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Uniform chic: FITNYC explores the power of rank and file style

Emma McClendon, curator of the Uniformity exhibit at FITNYC, goes underneath the uniform to find it's social relevance.
Emma McClendon, curator of the Uniformity exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology's museum, goes underneath the uniform to find it's social relevance. (All images courtesy The Museum at FIT)

Chances are, between school and work, we've all had to wear a uniform at some point in our lives — and we've all felt either love or loathing for it.

Uniformity, an exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology's museum, explores the tension between conforming to and rebelling against the confines of a uniform. For it's curator, Emma McClendon, uniforms are an important facet in our modern society and a key ingredient to how we interact with clothes.

The exhibit deconstructs the uniform into four categories - military, work, school and athletic. Each category is laden with codes - some command respect when they are worn, some strip the wearer of power, some are a key element to camaraderie.  

The exhibit, on until November 19th, showcases the ways uniforms have transformed in shape and meaning over the years. Above is a selection of the outfits on display. (All images courtesy The Museum at FIT)

Most importantly, uniforms have transformed over time. Much of this is due to pop culture's influence.

"We see a lot of pop culture figures capitalise on the order, control and respect of certain uniforms and subverted that by putting it in unlikely contexts," McClendon tells guest host Candy Palmater, like sexualize it, for example. 

And yet, no matter the change, our relationship to uniforms seems to stay the same - "We're culturally coded to recognize and react to uniforms in a very subliminal ways," McClendon reveals.

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