Art Journal

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

It's how it looks AND How it works (historic design)

Were Frances Stuart's clothes
designed to work?
What did she need to do
 while wearing this glam outfit?
This portrait is from an exhibit I went to on a recent trip to London. I talk about visiting London through a sewists eyes, in my June Enchanted by Sewing podcast.

This dress is gorgeous all right, but does it have anything to do with something a middle class California woman would sew today?

Is the tendency to think gorgeous is the be-all-end-all of a garment something that only the gold-satin bedecked Frances Stuart had to cope with three plus centuries ago?

As a sewing student in the Cañada Community College Fashion Program, I was particularly interested to read about the experiences of students at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. The piece ( )  describes a project involving the students designing new uniforms for people who serve food at the Four Seasons Hotel.

This was the phrase that had me laughing. "A normal project, we just design what we like, what we imagine in our heads," she said. "This was different. The winning uniform is actually in production, so we have to think about the function of the design. They have to work in them."

Is that a novel thought, or what? Imagine, clothes that have to move around with the person wearing them, and work!

I may love Frances Stuart's glamorous gold dress, but would I really want to dress up like this? How comfortable was she in her corseted body? What was it like to move around in those skirts? Could she run away from scary things, or jump up and down in joy? What could she have done in this frock?

I love the inspiration I find in this dress- the sleeves, the shimmery golden color, and the lovely belt. And most of all, I love the fact that as a middle class woman of today, I can take ideas from this historic ensemble, and incorporate it into a job-able, comfortable, bike able modern design.

Reinterpreting historic details in modern day garments, keeps me enchanted by sewing.

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