Posts Tagged ‘fashion study’


Fashion and Cultural Identity

September 1, 2012

I spent this morning having a lovely time at the McMichael Gallery’s Fashionality Exhibit. The McMichael Gallery is best known around here for its permanent collection of Group of Seven work. Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven are required learning in your average Southern Ontario elementary school art class so I had been there before, but this exhibit was fascinating.

It was described as an examination of the role fashion and clothing plays in our personal and national identity and there were definitely some installations that spoke directly to those themes particularly a discussion on sterotypes that included 20 ft tall red flannel shirt with buttons the size of my handspan and a wool work sock that would have made a family sized sleeping bag. Go Canadian “fashion” stereotypes! There was also a series of paintings of the favourite dresses of prominent Canadian women and a discussion on cultural appropriation in fashion which I think I will leave to another post.

Several of the installations struck me in particular.

1. Natalie Purschwitz spent a year making clothing: outerwear, underwear, shoes, and she wore nothing she had not made herself that whole year. Now I, like many other home sewists, will often wear full outfits I’ve made myself but, so far, my wardrobe is not completely home made and I don’t know the first thing about making shoes although I am beginning to think I should remedy that.

The exhibit included a display of the clothing and shoes she made and images of her wearing the different outfites. There was a combination of woven and knit items and she has an unfinished, raw, sort of aesthetic to what she has created that seems to reflect items sewn in a hurry out of necessity. I could imagine creating similar outfits if I woke up one morning to find all of my clothing gone and find, in its place, a pile of fabric and notions.

She has blogged about her project here:

2. I was also mesmerized by the beautiful creations of the WeedRobes project: .  Artist, Nicole Dextras created fabulous outfits out of plants and then allowed them to decay naturally and demonstrates that they retain a certain beauty even then. The video accompanying her work shows a model wearing one of her Victorian plant dresses (Anne of Green Gables would kill for those puffed sleeves) in a shopping district and engaging passers by in conversations about the importance of knowing where and from what your clothes are made.

She also created a dress that could double as a tent in which the hoop skirt doubled as the tent frame. I’m sure the ladies of the hoop skirt era would  have been scandalized to expose their hoops in such a way.

3. Barb Hunt’s examination of war and death by working with camouflage material was compelling:
and Michèle Karch – Ackerman’s project to create miniature sweaters to honour the 801 Newfoundland soldiers who fought in the battle of Beaumont Hamel in WWI was similarly inspiring.

4. I was also intrigued by the satirical work of Kent Monkman whose work on exhibit poked pointed fun at the cultural appropriation of native North American art and tools high heeled red patent leather platform stilleto peep toed moccasins anyone? and also seemed to touch on our current obsession with brands. He created a quiver printed with a garish Louis Vuiton-esque print:

It was a fascinating exhibit that is, unfortunately leaving the gallery on Monday. I’m very glad I got to see it and I am looking forward to further exploring the work of many of the artists involved.


Pointedly not stylish

July 18, 2012

Okay so, confession time… that is other than the confession that I have not gotten my act together to get pictures taken of me wearing things I’ve sewn and it’s been so hot out lately I haven’t want to be outside at all but that’s where the best photography light is…

My confession is that, after much consideration, I have determined that I do not like the current peplum trend. I know it’s the hottest trend this summer but it’s just not doing it for me.

Shirts like this one from Vogue 8815  just do not appeal to me.
I’ve been trying to figure out what it is because I do like tunics,  I do like A-line skirts and I definitely like to emphasize my  torso at its narrowest point (and de-emphasize what’s below that point).

I also love jackets with peplums and Vogue 8543 is on my NSO (not started objects) list because I love the sleeves and waist.
See…definitely a peplum there.

And peplums are an historical feature in clothing. Jackets with peplums were essential to a ladies suit in the 1890s, and I’m a Victorian fashions fan of the first order.

So I’ve been trying to figure out what bothers me about shirts like the one above and dresses like Tina Fey’s Oscar dress

I think it’s about the proportions and placement. A trend never returns in exactly the same way.

The historical peplum tended to be part of a tailored jacket in a ladies suit.

It draped across the hips, usually with some tailoring to assist the corset with creating the Gibson Girl figure.

It was also often tailored to be longer in the back. I believe the idea was for it to accommodate or imitate the bustle.



The 2012 peplum tends to be part of a shirt or dress. It is of equal length all the way around. It starts slightly higher than the natural waist and ends pretty much right at the hips.

While the bust and torso of a peplum shirt or dress tend to be closely tailored, the peplum itself is generally a-line or bell shaped and it can look boxy if done in a structured fabric.

I just think the placement of the 2012 peplum just above the natural waist makes it look like the wearer is either wearing something that’s too short for them, or trying to hide something. And they’re not quite succeeding because an empire waistline would do the hiding with more grace.

I’ve seen people wear them and I think they look fine in them, but I don’t know if it’s anyone’s best look and I hope it’s a relatively short lived trend (like black and yellow spandex mini skirts)  or morphs into something better.


OT Weekends: Books

June 12, 2010

This off topic post is actually slightly on topic. I love sewing and I also love books so I thought I’d share with you my recent sewing/style book purchases from a local secondhand bookshop that I try to avoid simply because I spend too much money there

 Survey of HIstoric Costume:

This is a textbook style book showing clothing from ancient times to the middle of the 20th century. It reminds me of a book I used to borrow from the library for extended periods of time when I was costuming back in highschool. I’m glad to finally own a book like this.

The Sari – I spent time in India and fell in love with the sari while I was there. Sometimes I wish I was daring enough to wear one in Toronto, but thus far I’m not. This book discusses the history and politics of the sari which are far more complex than I picked up on while I was there so I am looking forward to learning all I can.

 Style Deficit Disorder – I also enjoyed roaming Takeshitadori in Harajuku. While most of what I saw fell into the category of things I could not really imagine wearing myself, there were elements of everything that I found fascinating and bits and pieces that I could imagine incorporating into something that was more me. This book discusses the different fashion lines that have appeared and disappeared over the years. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Fashion, Desire and Anxiety – And finally I decided that it was time I read a bit of fashion theory that puts what we wear in some social context.

I’ll let you know what I learn.