But, when you delve into the rich stories behind each scene, what you'll soon come to realize is that this story threads fashion with history in a very intriguing way. For two semesters, 27 Marist students of all grade levels were pinned with the task of producing a fashion magazine from start to finish. They had to organize professional photographers and models, gather advertisements, and decide where and how to showcase their designs.
The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service was the perfect inspiration. The students decided to stay close to home and have all of the photography taken just up the road at the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park.
"They were originally just going to have a few of the shots taken at the park," said Marist Instructor Melissa Halvorson. "But, the students were so inspired that they based the entire theme of the magazine around it."
Every page features a different setting, the carriage house and entryway of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home, the humble bedrooms of Eleanor Roosevelt's Cottage at Val-Kill, the outdoor spaces and gardens at the Vanderbilt Mansion and even a few inside the Bellefield Estate.
The students were granted access to every room, offering very interesting angles that everyday visitors wouldn't get to see otherwise. The models weren't able to touch any of the furniture, which was a challenge, said Halvorson. But, they were able to incorporate their own stools and props in the settings.
Recently retired, Superintendent of the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt NHS, Sarah Olson, said the park welcomed this collaboration with the fashion students at Marist College. "In our second century, the National Park Service wants to facilitate deep connections between the younger generation and parks through diverse park experiences."
After three days of rigorous and exhausting photography sessions, the students had an eclectic assortment of photos to work with. After some observation, they found that the photos told a story of a woman whose life started off in the shadows and blossomed into one of controversy and prominence. Mrs. Roosevelt, a leader of her time for civil and human rights, was shining through the photos.
"The students knew Eleanor would be an influence for the magazine, but they didn't intend for the photos to unfold the phases of her life like they did," said Halvorson. "It all just came together so perfectly."
Within the first few pages there is a sense of youth and insecurity, reflecting on Mrs. Roosevelt's childhood as a black sheep. Orphaned at the age of ten and ridiculed for her appearance, Mrs. Roosevelt grew up with a lot of negativity surrounding her. The following pages depict her life as a mother, her life as the wife of a senator and later, a president. She was dutiful, but still oppressed by her past. The storyline ends with the photograph of a woman, clearly in thought, holding articles with the words "My Day" on them. This photograph encapsulates the phase of Mrs. Roosevelt's later life in which she was a prominent figure in society. She wrote column after column of the change she saw around her. The perfect culmination to a life of struggle.
"Being able to tell her story in these private spaces, with her objects was an honor," Halvorson said. "But, we only had that privilege because they were preserved by the National Park Service. If the NPS was never established, we wouldn't have any access at all or any ties to our history."
Fashion, like history, is a marker of our culture; it defines our place in society and the world. Much like the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt NHS, and the work of the entire NPS, this magazine represents how far we've come as a nation.
"We are telling the story of everyone who has passed through the park, the employees, the volunteers, the visitors," said Halvorson. "This theme doesn't just represent the history of Eleanor or the Park Service, but of everyone."
We are grateful to the Marist Fashion Department for all of their hard work!
Check back in next week for a new blog about our new furry friends, the goats, at Vanderbilt Mansion.