, 1998, Japan)

Olive drab wool, leather, metal


Marc Jacobs paired a near-exact copy of the U.S. Army service jacket with a long, romantic skirt.

Marc Jacobs (Ensemble, Spring 2010, USA)

Synthetic blend



By the 1890s, sailor dresses had become mainstays of women’s Summer ensembles, designed to be worn while engaging in activities such as playing tennis or basically just spending a day at the beach.

Haas Brothers (Day ensemble, circa 1895, USA)

White and red cotton


Norman Norell exaggerated the decorative and feminine qualities of the uniform by enlarging the necktie and forming it into a bow, and rendering it in a luxurious silk faille.

Norman Norell (Dress, circa 1957, USA)

Off-white linen and red silk

This look by Oscar de la Renta is constructing the look in dazzling, sequined chiffon and adding a dramatic organza collar, as he successfully combined the naval uniform with the high fashion of the 1980’s.

Oscar de la Renta

(Evening ensemble, 1984, USA)

Blue and white sequins, blue chiffon, white organza, and red chiffon


The Marinière, known as the Breton shirt, was added to the French Navy’s official uniform in 1858. The white and dark blue horizontal stripes were designed to make it easier to see men who had fallen overboard.

Jean Paul Gaultier

(Marinière-style top, circa 1993, France)

Stripped cotton 

(Man’s pants, circa 1991, France)

Black corduroy


Chitose Abe’s has taken the horizontal “Breton” stripes of the French Navy and combined  them with a feminine lace.

Chitose Abe

(Ensemble, Spring 2015, Japan)

Blue and white cotton synthetic and silk



John Galliano transformed the camouflage fatigues of the military into an evening gown with a dramatic, asymmetrical slit laced halfway down the body.

John Galliano

(Evening dress, Spring 2001, France)

Silk taffeta


Claude Sabbah uses military and street culture. In this look, he uses a tough net-covered camouflage with supple, pink satin. The sleeves fold back to form a rose making the look both masculine and feminine.

Claude Sabbah

(Evening ensemble, 2000, USA)

Synthetic, nylon



Basically the French developed camouflage during World War I to help soldiers and equipment blend into combat environments. By the time it was World War II, the U.S. had introduce the print into its military uniforms as ponchos and helmet covers, which were worn over standard issue uniforms. Today the combat uniforms are entirely camouflage, the colors and shapes in the print vary between countries and climates.

U.S . Marine Corps poncho and helmet cover

(Circa 1948, USA)

Coated cotton


Vera Maxwell dubbed this dress her “Speed suit” for how quick and easy it was to put on. It is made from a slick stretch fiber and does not require any forms of buttons, zips or fasteners. The speed suit came in variety of prints and colors, but Vera Maxwell saw the camouflage version as a modern armor for the fashionable woman.

Vera Maxwell

(Speed suit, 1976, USA)

Elastic jersey



A humorous play on traditional camouflage by John Bartlett, using bright pinks and oranges instead of your traditional greenish-brown. He compiled the print from the silhouette of his three-legged dog, Tiny Tim.

John Bartlett

(Man’s ensemble, Spring 2011, USA)

Cotton, nylon, leather, metal


Michael Kors made camouflage his main theme of his Fall 2013 collection, applying it in a range of bold color combinations, such as blue, white and gray. This highlights a key difference between military and fashion uses of the print in high fashion, camouflage is about being different and standing out rather than blending in.

Michael Kors

(Ensemble, Fall 2013, USA)

Silk blend, cashmere, leather, metal


This particular camouflage by Richard James is a variation on the woodland Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) used by the British Army from 1963-2009. The suit combines two pillars of British masculinity into a single look.

Richard James

(Man’s suit 2002, England)

Cotton, metal

Domestic servant uniforms give employees a standardized appearance. They are also designed to strip the wearer of authority by making it immediately apparent who is the servant and who is the employer. To the left, the maid’s uniform is achieved through the use of bright pastel blue, framed by the stark white off cuffs, collar and apron. To the right, the chauffeur’s uniform is the employee’s position made clear by a plain black coat and distinctively shaped hat.

Paragon Uniform

(Maid uniform dress and apron, 1950’s, USA)

Light blue and white cotton

Chauffer’s uniform

(1930s, USA)

Black cotton


This hot pink jumpsuit was created by Elio Fiorucci, which blurs the line between uniform and high fashion. It has a boxy fit and a patch along the chest. The details are pulled from a mechanics uniform. Rendered in hot pink and cinched at the wearer’s waist with a deep front zip, which gives the look a hyper-feminine but sexy.

Elio Fiorucci

(Jumpsuit, circa 1976, Italy)

Hot pink cotton

The United States formed it’s first modern police forces during the mid-19th century. They were modeled after the London Metropolitan Police, established in 1829. They made officers immediately identifiable on the streets, which helped enforce social order. The police uniforms draw heavily on military elements in order to impart power and authority.

New York Police Department uniform

(Circa 1940, USA)

Dark blue wool, metal

This style of hat has been typically seen by passenger train conductors. Its design has a flat columnar shape and a short brim. The style gives the wearer authority, reinforced by the bold “Trainman” stitch-work at the front of the crown.

Knox, New York

(Pennsylvania Railroad trainman uniform hat, circa 1943, USA)

Dark blue wool

Two uniforms from the left:

The nurse’s uniform has a distinctive cap and white collar with cuffs and a smock was created during the mid-19th century to outfit students of newly informed nursing schools. Such institutions presented middle and upper-class women with an opportunity to enter a respectable profession. The uniform blends elements of  maid’s uniform with ecclesiastical garb and fashionable silhouette to create a look that is purposefully becoming yet modest.

American Red Cross nurse uniform

(1918, USA)

White cotton

American Red Cross nurse uniform

(1941-1945, USA)

Grey and white cotton


The long white coats were issued to all employees of Maison Martin Margiela’s studio. There has been similar style coats worn by doctors and lab technicians. Such coats are a frequent uniform of the couture atelier, worn to protect fabric and clothing during production.

Martin Margiela

(Work coat, Fall/Winter 1998, Belgium)

White cotton

The two photographs behind the nurse’s uniforms, were taken by Dahl Wolfe and appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar during the time of World War II. The use of the Red Cross nurses highlights the importance of the nurse uniform as a moral boosting symbol during the war years.

Both photographs:

Louise Dahl Wolfe

(1943, USA)

During the 1960’s, the airlines began hiring fashion designers to create flight crew uniforms that would convey a glamorous lifestyle. By the 1970’s, the shirtwaist dress was combined with a “Safari” suit to create a bold style for TWA flight attendants.

Stan Herman

(TWA flight attendant uniform, 1975, USA)

Blue synthetic

Stan Herman

(TWA flight attendant uniform, 1975, USA)

Orange and beige synthetic

The illustration on the scarf shows a scene at an airport. The scarves were issued to all TWA flight attendants as a part of Stan Herman’s uniform for the airline in 1975. The flight attendants could wear the scarves tied around their necks in variety of ways.

Stan Herman

(TWA flight attendant uniform scarf, 1975, USA)

Multicolor silk


McDonald’s did not have a company-wide uniform in the beginning. Each franchise dictated its own employee attire. In order to give the company a new identity, McDonald’s hired Stan Herman to design the company’s first official uniform design in 1975. The results utilizes the colors of the company logo effectively transforming each employee into an extension of its branding.

Stan Herman

(McDonald’s uniform, 1976, USA)

Brown and white polyester


As many of you may remember this recent look by Jeremy Scott (Moschino) a few years ago, which he takes the branding technique of the McDonald’s uniform to an extreme in this look for his Fall 2014 collection for Moschino. As you can see, the logo is now bold front and center with “Moschino” instead of “McDonald’s” writ large under the slightly curved “M”.

Jeremy Scott (Moschino)

(Ensemble, Fall 2014, Italy)

Red and yellow wool, cashmere, leather

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