The Whitney Museum of American Art, colloquially known as “The Whitney”, is an art museum, as the name suggests. Once located in East Village, the museum has since been moved to ritzy Lower Manhattan, in the Meatpacking District. Surrounded by rustic store fronts and a surprising number of restaurants, the Whitney seems to be exclusively patronized by socialites, hipsters, the well-dressed, and the occasional tourist.
I had visited recently with some friends who needed to examine an exhibit for a school assignment. We had not expected the museum to be quite so fancy, so of course we stuck out like sore thumbs. The only piece of clothing we had remotely like what the other patrons were wearing was my newsboy cap. However, because of the stark contrast between our outfits and theirs, I was easily able to notice the fashions present.
The most obvious thing about the others patrons’ outfits was the surprising lack of color. Many of the other museum goers’ outfits consisted of black, white, or grey. The majority of the men and women present also wore similar clothing. Corduroy jackets and woolen overcoats seemed to be the order of the day, because you couldn’t wave your arms without hitting someone bundled up tight in those coats. The jackets reminded me of something I’d see in a commercial for a high-end clothing store, certainly nothing the average citizen would have on hand for an average cold day. Many of the patrons were also neck deep in accessories like scarves and gloves, despite the fact that they were indoors. A surprising amount of people were wearing big sunglasses, oftentimes emblazoned with a brand one might associate with exorbitant prices, like Ray Ban’s. It was apparent that my friends and I were lacking in fanciness. We had showed up in brightly colored fleece jackets and blue jeans, looking like a bag of skittles in an otherwise monochromatic setting.
Luckily, we weren’t the only fish out of water. New York, being the popular travel destination that it is, always has a gaggle of tourists somewhere. The ones at the Whitney, much like my friends and I, didn’t quite fit in to the fashion scene of the museum. They appeared to be dressed more for function, rather than fashion. They wore thick coats with fur lined hoods, or fleece jackets designed to keep warmth in. The brands they were wearing were instantly recognizable, popular names like The North Face and L.L Bean. Oftentimes, they also had backpacks, likely because the Whitney would not be their only stop during the day.
Of course, it’s not to say that one group of patrons looked any better or worse than another group of patrons. The most interesting contrast to me was that the most common demographic present at the Whitney was wealthy, younger people with a similar fashion sense. I can’t deny that they really did dress nicely though. Were it within my power, I would probably wear nothing but soft wool coats too. I did not take any pictures of the patrons because taking pictures of anything in a museum is largely frowned upon. Compared to my neighborhood, however, Lower Manhattan certainly dresses to impress.