While a flurry of New York editors head to Europe, another style set is focusing stateside. Ivy Style, which opened this week, is the latest exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), centered around that oh-so-American way of blue-blooded dressing. “When looking at images from the twenties and thirties, most of the chic and progressive people were college students from Ivy League schools,” says Patricia Mears, the museum’s deputy director, who co-curated the exhibit, which tracks the growth of collegiate dressing from the early twentieth century to present day. “Back then, men’s fashion magazines would tell readers, ‘If you want to see what’s cutting-edge, go watch a game at Princeton.’ “
To that end, the room’s vibe reads like a secret society meeting rather than a historical retrospective, dressed as a university quad and filled with Shetland tweeds, oxford button-downs, polo coats, and the emblematic prep apparel—the navy blazer. “Pre-World War II was more of a formal era, so it was necessary to dress well within a certain social context,” Mears told Style.com, citing that avant-garde students would rebelliously pair cricket sweaters with sports jackets in the classroom. The show’s centerpiece? A raccoon fur coat styled over a tweed suit—a look popular in the 1920s and even heralded by Miles Davis, who would get his clothing tailored at Charlie Davidson’s famed Andover Shop in Boston. (Mears juxtaposed the fur and tweed ensemble with a Perry Ellis women’s suit circa 1970 to highlight the former’s influence.)
“Today the term ivy means something different,” mused Mears, who peppered the exhibition with contemporary ensembles including a Thom Browne studded suit circa 2009 as well as looks from Michael Bastian, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger. “Preppy has become a fashion term, which we think of as youthful and brightly colored, but back then, it was much more formal and influenced some of the coolest, hippest dressers ever.” Ivy Style runs through January 5 at the Museum at FIT.