Curatorial Fellow Monique Long on Fashion in Harlem and Art
In the glossary that accompanied Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Story in Harlem Slang,” (1942) there are five different terms listed for someone fashionable. Invariably, iconic photographs of Harlemites include those dressed in blindingly fashionable clothes. There’s a rich history and tradition in Harlem that defines the neighborhood not only as the cornerstone of African-American culture but style as well. Visitors and residents alike assimilate to the expectation that you must express yourself fashionably here, demonstrated beautifully by the attendees at our summer opening in July and the monumental drawings by Rob Pruitt of fashionable women that hang in the main gallery.
I will be writing a series of blog posts about fashion. Fashion History is a focus within my interest in art history and scholarship. Although there have been many well regarded exhibitions about fashion, the intersection between fashion and art is often overlooked or dismissed. Though artists often incorporate references to or explore fashion in their work (some examples that come to mind are Barkley Hendricks and Mickalene Thomas), less often is there an engagement with how designers are informed by art—not just simply for inspiration, but for direct references as part of their aesthetics. I will discuss the interplay between the two.
I will also be writing about the artistic process of New York designers whose studios I visit. The visits will be an insider look at their work spaces, what they use as primary resources (philosophical and otherwise) and of course their ideas and background. The blog will also include posts about fashion exhibitions, coverage of Harlem Fashion Week, selections from the Studio Museum’s permanent collection, and short features of glamorous Harlemites.
About the title of this series:
‘Draped down’ was a term Hurston documented in the glossary for "Story in Harlem Slang". It meant to be dressed in the height of Harlem fashion.