The final piece from my NeMaS wearable art wardrobe is this commercial silk jacket that I embellished with appliques, buttons, beads, and ribbons. I used to wear this out to dressy dinners and got quite a lot of compliments on it. As with some of my other wearable art, this quilt on my body did not have much on the back. I quickly discovered that sitting against a chair back with bulky buttons poking into me was not very comfortable, so the back of this is bare as far as embellishments go. As with some of the other pieces of clothing, there was a limit as to how far up a sleeve I could decorate, and how far down into a pocket I could sew buttons and other additions to the wearable “canvas” I was creating on this commercially made jacket.
In this detail shot of the top of the jacket, you can see the pleated gold ribbon that I put down the front. It was way too stiff to put around the neck, so I left the part of the soft, silk collar that was against my neck plain as I hate scratchy things. I did couch down some flat burgundy and gold braid on the seam where the collar meets the body of the jacket. I machine embroidered on some fabric motifs that I had left over from a quilt that I had just completed. One of my favorite motifs at the time, a black rose on a purple background, is shown just to the bottom left middle of the detail photo above. This was 1985, and Woody Allen had just come out with the movie, “The Purple Rose of Cairo“. The title of the name intrigued me, as I love clever word phrases. Also, being an avid rose gardener, there were no purple roses on the market at the time. Yes, I know that this is a black rose (none of them for sale either), but this fabric was as close as I could get to something that was vaguely like the title. Of course, there were buttons to add to the front; I can always find a place for some buttons!
Here is the bottom edge of the front of the jacket that has a natural curve upwards where the two sides meet. More gold ribbons, more black lace, and buttons, buttons, buttons. If you look at the flat gold and burgundy braid to the left of the pleated gold ribbon, you’ll see that the way the gold piping on the edge moves in and out makes tiny burgundy circles. (Sort of little mini button-like motifs.) Then I added a different flat gold ribbon to repeat the color of the pleated one. Next came vertical rows of gold buttons of two types to play off of the rows of ribbons. I like to repeat similar sizes, colors and shapes, but on different scales to enhance the composition. It’s kind of fun to look down and see lots of details when you’re wearing something like this.
I’m often asked how do you clean something like this and the answer is that you don’t. No dry cleaner would take a piece like this without you removing all of the embellishments. If I wore in a restaurant back when people smoked at dinner, I would hang the jacket outside for a day to air out. I did spot clean small areas on my wearable art clothing when needed, and there was a wine disaster on one piece that needed some additional appliques to be sewn on to cover up the stain. I wish that I had stored this jacket in a cloth clothes bag, because when I brought it out to photograph it, even though it had been in a closet for years, the shoulders had faded some. Using a silk jacket to embellish was a risk because of the silk’s fragile nature, but I did enjoy wearing this piece out to dinner.
Have you made any wearable art and what did you learn about embellishments, and care of the piece. Did you find that your work was commercially viable or did you care?
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