Once upon a time in the bowels of art and design studios, one piece of artistic couture was essential. The smock (or lab coat) was not only functional apparel that kept other garments as clean as fresh flowers in a cultivated English garden, but it was also the symbolic uniform of the job of art-making. Add a beret and bow-tie, and you were a certified artist. But in our mad rush to be cool, we’ve lost a lot of these fine traditions.
Back in the day, when women were marginalized as designers (waiting to get married and start a family), smocks served them well in a multipurpose way. As the Simplicity Pattern (above) suggests: The smock could be a professional uniform when needed, but once that bundle of joy was on the way, the smock magically turned into maternity garb.
I won’t advocate bringing back the smock as pregnancy couture, but it is time, as designers, to reconsider our dress standards. Almost anything goes these days, so maybe now is the time to “bring back the smock” (BBS). Let’s hear it: “The Smock is Our Friend” and “Long Live Smocks.” We might even need an advertising campaign (i.e. “The Smock You Save May Be Your Own”). And, of course, don’t forget the beret.
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →