Monday, February 7, 2011

Wearable Art, Aaacckkk!

Sorry, I just think the term is a very hackneyed phrase.What does it conjure up for you?

A couple of different things come to mind, all of this philosophizing being spurred on by a snoop shopping trip and a possible interpretation of some RTW I saw.

The first thing I think of when the term "wearable art" is heard between these two ears are visions of patchwork vests with Ohio Stars pieced on the back. Don't get me wrong here. I love quilters. I love quilting fabrics. I was a quilter for many many years. (blush) I even made one of those vests, well, mine was a jacket. But some how in quilting magazines and guilds across America  this use of traditional quilt patterns and 100% cotton came to be called wearable art. Is it? No, it is a quilted vest. JM2cents FWIW.

The next thought I have, and more to my way of thinking, is the work of the likes of Lois and Dianne Ericson, Marcy Tilton, etc. I like their work. It shows a reintrepretation of garment lines. Seams are creatively used. Closures come forefront. Books were published and patterns were made. I read the books, found them very inspiring. I bought the patterns and loved those too. This work definitely was hatched from an artistic mind that found inspiration in nature, architecture, ect.  I sure have made a few of these too. At this age of mine, however, I am finding many of the styles really are not that flattering to me. They are great canvases, and tell the world what I am capable of, but do they look good on me? Not often, at least at this stage. They look fabulous on some and there are great examples of that. They just never really worked for me and now I finally admit it. Maybe I am just too small to carry of some canvasses. That doesn't mean their wonderful work won't seduce me again at some time. And I need to give thanks here, too. My interpretations of their inspirations made me think out of the box and taught me a lot. I am so thankful for that.

Thought three is just amazing wearable art. This is the stuff of fabric challenges, national competitions, and the studio of Summerset Banks. Those who make this type of wearable art are artists, skilled artists. They bring to the table tremendous sewing and drafting skills. Their creativity bounds in their interpretations of themes. This is no holds barred sewing, the stuff of fantasies. I love this work. I am inspired by this work. I am very impressed by those who practice it well. But alas, I can't wear fantasy either.

So here I am trying to find my expression of wearable art. First, I would like to call it something else. I just haven't thought of what yet. It would be truly wearable. It may turn a few heads but not look out of sync with its environment. It is more than just line and color. It is the employment of textures, embellishments, paints, technique to die for. It is way thinking out of the box for a garment that could actually be worn shopping, to church, to a wedding. It is the coat felted with polka dots by Shams. Actually it is a lot of stuff by Shams. She is really good at making truly wearable art. It is the painted lining Caroline, the Sewing Fanatic, did for one of her TNT garments. Whoodathunkit? She did and her lining was fabulous. It could be one of Sivje's, aka Goose Girl's, interpretations of childrens clothing. Sivje thinks sooo creatively to make original very wearable gorgeous clothing for children. No fluff and stuff here. Her "Olivia" dress, all from her hands and mind is the stuff of dreams and I think she could launch a career on that dress alone.

So we are talking more than color, line, fabric, and drape here. And above all, it is truly wearable. Can we not think up a new name for this? It's bugging the crap out of me......Bunny


  1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I do freely admit that most of the artwork I do is costumey, and certainly not everyday wearable and to some extent, one-time even wearable. Part of the joy is just being able to make it; like the stuff you see on haute couture runways, not all of it is everyday wearable, but it certainly is inspiring.

    I agree, a new name is needed. Even my artwork isn't the sweatshirt-turned-jacket-with-quilting-cottons, but that's what people think. Now I just need to think of something good, but not bland.

  2. OK, you creative wordsmsiths out there - so you have some thoughts.

  3. The term Wearable Art makes me cringe a little too. A lot of garments going by this name are neither wearable nor art. But I'm not sure what the right term would be for beautiful, artistic, well made clothing like you described.

  4. I think the term "wearable art" is perfect. I wouldn't change it. The arts council in my area of SE TN has hosted a wearable arts fashion show for many years. In that show we do have a few quilted coats, etc....that absolutely qualify as art in anyone's book. Have you seen the work of Rachel Clark?
    We also have hand crocheted and knitted garments that are usually made from yarn that has been spun and dyed by the artist.
    We have the most beautiful hand woven items that you can imagine.
    There are hand painted silks, felted items that blow my mind away!
    Some of my children's clothing that has been made from vintage linens, etc..., or smocked, or embroidered, or a combination of all of these techniques have been included in the show.
    This past show featured some of the most gorgeous, creative dresses that have been made from vintage doilies and other vintage laces, etc....
    So, as you see, I think "wearable art" is a perfectly okay term, and I will continue to use it when describing the creations I see on your blog and others. I think what you make for your granddaughter certainly qualifies as art!!!!
    I hope my opinion does not offend anyone.

  5. Bunny, I would classify the sweater with the painted flowers that you made as wearable art. It is beautifully done, tasteful and appropriate for your figure. I do agree that most styles of wearable art are designed for the larger person.

  6. I too have struggled with the language challenge for this kind of creative and free spirited sewing that is also flattering and wearable. I love the challenge of adding beautiful details to a sewing project or RTW but think carefully about the balance and design principles for my personal style. I tried the more artistic, flowing clothes years ago but couldn't manage the fabric in my more suburban, sporty lifestyle. I'm eager to hear what other phrases are suggested.

  7. I'm liking that, Gwen! Hmmm.....

  8. I vote for Gwen's term. I am not a big fan of the quilt patterned sweatshirts, but IMHO those people are sewing and it makes them it's ok...for them, but not me. I love your smocking and the beautiful work you do. It's art because it is handmade by an artist.

  9. Garment Artistry?

    Karen in Houston

  10. Oh Bunny, what you sew is definitely art and so gorgeous. Thank you for your kind words. I needed them so much today, when I am feeling so uninspired and unmotivated. I need some inspiration to create today!

  11. I think somewhere I heard the term Art Festival clothing, and I laughed thinking it was so apropos! And like you, most of the art-to-wear is like canvas cover ups with beautiful work on it, but nevertheless like a huge sack with embellishment. I'd like to see more fitting, and not skin tight like some hard-body would wear, but something that fits. For me real art-to-wear was the likes of Geoffrey Beene insets that had darts in the seams where the pieces were inset, Yves St. Laurent's Mondrian dress, and Hubert di Givenchy's artful classic styles for Audrey Hepburn & Jackie Kennedy. It is far more fun to draw art with the line of the dress than just a sketch on a sack.

  12. Here in Australia "wearable art" is a category in student fashion shows for imaginative articles that can be worn on the runway, but are not really garments. Aren't actual garments that qualify as "art", the creative and perfect combination of design, materials and execution, called couture?

  13. I agree with Mae...couture is art and it is surely more wearable than some of the "wearable art" I've seen in magazines.

    To me, true art has to be able to stand the test of time, and the vintage and antique couture we all love so (Dior, Vionnett (sp?, Givenchy), meets that test. Some (much) of the more contemporary garments in contests and magazines, etc. will not be remembered years from now.


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