"In New York, We Wear our Clothes Hard." Emily Spivack Speaks at FIT.

by Sierra Petro


(Photo via FIT Museum Twitter)

“Selling everything but my birthday suit before I head to a nudist colony,” was one story (of a set auctioned off on ebay) that sparked Emily Spivack’s interest in collecting stories connected to pieces of clothing. 


Spivack decided to purchase the items and many like them, which eventually turned into exhibits, a website, and the book “Worn Stories”.


“The story, the clothing, and also the place,” were found by Spivack to be reoccurring topics of importance. She came to the Fashion Institute of Technology on Tuesday night to discuss the book’s sequel, “Worn in New York.”


“In New York, we wear our clothes hard,” was the beginning line of the book Spivack shared upon introduction. She’s lived in New York for about a decade, and described her prior statement with the example of easily getting one’s new shoes stepped on on the subway. “We wear things down in New York, and we’re on view all the time. The private/ public boundary is looser here.”


The book is a collection of 68 stories from those of the likes of Aubrey Plaza to Brenda Berkman, the first female firefighter for the FDNY.


Ernie Glam’s story of a piece he wore on The Joan Rivers Show in 1990 while involved in the Club Kid subculture was the one full story read by Spivack on Tuesday. Glam learned to sew at FIT to create his outrageous outfits that weren’t sold in stores.


“Clothing is a great access point to get someone to open up,” said Spivack. The story she read on Glam went into detail about his eccentric outfit choices and what it was like growing up gay in a rough neighborhood where he wasn’t accepted.


“I internalized that alienation; I turned into this big freak. I justified not being excepted by putting on all this makeup and dressing crazily. By doing this it was understandable that people would reject me, because just being your normal self and not being accepted is very painful,” read Spivack of Glam.


The context of Glam’s story was added, which involved the aids epidemic during this time in the late 80’s and early 90’s. “All these young gay people who were just becoming sexual were faced with this horrible disease. Club Kids internalized that fear of sex. They responded to it by making themselves grotesque, so they wouldn't be sexually appealing. At the same time you were wearing a very erotic outfit, like maybe your butt would be showing or you would be wearing bondage gear,” read Spivack of Glam.


Photos are included in the book, but they are simple photos of the garments. “I want the essence of the person’s voice to come through in the text. I almost want the photos to feel a bit empty, since the story fills the reader in on what happened.”