Thom Browne brings high fashion to school uniforms
When most people look at a school uniform, they see something, well, uniform.
As in, boring. Isn't that the point?
Not in Thom Browne's hands. At his runway show Sept. 13, the designer took the simple image of a Japanese schoolgirl's uniform and transformed it. He created a strange but enticing world.
Browne is known for both his craftsmanship and his showmanship. Thus, no one was surprised. Folks that entered a gallery in New York saw that the designer had constructed a one-room schoolhouse. The designer's recent collections have been set in a 19th-century English hospital, and a cathedral. This time, there were rows of chairs. And a black composition notebook neatly placed at each one.
Then came the "students." Each model wore a pleated skirt and blazer. But the workmanship on those "uniforms" was intricate. Different patterns were embroidered on both skirt and jacket. Each outfit was wholly unique. There were pinstripes, floral patterns, gingham and seersucker. Color schemes started with shades of gray. They moved on to black-and-white, and pastels like mint green and lavender.
Then there was the hair. It doubtless would get a reprimand (or at least a hard look) from a strict headmistress. Two starched braids were sticking straight up from the head into the air. They were framed by fabulous (and topless) boater hats. The hats were created by master milliner Stephen Jones.
The students marched slowly around the schoolhouse. Then they entered it, one by one. They took seats. Finally, a "teacher" arrived. She looked like a bride, or a Kabuki actor. She was fully veiled and dressed in a long, tiered white linen skirt and an overcoat in white fur. She took her place at the head of the classroom. Then she rapped on the table. And then Browne came out to take his bow.
But the "students" stayed in place in their classroom. Observers rushed forward to photograph them up close. The "students" stood, motionless.
Sticking out from under the schoolhouse, unnoticed at first, were a pair of men's feet. It was like a reminder of "Wizard of Oz." Who knows where that man figured into the story.
Backstage, Browne explained that the whole show was based on one thing. It was that generic school uniform.
"That was the reason for all the pleated skirts," he said. "But also, I almost wanted to play with people not knowing what was right side up and what was upside down."
It was a concise explanation. But when your clothes are that intricately crafted, they speak for themselves.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes these designs impractical for school?
Write your answers in the comments section below