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Garden Fashion at Anti-Prom


Rose dancer, 1914. Image ID: 5208659

It is almost time for the Library’s fabulous Anti-Prom.  On Friday, June 17, New York teens will assemble on the steps of the Schwarzman Building and reveal to each other and the staff volunteers what they consider “prom wear” for the Secret Garden Anti-Prom.

For one class of attendees, how to dress for the Anti-Prom is a major concern.  Each year, library staff work with the faculty at the High School for Fashion Industries on something between a class project and Project Runway.  Inspired by that popular reality show, the YA staff, with the design and draping teachers and school librarian, developed a 6-episode “challenge” to design outfits based on that year’s Anti-Prom’s theme.  The participating Juniors visit NYPL’s three centers of visual culture (the Library for the Performing Arts, Mid-Manhattan’s Picture Collection, and SASB’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs) and work with the staff to learn about visual research.  For inspiration, we pull photos and iconography for them and guide them through books on fashion history, costume design and material related to the theme. 

For the VamProm, they looked at Victorian mourning fashion plates.  For the Glam and the Punk Anti-Proms, LPA brought out books, zines and album covers.  For this year’s Secret Garden, we showed examples of the many flower costumes designed for the vast Hippodrome Theater, donated by its producer R. H. Burnside (*T-MSS 1952-002).  We introduced them to the Digital Collections, studying how nineteenth century botany illustrations could inspire sleeve or skirt construction, textile prints or embroidery, and headdresses.  

They develop preliminary designs and patterns in class, make patterns and muslins, and get to swatch and purchase satins, velvets, and lace at Mood Fabric, Project Runway’s favorite store.  A designer, such as Todd Oldham or Tim Gunn himself, gives the students suggestions and their teachers offer advice on construction. The outfits are modeled by them or friends on the grand staircase runway at the Anti-Prom.   Finally, at the start of the next week, the summer interns and I install the outfits and inspiration boards in the Fifth Avenue windows of the Mid-Manhattan building, a former department store. 

Only two weeks to wait…


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