Draft: Samantha's Research Question Page

The general topic for my exhibit will explore the mid-80s expansion of East Village style through the growth of downtown boutique shops. I will specifically look at the years 1985-1986; as there appears to be substantial amounts of evidence and resources regarding my topic. There are many newspaper and magazine articles published during that time discussing how many individuals who lived in Uptown Manhattan were traveling to Downtown, East Village area in particular, to shop and purchase off-beat trendy fashions from boutiques. In fact, this was such a fascinating concept, that The Museum at FIT even had an exhibition titled, “The East Village” that showcased fashion, art and design.

Despite the notion that East Village fashion had a “reputation for the outrageous” (NYT, 1985); the mid-80s brought around a new perspective and general broadened appeal. Many East Village designers and boutique owners expanded upon their collections and holdings to appeal to the masses – to both individuals from Uptown neighborhoods as well as those in The Village. In spite of their mass appeal, East Village designers continued to use unconventional materials to construct one-of-a-kind looks. A majority of these boutiques sprung up along East 7th Street between 1985-1986. This explosion of boutiques made East 7th Street a major shopping destination.

Taking a step back from my general topic, I can envision various possibilities for sub-topics that easily branch off: specific 80s fashion trend, boutique and designer spotlights. Although there are many newspaper and magazine articles, several of the boutiques and designers frequent the different publications. For example designers like: Keni Valenti, Ginnie Burke and Michael Jordan, Patricia Fountaine and Julia Morton. L’Age d’Or and La Coppia boutiques also find favor in the press.

With regards to the big picture, my topic can relate to the broader notion of national fashion trends or international fashion trends during the mid-80s. Was this expansion in popularity with “hip” boutiques an isolated phenomenon? Or were other cities experiencing the same growth? One could also take a closer look at a specific East Village trend, for example oversized blazers, and compare its popularity to outside the City limits. Were individuals in Philadelphia also indulging in similar trends? Looking towards the future, did 1980s boutiques have a big impact on 1990s trends? Despite the ever changing storefronts in the City, did any of these popular boutiques survive until the present?

I plan to use various secondary sources to assist with this project. I will start by looking at a general historiography related to alternative 80s fashion trends. NYU Bobcat and their Database resources will be a great start. I have already begun looking into information via ProQuest. Although my topic was a topic of conversation at the time (1985-1986), it appears to be a topic that is mostly unstudied or discussed about in detail by historians.

As I continue to prepare for creating my exhibit, I will continue to do research for more sources (primary and secondary) as I develop a concise and focused story. I have a couple ideas for exhibit titles: Beyond the Boundaries: Mid 80s Boutique Fashion, Eclecticism: East Village Street Fashion, East 7th Street: An Uptowner’s Downtown Destination.

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