Finally! The discussion I have been waiting for! Is fashion art? Or more specifically, can textiles be classified as art? If you’ve been reading this blog, I’m sure you know what my answer is to this question. I am glad that the New York Times took on this topic. I know when I was growing up, textiles, particularly those having to do with fashion, was HUGE!!! People respected their seamstresses and their beauticians.
When I was growing up, I saw women who did not make it to the covers of Vogue, but Vogue was the one missing out on seeing some truly beautiful women. They could be seen walking through a store, immediately look at something on a rack, say, “I can do better than that.” And within less than a week they had either sewed, knitted, crocheted a piece that was better than what the local department store had on display.
Sometimes they used a pattern and sometimes they didn’t. They walked with their heads held high and they did not let themselves be defined by other people’s standards of beauty and art. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be just like them.
When I was in graduate school, however, I was continually bombarded with standards of “high art versus low art” when I told people I was a textile artist. Eventually, I learned that quilts and clothing were major exhibits in art museums around the world, which made me wonder about the people I met in graduate school who sought to demean textiles.
I must admit not everyone in my graduate school experience created these lines of demarcation. I had a professor named Michael McColly who encouraged me to enter my quilts into community art exhibits. I am very grateful. One opportunity led to another. I picked up with my love of textiles right where I’d left off after graduate school. Eventually, I exhibited a quilt at Macy’s on State Street in Chicago.
I was SO EXCITED to hear that Guo Pei made Rhianna’s dress last year for the Met Gala! I related to her when she said that she had a hard time learning how to sew petticoats. She was highly influenced by the clothing she saw in American Westerns, but she had no one there with her in China when she was in design school to teach her how to make them. So, she did it by trial and error as we all do. I went through 1,200 pieces of a grandmother’s flower garden quilt before I learned how to make them correctly. I especially loved her makeup collaboration with MAC Cosmetics last year!
To the outside world, this type of attention to fashion, makeup and hairstyles may look like low self esteem. However, from the point of view of textiles and textile artists, I believe that a redefinition of both art and self esteem is in order. If nothing else, I am also grateful that most major museums across the country have a textiles section and they decide what to put on display: