Discovering Wearable Art

I’ve always loved a performance, whether it was at a young age and dancing on top of an old luggage trunk while my family assumed the role of the audience or later, at college, exploring choreography and the architecture of movement in space.

Although daily life and the needs of family had won over my theatrical ideals, the desires to connect and communicate in a creative and non-verbal way were still very present. So when I discovered, quite by accident on a TV documentary, a show that celebrated dance, creativity, costume and performance all rolled into one awe-inspiring show, I needed to know more about this thing known as wearable art…

Captured by the unusual style of the show and intrigued by the possibility of being part of it, I set out to research how. I had been interested in costume designing at college for the theatre productions we did, although I must confess it was more in the ideas and designing areas rather than actually making them – I would often rope my mum in to help at that point!

I thought that entering a garment was a great way of ‘performing’ on stage without the stage fright and I was elated to find that the option to enter was open to anyone – no creative degree needed – phew! Feeling that I should have continued with a more creative stream of working, rather than administration and bookkeeping, I thought I might fall at the first hurdle, but no – the way ahead was clear…

I would enter a garment and it would be great and get in and all would be fabulous!

Papier mache sculpted bodiceThat was in 2008, that I discovered the world of wearable art and the delights it had to offer. I did make that first garment, and it fell apart just before it was due to be sent to WOW. I remember calling my mum in the UK, waking her at 6am to ask how I could possibly fix it and how to make net skirts to support the structure. She was great and very helpful, despite the hour and I was very relieved to be able to send my entry away in time.

But it didn’t get in to the show.

Initially of course I was disappointed, but after actually seeing the show itself (rather than just the TV clips I had seen) it made sense why it hadn’t been chosen – it just wasn’t WOW enough!

The next year I made a bizarre bra, a more achievable project in size, and added a level of whimsy to the piece. It was fun to make from sculpted papier-mâché, fabric and leather. I sent it off to WOW and held my breath… Woohoo! It got in!

Such on stage delight! It was a fantastic feeling to go and see the show, which was amazing, but to see my creation on the stage, that was priceless and I was truly hooked.

So thAluminium scalemaille dresse following year I took on a more challenging project and challenge me it did – like one of those reality TV shows! A full-scale dress (pardon the pun) is so much larger than a bra. The project took far longer than I anticipated and I was cutting it fine to get it to WOW – even as I hand delivered it to Nelson, which although it bought me a little more time, I was still finishing it on the ferry! Together with getting lost on the way to the museum with only minutes to spare before the deadline, it was certainly an adrenalin fuelled mission… why do we do it to ourselves? I’m sure there are many other designers out there with similar stories of how they got their wearable art garment into being and delivered to WOW and I would love to hear them. And they would probably all agree that we do it because we love it, and we are possibly slightly mad, but that’s not such a bad thing.

Tree Spirit

After the drama of the previous year, I worked at a steadier pace which was more manageable to fit in with the rest of my life’s goings on at the time. So my next entry, a oak dyed silk creation, was in last year’s show. It was a piece I really enjoyed doing and learned some new skills and rediscovered ones that I had forgotten about. Despite my intentions of doing it at a more relaxed pace, it still had its fair share of dramas associated with it in those final stages – I actually got it stuck in my sewing machine and had to get the repair man to extract it for me!

This year’s entry is again in a different material although the details are all under wraps of course, until showtime, but I can tell you that I am excited as always to see it on stage in a spectacular show with excellent company.

So, six years and six creations later, it’s quite clear I’m thoroughly hooked on wearable art in this form and the show is always an honor to be part of, so it would be safe to say I’ll be entering for as long as I can get away with it! I have plenty of designs I that I want to make, although I need to up-skill for some of them in order to do them justice – agreed it should probably be the other way round but I have always done things a little upside down.