What is a cherished garment made of? What is a poem made of? Labor and raw materials, tradition and innovation, influences both local and global and–art–are stitched into both. At New York Fashion Week, host Elisa New catches up with fashion designer Johnson Hartig, Bergdorf Goodman’s Betty Halbreich, shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, and design and poetry students from the New School to discuss Robert Pinsky’s “Shirt.” Back in Boston, poet Robert Pinsky helps trace the intricate history of the garment and the poem.
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The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians
Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band
“Shirt” from SELECTED POEMS by Robert Pinsky. Copyright © 2011 by Robert Pinsky.
Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Child laborer in South Carolina cotton mill, 1908. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Rows of garment workers (circa 1910). Courtesy of the Kheel Center, Cornell University
Detail of shirt cuff
Detail of plaid shirt
Mourners picket after the Triangle Fire (1911). Courtesy of the Kheel Center, Cornell University