Amory Blaine, hero of Fitzgerald’s “This Side Of Paradise,” proudly declares himself a romantic, not a sentimentalist. The difference is that while the sentimentalist naively hopes things will last, the romantic knows they tragically won’t.
A reference to this passage from Fitzgerald’s debut novel closes an interesting meditation on the MFIT’s “Ivy Style” exhibit — so much so that we thought it deserved its own pointer post.
The essay appears in the Princeton Alumni Weekly and is written by Gregg Lange, from the class of 1970, or the class that systematically dismantled the Ivy League Look in their four years from 1966-1970.
Lange begins by noting Princeton’s legendary status as fashion leader:
… the exhibit’s entry gallery bluntly attributes the creation of Ivy Style to Princeton. Noting our remove from the urban hustle and the homogeneous student body in the ’20s, it presents Tigertown as the perfect incubator for the studied, painstakingly crafted casual look that remains with us in various forms today.
But his most interesting passage comes later, a terse summary of the Ivy League Look’s rise and fall:
Some of the crucial steps along the Ivy style metamorphosis of the last 90 years are quirky: the raccoon coat (which apparently turned up first at Princeton, of course, in 1921); the monumental introduction of the “odd jacket,” initially half a tweed suit, to become the sports coat, ubiquitous badge of academia; the integration of khakis from returning World War II vets into the look in the ’50s; and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, the archetype of establishment conformity. After my generation tried to kill off anything that wasn’t tie-dyed (and of course, failed), the thunderous counterattack of The Preppy Handbook in 1980 – the wannabe bible of Amory’s grandchildren – gave new vigor to Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and the other various acolytes around the high altar of Brooks Brothers. And there the look holds firm today, with a significant number of fashion houses still achieving liquidity through button-down collars, rep ties, and very scary things with little ducks on them.
Last night Richard Press debuted his one-man show at the FIT museum to a sold-out audience. The former J. Press president, who used to moonlight as a theater actor, had the crowd from the first line and never let them go during the 45-minute tour of the “Ivy Style” exhibit.
With a lively, reverberating voice that filled the exhibit hall, Press guided the audience through the display areas, pointing out the more noteworthy items and launching into spontaneous anecdotes like a seasoned raconteur.
He began with the Brooks Brothers Number One Sack Suit from the early 20th century, and shared the story of how his grandfather took him to Brooks to get a grey flannel suit for his bar mitzvah, and how all the Brooks sales staff politely bowed to the illustrious Mr. Press.
The first laugh came when Richard reported that several fashion designers have already said they plan to copy the Princeton beer suit.
Speaking of Tigers, Richard went on to talk about F. Scott Fitzgerald and that while “Stover At Yale” was the first pop culture piece of Ivy literature, it was Fitzgerald who put Princeton on the map and first acknowledged the aristocratic style that blossomed at this campus that was “an island unto itself.”
He next shared a story I hadn’t heard and which we’ll have to investigate further. Apparently Yale administrators didn’t much care for the more plebeian (but presumably smart) undergrads who entered under the GI Bill, and created a jacket-and-tie dress code in 1952 as a result. We’ll have to find that dress code and see if it details exactly what kind of jackets and ties were acceptable.
Every time I mention something historic to Richard, he always tells me some story about a personal connection to it. He seems to be separated by only one degree to every person and event of the late 20th century. So I guess it should come as no surprise that he shared the story of the playmate at Dartmouth, who was escorted by none other than one of Richard’s pals. The Life Magazine chronicling the event was one of Ivy-Style.com’s most popular early posts.
Next, evidently food fights a la “Animal House” actually happened.
Unlike the Ivy Style press conference and opening night party, the tour was comprised almost entirely of non-menswear folks. So one could only chuckle at when the first question to Mr. Press at the conclusion of the tour was, “What is a rep tie? And where and with what would you wear those velvet slippers?”
A following question was a tad sharper: Why did Richard, who grew up in New Haven, end up at Dartmouth instead of Yale? Richard replied that he wanted to go his own way and get out of Dodge, so to speak.
But the final question was the best of all: “Is this style still worn on Ivy League campuses now?”
The audience — young and old, male and female, dapper and disheveled — roared with laughter. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
During the press conference for “Ivy Style” at the MFIT, Andrew Yamato took video while on assignment for A Suitable Wardrobe. Included in the video above are remarks by Patricia Mears, Richard Press, G. Bruce Boyer and Christian Chensvold.
It’s kinda cool to have your name on a book — especially when you didn’t even have to do anything.
Last week I got a copy of “Ivy Style,” the book, published by Yale University Press, no less, that accompanies the MFIT exhibit. It includes my Q&A with Richard Press from here. Other writers contributed chapters on related topics such as the British influence on Ivy garb, and Patricia Mears, the museum’s curator provided several overview chapters. (Continue)