PICTURE: #1 IN TWELVE ACTS
Patricia Mears is one of the few in the Fashion Museum world who is equally as fluent with fashion history and theory as with knowing how and what to wear. For her then, fashion theory and individualized sartorial practice are not mutually exclusive.
As ever prolific with work, she’s one of the few scholars or academics confident and witty enough to express herself with supple, informed and neat sartorial panache.
A Fashion Curator, Ms. Mears is the Deputy Director of The Museum at FIT. She’s the curator of American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion. Her other MFIT exhibitions include Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness and Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out (co-curated with MFIT director Valerie Steele). Previously, She was assistant curator of the costume and textile collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
In the next twelve days, witness Patricia share her style and sensibility. Note especially her rare gift and ease that she wears some of her sculpted outfits. It takes a particular type, a Patricia Mears, say, with a calm brilliance, to look as triumphant and chic as she does in some of her three-dimensional pieces.
Do not dress to expectations; do not seek approval—only obey the mirror. Patricia concurs!
Iké Udé /December 14th.
On the verge of turning 50
Fashion Curator; Deputy Director for the Museum at FIT
The Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, New York
Dark neutrals, and saturated jewel tones
Favorite Fashion Designer:
Of the current designers, it has to be Jean Yu; I also love Yeohlee Teng, and Ralph Rucci. Historically, the great Madame Alix Grès is a favorite.
Favorite Shoe/Accessories Designer:
Comme il Faut Tango shoes
Germaine Cellier perfumes for Robert Piguet: Fracas and Bandit. They are strong, assertive and sensual
Favorite Stylish Film:
Although I love the styles in older period films, a few dating to the 1960s resonate most strongly with me: Faye Dunaway in the Thomas Crown Affair and the couture pieces by Givenchy, like those worn by Audrey Hepbern in Charade, or by Chanel, for Romy Schneider.
Classic bars, especially 21, La Grenouille, and The Four Seasons
The costume storage room at the Museum at FIT; workrooms of my favorite designers; and my home in the Catskills
Who is your style icon?
What item of clothing would you rather starve for?
A custom-made pair of shoes by Comme il Faut and a Jean Yu custom made garment, especially one of her gowns with matching lingerie.
What is your overall impression of how people dress in general? Sadly, most people make very little effort to dress. The United States used to have the best dressed population in the world, but, over the past few decades, that has all changed.
And what do you recommend that they do otherwise? Make an effort to present the best version of yourself to the world. It is difficult for many because we are so casual now that few seem to understand how to dress their body properly. Just a little attention to choosing the appropriate silhouettes would make a world of difference. It will change how others consider you and, ultimately, how you feel about yourself.
PICTURE: #1 IN TWELVE ACTS
SPECIAL GUEST INTERVIEW:
PATRICIA MEARS TALKS ABOUT HER 1ST OUTFIT
What items did you use to compose this particular outfit?
A Junya Watanabe puffer and a Yohji Yamamoto skirt, both about ten years old. The red tie if from a Jean Yu gown; the boots are a new acquisition and are by Dries van Noten.
How did you find the various items that you are wearing?
The puffer was bought on sale at Barney’s, years ago. The skirt was purchased at a Yohji family and friends sale, and the boots were bought online from a store in Montreal this season.
How did you arrive at the decision to compose such an outfit?
I spontaneously blended old and new. The Watanabe puffer is a piece many people have complimented me on. (Bill Cunningham even photographed me wearing it years ago.) Many have kindly noted that they love the color of the boots. But the skirt is one of my favorite pieces because it is subtle and only I know how well cut and comfortable it is. I wanted to add a dash of unusual color this season to tried and true pieces in my wardrobe so the boots were ideal.
Where do you normally shop for clothes and accessories?
These days, I shop at inexpensive stores for basics. Uniqlo is a favorite. But, I indulge in custom-made pieces from my favorite designers like Jean Yu. I blend everything with old favorites, mainly by Japanese designers, purchased years ago.
How much role does money or the lack thereof play in one’s endeavor to dress very smart or beautifully?
While having some money is necessary to build one’s wardrobe, it need not be a fortune. Time and energy are more important. And you must have passion. Ultimately, a love of style is what drives most of us.
What special recommendation would you give to somebody who admires your style but don’t know where or how start?
Begin with the basics—understand your body, your lifestyle, and your delimitations. I dress for the work I do. It was far easier to cultivate my look once I laid down some rules for myself. Dramatic sculpted pieces, mainly coats and jackets, are blended with narrow, knee-length skirts. I love beautifully crafted pieces and tone them down with easy basics.
Name six famous personages—past or present—who you would invite over for dinner/drinks because of their impeccable individualistic elegance?”
Only six people! How challenging. I guess I would have to choose women who have directly influenced my style over the years. Mrs. Wellington Koo, a great Chinese lady of style in the 1930s, Millicent Rogers, Tina Chow, Margot Fonteyn, Madame Martinez de Hoz (Madeleine Vionnet’s great client), and Madame Alix Grès.
As a result of your style, what is your impression of how you are generally perceived in public?
Despite the fact that I live and work in New York City, I find that we are often confined to our own “villages.” Thankfully, my museum/fashion village is quite enlightened and many of us love fashion and take great pleasure in viewing one another’s choices. In other words, I try to dress in step with my style conscious peers.
And how would rather the public perceive you?
New Yorkers are very open and love to see interesting clothes. When I wear a good ensemble, people notice and are generous with their compliments. I do keep in mind that I work in a professional setting so balancing fashion and function is key.
Presently, what do you think accounts for the poor appearances in how people generally dress or don’t dress?
It has to be a lack of awareness because we are so casual today. Few understand proper fit and proportion. It is a pity because so many people seen not to care. This fact continues to puzzle and sadden me.
In retrospect have you ever worn something that you now find particularly regrettable?
Oh yes. Interestingly, as curator, we are often unable to properly critique ourselves. So much effort is spent observing dress from past eras or assessing the most important and beautiful contemporary fashions that we forget we must be equally critical and edit our choices judiciously. Sadly, too many of my colleagues dress very poorly. What an irony.
In the end, do you dress to: (a.) please others, (b.) please yourself or (c.) hopefully be in agreement with everybody?
Ultimately, while l do like to dress well for others, I always dress for myself first.