PHYLLIS ODESSEY

what if you never had to pick out an outfit again?

Maura Brewer and Abigal Glaum-Lathbury, Rational Dress Society

Maura Brewer (l) and Abigail Glaum-Lathbury (R), Rational Dress Society

My answer to the above question is that life would be pretty boring. I grew up in an era when matchy- match was de rigueur. The mix and match era of my adulthood was a liberating experience. The idea of never having to pick out an outfit strikes fear into the hearts of those of us who adore putting together an ensemble that represents our individuality.  It was impossible to resist going to a runway show, entitled A History of Counter-Fashion,  presented  by Abigail Glaum-Lathbury and Maura Brewer co-founders of the Rational Dress Society. The performance lecture and runway presentation took place at the Museum of Art and Design in conjunction with the Bard Graduate Center.  Both institutions currently have exhibitions on fashion.  At MAD: The World of Annie Sui (fashion designer ) and Vera Paints a Scarf  (The Art and Design of Vera Neuman) and at Bard: French Fashion, Women, and the First World War.

Elizabeth Gomez wearing the Pantalette. The Pantalette was  worn by women at the Oneida Community. “The Oneidas invented a costume they called the pantalette, which was accompanied by a short haircut that minimized the differences between the sexes.  By adopting pants, modestly covered with a short skirt, female members of the community were able to engage in the physical labor required to maintain their large commune.”

“We define counter-fashion as the practice of dressing as an expression of political and sartorial solidarity.  Throughout modern history, brave individuals have come together to fight oppression, to resist co-optation, to express their mutual alienation and outrage.  These people have adopted symbolic dress as a way to express their feelings of anger, sadness, and disgust when mainstream political channels fail.” The Rational Dress Society

Amelia Bloomer was an early suffragist, editor and social activist. Bloomer was also a fashion advocate who worked to change women’s clothing styles.

Teresa Meza wearing “the bloomer”  In 1851, Amelia Bloomer announced her intention to wear the bloomer in the temperance journal the Lily and published the pattern for women to copy.

The clothing worn in the show was sewn by the Rationale Dress Society.  The runway show was narrated by Abigail Glaum-Lathbury and Maura Brewer.

TuTa worn by Christopher Barrett Politan. The Tuta was called “the most innovative futuristic garment ever produced in the history of fashion.”

On the back of the brochure given out at the event, the following quotes by: KARL MARX.
“Our mutual value is, for us, the value of our mutual Jumpsuits.”
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change
it with Jumpsuits.”

I may hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, and criticize after dinner,
all while wearing Jumpsuits.”

Prodezodezhda worn by Mari De Oleo. The dress was created by constructivist artist Varvana Stepanova.

Kibbutz-wear worn by Veronica Casado Hernandez.  A former member of Kibbutz reflecting: “…in those days we did everything we could to blur the lines between ourselves and the male members.  If I tell you that I had never ironed a dress, it was not only because I had neither spare time nor an iron, but also because I believed that such ‘vanity’ might distract our minds from the essence of our lives.”

Both of the above costumes were examples of how women rejected conventional dress in “favor of a garments of utility and equality.”

Lily Jean wearing the Monokini designed in 1964 by Rudi Gernreich, “designed as an act of political protest against a mainstream culture that objectified and fetishized the female body.”

The show continued with the Zoot Suit, the Monokini, an example of the Black Panther uniform, and the jumpsuit from the 1990’s Italian Tute Bianche. As much fun as it was to be taken through a runway show, it was the point of view of the narrative that sent shivers down the backs of  the audience.

Abigail Glaum-Lathbury(L) and Maura Brewer (R)

The story line of the presentation that had a distinct agenda.  “We, the members of the Rational Dress Society, propose JUMPSUIT, an ungendered, open source monogarment for everyday wear.  We suggest that the rejection of choice (otherwise defined as the yoke of relentless consumption within the capitalist paradigm) might open us up to new possibilities and better ways of living.”  About Jump
I rarely read anything that sounds like a manifesto.  In spite of the verbiage of the Rational Dress Society; there are significant issues of consumption and the environment to consider.
“Rooted in the visual language of denim and the history of work wear, JUMPSUIT imagines the possibility of an egalitarian garment, liberated from the signs of class, race and gender that inscribe our usual relation to clothes.” Rational Dress Society
The past months have been dominated by the democratic debates.  Some candidates have echoed the above language, but have applied these concepts to our lives, not our clothes. The Rational Dress Society rhetoric may align with the current news cycle.  After the presentation, Brewer and Glaum-Lathbury solicited questions from the audience.
A very practical question was asked.  “I understand what you are saying about the JUMPSUIT, but I have a problem with it.  What about the jumpsuit and its relation to using the bathroom?”  Everyone in the audience knew exactly what was meant by this question, including Brewer and Glaum-Lathbury.  They answered honestly with a smile. “We know what you mean and we haven’t solved that problem yet.”  In addition, JUMPSUIT has another initiative called MAKE AMERICA RATIONAL AGAIN. “Despite President Trump’s calls to “Buy American, hire American,” over the last months, more than 53 tons of Ivanka Trump-brand clothing have been imported into the United States from China… We, the members of the Rational Dress Society, propose to take those unwanted Ivanka Trump clothes and transform them into something rational:  100% Made in the USA , Special Edition JUMPSUITS!  All proceeds from the sale of Special Edition JUMPSUITS will go to support advocacy dedicated to fair labor practices in the United States.” https://www.jumpsu.it/mara




 

 

 

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