Today’s Parsons The New School for Design dates back to 1896 when Impressionist painter William Merritt Chase founded an arts school. It started with a small group of Art students hailing from the Art Students League of New York “in search of more individualistic expression.” It quickly transformed under the direction of Frank Alvah Parsons, who joined the school in 1904. Parsons established the fashion program, first known as “Costume Design.” Students studied costume, design, construction, life drawing and fashion illustration. In its earlier years, the school was a three-year program. The first year was mostly dedicated to technical training. Emphasis was placed on the use of mediums, studying the figure, principals of design, and color scale. In the second year students developed their work from the first year, in addition to studying historic costume and their adaptation to modern use.

Parsons was originally located on 54th street between 1st and 2ndavenue and all the majors resided in one building. After the merger with the New School in 1970, many programs moved to 13th street and 5th avenue in 1973. The fashion program, however, moved to 40th street and 7th avenue.

 

594_ca_object_representations_media_3649_largeParis Ateliers Fashion Illustration class sketching model in white dress. 1920s.Parsons School of Design Alumni Association records. New School Archives and Special Collections Digital Archive. Web. 07 Sep 2014.

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Students working on fashion design drawings as model examines completed drawings. 1950s. Parsons School of Design Alumni Association records. New School Archives and Special Collections Digital Archive. Web. 07 Sep 2014.

Screen-Shot-2013-12-11-at-5.34.56-PMChristian Dior and Carmel Snow examining a student design at Parsons School of Design. 1953. Parsons School of Design Alumni Association records. New School Archives and Special Collections Digital Archive. Web. 07 Sep 2014.