the work coat.
for sixteen years i had a weekly uniform more or less, although a fellow male partner considered mine to be more artsy than most architects. i think his perception of this had more to do with 15 years of constantly changing pixie haircuts, occasional bright wool wraps (offices are cold), and the fact that although i became a well practiced architect i have been an artist for a lot longer.
when i was old enough to take the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan i started taking weekend classes at The Fashion Institute of Technology in life drawing, design, graphics, fine arts and photography. when i was considering future colleges, the end goal was an art school in my hometown of New York City. during my late teenage years i experimented with clothes: jeans, flannel shirts, vintage t-shits, lace things, 1920's hats, black tights, dresses i found on the lower east side, and various jackets. i went to galleries. i went to museums. but most importantly i explored the city and looked at people.
once i entered the studio system at Parsons at 17, the experiment in outer visual play continued. i never wore sweatpants, or gear with my school name on it because that kind of apparel did not exist. in the fine arts department there were a lot of goth looking kids because it was time for goth in general.
NYC was in the pre-Tompkins Park riot days and soon after the post riot days. we were post-punk. the lower east side and west village was a place to find great old stuff. when i changed majors and entered the architecture program, because i was fascinated with the sociology and political study of space-making, our fashion in studio remained relatively artsy, as well as oblivious to clothing trends as we never slept. we were in architecture school in a serious, hard core studio system that for seven years deprived us of sleep. i had long spiral curls and looked out of date, more pre-raphealite than creative, but i didn't care because i was too tired to think about my outer wrapper.
architecture school is focused on conceptual thinking and not so much technical business. we conceived and enabled abstract thoughts about living and then made stuff. for students of architecture, professionalism comes later, when one is interning for three years just like a newly graduated doctor. after one interns professionally, there is a very long exam. i took 9 tests plus one more. (now i think there are only 7.) as i interned and later practiced, i learned how to discuss business like a lawyer or someone with a MBA, handle other peoples money, think about buildings like a scientist, physicist, biologist, and of course, continue to conceptually imagine enormous things. i also learned how to wear camouflage of the professional kind.
the uniform (office)
long black crepe jacket with winter white pants, very dark tailored jeans, creme colored or black top.
a scarf, brightly colored, when the office was cold.
black, grey, cream, white, beige, blue.
one pink velvet jacket. one emerald green jacket.
black leather jackets. (my favorite)
sometimes a dress.
brown wool jacket, beige pants. cowboy boots that were hidden by pants.
the uniform (job site)
khakis, t-shirt, work boots, hard hat.
this brown wool jacket.
the male business suit is a 17c invention.
looking through my closet i am fascinated by the selections i made regarding jackets. in a mostly male profession, where less than 20% of licensed architects are female, i made a conscious effort to keep the inner wrapper as my own. the men of the office wore more brightly colored shirts, pink, key lime green, blue, purple. funky glasses. but the female architects wore more subdued jackets:
here is my favorite brown jacket again, from the outside.
here is the inside.
all of my jackets have this private inner life. bright. textured. unexpected. self-defining. small details on buttons, stitches, pockets that seem neutral to the outside viewer. no one but ourselves really marvel over the inside of a jacket. a jacket's inner color and feel is for us. it's message is private. perhaps linings are a protective wrappers to keep us true to ourselves when we need reassurance or promote inner fantasy. perhaps they are silent protests, or quiet statements regarding our situations, political, social or communal. lately, i am very interested in this kind of glimpse of the self.
it's a still life self portrait.