Patriotic fashion, beyond red, white and blue

The Fourth of July brings out all manner and mess of patriotic styles, most of it the equivalent of wrapping oneself in Old Glory. It’s hard to pull off a red, white and blue ensemble and not veer into the highly suspect aesthetics of Uncle Sam. Perhaps that’s why the fashion industry treads carefully when it comes to dabbling in full-blown, flag-waving Americana. Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger are among the few designers who regularly use overt patriotic imagery in their collections. To generally pleasant effect, they are able to evoke blue-jean grit, Wild West glory and, occasionally, even melting-pot diversity without turning camp.

But over the years, the fashion industry has shown off its pride in country in a host of more subtle and more diverse ways. Designers such as Michael Kors, Tracy Reese and Derek Lam have been inspired by landscapes ranging from the beaches of California to the sunsets of Santa Fe to the gardens of New Orleans to the rocky Atlantic Coast. When the American designers of the French-owned Kenzo have presented their collection in Paris, they have flown in New York bakers to re-create cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and, later, cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar for their international guests.

And Donna Karan built an industry on the glories of New York and its cityscape of dreams.

To mark the holiday, we recall, in this gallery, some of the memorable and unexpected ways in which Seventh Avenue has shown its patriotic fervor through aesthetics, can-do’ism, Made in America loyalty and open-hearted diversity in the spirit of Lady Liberty.

Robin Givhan is a fashion critic and writer, covering fashion as a business, as a cultural institution and as pure pleasure.
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