Parsons

Profiles

  • Fashion Studies (MA)

    Michelle McVicker

    Since her days as a teenage thrifter rummaging through racks of old clothes, MA Fashion Studies graduate Michelle McVicker has been fascinated by fashion’s connection to history. “There’s something very comforting in knowing that a human being that lived 40 years ago had the same body measurements as me,” she says, thinking back on the hours she would spend in the aisles of vintage shops. “Clothes mean so much more than just what’s trendy or in style,” she says; they represent “untold stories.”

    In Parsons’ Fashion Studies program, McVicker was able to pursue her interest by studying the materiality of clothing. “It was like suddenly all these abstract ideas I had about fashion were legitimized. It was very validating in that way, like ‘I’m not the only one who thinks these things.’”

    Now, as a fashion archivist and museum educator, McVicker explores that interest in materiality in her job, where, she explains, she is still “very much focused on the feel, the touch of clothing on our bodies, the traces of use on objects.” After working as a collections management assistant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and an ArtTable Diversity fellow at the Philadelphia Fabric Workshop and Museum, she took a position as a collections and education assistant at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), where she continues to use object-based research to uncover and examine the traces of history held by old clothes.

    During her fellowship at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, McVicker assembled an archive of the boxes of materials that resident artists had left behind. She describes her process as “measuring, inventorying, archiving, and coming up with these stories that I put together from what was left in these boxes.” Her mission was to gain an understanding of the work these artists — some of whom were at the museum decades ago — were doing during their residency by examining the materials they left behind, such as “prototypes of artwork, notes, and pigment tests.” She communicated with the curatorial team about interesting findings and connected them with other works in the museum’s collection. Her efforts helped curators better understand the creative processes through which artists produced their work. “I’m hoping that I’ve found correspondences that are really interesting, little snippets of the histories.”

    McVicker’s goal is to pass along stories like these to museum visitors and students. While at Parsons, she was also a graduate teaching assistant for two undergraduate courses. “It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my master’s degree,” she says. In her current role as a museum educator at FIT, she hopes to ignite the same passion for material archives that she developed at Parsons and to expose “young people of all backgrounds to creative careers in museums.”

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