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If there's one garment that embodies the word "cool," it's the motorcycle jacket. From its early utilitarian origins, the jacket quickly became a symbol of American rebellion, helping create iconic images for everyone from Marlon Brando to Fonzie to the Ramones. The Museum at FIT's new exhibit, Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket, studies the history of the jacket, its construction, and the avant-garde designs it continues to inspire.
The exhibition, completely produced and curated by FIT graduate students, is small, but interesting—how many of us actually know the history of the motorcycle jacket? And with this topic, it's probably one of the only fashion exhibits you'll ever be able to easily convince someone who normally has no interest in fashion to go to (translation: you might talk your boyfriend/husband into going too).
The show is divided into three sections. Things kick off with a Perfecto jacket, the original motorcycle jacket designed by Irving Schott in 1928 in New York. You'll see an explanation of its construction, and then learn about the early history of motorcycle jackets via articles and some striking black and white archival photos from the period.
The second section of the exhibit looks at countercultural groups and fashion designers directly influenced by the jackets. In a somewhat bizarre juxtaposition, this section includes punk, metal, and leatherman ephemera, in front of a 1980s velvet motorcycle jacket by Carolina Herrera. (We'd love to know which of her high society clients from the period bought that...)
The final section of the exhibit explores avant-garde reinterpretations of the classic biker jacket. These designs push the boundaries of the original in stunning ways. There, you'll see a couple of striking Rick Owens pieces and a 2005 Comme des Garçons ensemble from the Biker + Ballerina collection, which pairs a sculptural masculine black leather jacket with a pink gingham and tulle skirt.
The exhbit, which also includes glamorous motorcycle jacket-inspired designs by Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Balenciega and Yves Saint Laurent, runs through April 5th. Like all shows at The Museum at FIT, it's free to the public.
· Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket [The Museum at FIT]
· The Museum at FIT's Queer History of Fashion Exhibit Wows [Racked NY]