A Life in Fashion

by Alden Cole on April 8, 2014 · 0 comments

RISDfashion1WPBetween September 1963 when I started my sophomore year at RISD majoring in the fashion department, and May 1966 when I graduated with a BFA in ‘Apparel Design’ I put hundreds of hours into learning a trade that would eventually take me to New York City for over a decade. Sophomore year still involved 6 credits devoted to general drawing and design classes, with only 4 credits in the major, and another 6 credits in liberal arts – Western Art & Ideas, and World Literature. Junior and senior years increased the number of credits in the major to 10, plus 6 in elective liberal arts, both years – Renaissance Painting & Sculpture and The Art of Portraiture being my favorites. Oddly enough Design in Music, an elective I took with great hopes of expanding my musical knowledge, proved to be the most inaccessible class of my entire RISD experience, for which I earned a D, the lowest mark in all four years, which disappointingly lowered my grade point average that semester and overall.

RISDfashion5WPSo what were all those hours spent in the apparel department devoted to? Making clothes for the annual student fashion show each May, after which there was a sale of all the garments to make money for the department, which was plowed back into buying more fabric for the following year. We learned pattern-making which would be a necessary skill for people seeking employment in clothing industry production; we learned to drape and sew, and focus on single projects for long periods of time. I did a bit of research recently in my own files to discover that sophomore year I only completed and contributed one garment to Collection ’64 show. I can only deduce that I was a very slow learner who would have not have scored well on Project Runway. I have no idea what this first-year garment looked like. No photos. No memory. Just a verbal description in the show program as The Pinks. For Collection ’65 I only raised the number of show garments to two. One was entitled Glazed Gingham Deck Set, the other Knickers, Again, clueless. No memories of them. No photos. I have to wonder what the heck was I doing to be so marginally productive? Whatever, by Collection ’66 I had cranked up my output to six completed garments, variously described in the program as Gray Twill Pantsuit (seen above in a color photo taken back-stage. Yes, that’s me in three-quarter profile on the right).

KarenACWPIn addition there were: Glazed Denin Rainset, Moorish Pink Gown, White Brocade, Hand Woven Lamé, and Harlequin Pajamas, two shots of which are featured today: a color photo of the garment on Karen Saloomey, a sophomore in the department who served as my favorite model, on the runway in the photo at the top of today’s post; and at left in an aged newspaper clipping from the Providence Journal, sometime prior to the May 17 & 18 runway shows. Yes, that’s yours truly yet again at age 21 standing in the background listening to the comments and criticisms that professor Hilde Herbig is making about the garment on Karen. So professional looking in shirt, tie and jacket, except for the ‘high water’ pants I still sported then…

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