Valerie Steele is the longtime director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Since 1997, she has organized more than 25 exhibitions there, including “The Corset;” “Gothic: Dark Glamour;” and “A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk.” Her latest, “Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color,” opened on Sept 7. The author of more than 25 books about fashion, Ms. Steele lives in a Chelsea loft with her husband, John S. Major, a historian of ancient China, and their two rescue cats, Raven and Sable.
COFFEE FIRST, TALK LATER I’m up by 7:30. Until I’ve had my coffee, I can’t speak. John makes it, but if he’s out of town, I do it myself. Generally, I’m wearing a Japanese yukata and sitting in an armchair reading the papers. In addition to The New York Times, on Sundays I read The Washington Post and the Financial Times. The only thing I eat is a grapefruit, because I go to exercise class right after breakfast.
WATER WORK By 8:30, I head downtown to Franklin Street on the subway for a 45-minute aqua cycling class at Aqua Studio. The bikes are in four feet of water, and it’s a fun, low-impact cardio workout. The classes are really diverse, with people of all races and ages and body types. I’m addicted, so I go three times a week.
FOCUS After I go home to drop off my bathing suit and wash my hair, I head to the office to write. During the week, it’s difficult to write because I’m always interrupted by meetings and phone calls. I’m working on three exhibitions at once. Until recently, I was valerie steele fashion and arts writing catalog labels for Pink. I’m also writing essays for “Exhibitionism: 50 Years of The Museum at FIT,” which opens in February, and “Paris, Capital of Fashion,” which opens in September 2019.
ART OR FILM John and I usually have Sunday brunch at Via Carota, an Italian restaurant in the West Village. I usually have a Bloody Mary and a salad; John likes the chicken livers. Afterward, we might go to a museum exhibition. We recently saw “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” at the Met Cloisters. The Morgan Library has a Wayne Thiebaud show that I want to see. If I’m not at a museum, I’m probably seeing a film, usually a foreign film, at Film Forum or the Quad or the Metrograph.
BOOKISH Alternatively, I might get a massage or go to the New York Public Library or the N.Y.U. library to do research. Afterward, I’ll meet a friend of mine who’s a writer and who also does research in the library. If I still don’t have enough to read, I might go to used-book stores like the Strand. I have to check myself, though, because my book habit is out of control.
I’LL HAVE WHAT HE’S COOKING I’m back home by about 6:30, and we eat dinner at about 7. John is a great cook, and he does all the cooking. What we eat varies: It could be Chinese, European or Indonesian.
KIMONO CASUAL At the end of the day, I change out of my Ninja uniform — 90 percent of the time I wear black pants and a black shirt, cotton in summer and wool in winter — and back into my yukata. It’s basically an informal, cotton kimono — it has a sash, not an obi — and I have several. At the beginning of the summer, we went to Japan and stayed in an inn, where everyone wore yukatas to the hot bath. I asked the manager if I could buy one as a souvenir. He was very gracious about it, but I think he thought I was crazy because they had all been worn.
GETTING COZY WITH THE CATS For the last round of reading, I’m on the couch. Raven and Sable, who are 4-year-old brothers, are one-person cats. Raven has adopted John, and Sable has chosen me. Sometimes Sable will sit on my lap or next to me while I read. Some of my reading is work-related; I’ve been reading Madame de Girardin’s “Lettres Parisiennes” for my Paris exhibition. But a lot of it’s just for pleasure. By 10 o’clock, I’m in bed. Sleeping is my hobby. I generally sleep eight to nine hours.
A version of this article appears in print on, on Page MB2 of the New York edition with the headline: Tending to a Collection of Habits. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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