Wearable art, also known as Artwear or "art to wear", refers to art pieces in the shape of clothing or jewellery pieces.: 12 These pieces are usually handmade, and are produced only once or as a very limited series. Pieces of clothing are often made with fibrous materials and traditional techniques such as crochet, knitting, quilting, but may also include plastic sheeting, metals, paper, and more. While the making of any article of clothing or other wearable object typically involves aesthetic considerations, the term wearable art implies that the work is intended to be accepted as an artistic creation or statement. Wearable art is meant to draw attention while it is being displayed, modeled or used in performances. Pieces may be sold and exhibited.
Wearable art sits at the crossroads of craft, fashion and art.: 12 The modern idea of wearable art seems to have surfaced more than once in various forms. Jewellery historians identify a wearable art movement spanning roughly the years 1930 to 1960. Textile and costume historians identify wearable art as an heir to the 1850s Arts and Crafts movement, which burgeoned in the 1960s.
It grew in importance in the 1970s, fueled by hippie and mod subcultures, and alongside craftivism, fiber arts and feminist art. Artists identifying with this movement are overwhelmingly women.: 8 In the late 1990s, wearable art becomes difficult to distinguish from fashion,: 142 and in the 2000s-2010s begins integrating new materials such as electronics.
The wearable art movements inherits from the Arts and Crafts movements, which sought to integrate art in everyday life and objects. Carefully handmade clothing was considered as a device for self-articulation and furthermore, a strategy to avoid the disempowerment of fashion users and designers by large-scale manufacturing.
The term wearable art emerges around 1975 to distinguish artworks made to be worn from body art and performance. It was used alongside the terms Artwear and "Art to Wear".: 22 An artistic movement primarily based in the United States due to a combination of financial and educational support, it found echoes in textile and feminist arts around the world.
In the United States, the wearable art movement emerges from the renewal of crafts education, notably at Cranbrook Academy of Art and the Pratt Institute.: 2 In the late sixties, students including designer Jean Cacicedo sought to integrate textile techniques in their projects. It was supported by the American Craft Council and the museums of Crafts and Design. The best known galleries were Obiko in San Francisco, and Julie: Artisans' Gallery in New York.
Crafts and art education being more separated outside of the United States, it is harder to identify wearable art as a separate movement. However, renewed interest in traditional textile crafts such as shibori dying sparked the interest of artist worldwide.
Wearable art declines as a separate movement in the late 1990s due to competition from industry, which enabled customization at scale, the migration of artists towards haute couture or the production of small series, and the broader availability of handcrafted garments from around the world in the Global North. An example is the 2015 Fall couture show Viktor and Rolf, which explored how the shapes of traditional artworks such as frames could become garments. When the Art to Wear movement began, artists used traditional techniques and natural fibers to create unique clothing pieces. As technology progressed, the natural fibers used were exchanged for computer assisted art and synthetic fibers, allowing artists to compete with the growing market.
Artists creating wearable fiber art may use purchased finished fabrics or other materials, making them into unique garments, or may dye and paint virgin fabric. Countering the belief that art is something expensive, some clothing artists have started local companies to produce quality art work and clothing for a modest price.
Crochet, embroidery, knitting, lace, quilting and felting are all commonly found in wearable art pieces. Crochet remained a homemaker's art until the late 1960s, as new artists began experimenting with free-handed crochet. This practice allowed artists to work in any shape and employ the use of colors freely, without the guidance of a pattern.
Main article: Art jewelry
Some 20th-century modern artists and architects sought to elevate bodily ornamentation — that is, jewellery — to the level of fine art and original design, rather than mere decoration, craft production of traditional designs, or conventional settings for showing off expensive stones or precious metals. Jewelry was used by surrealists, cubists, abstract expressionists, and other modernist artists working in the middle decades of the 20th century.
As wearable computing technology develops, increasingly miniaturized and stylized equipment is starting to blend with wearable art esthetics. Low-power mobile computing allows light-emitting and color-changing flexible materials and high-tech fabrics to be used in complex and subtle ways. Some practitioners of the Steampunk movement have produced elaborate costumes and accessories which incorporate a pseudo-Victorian style with modern technology and materials.
A recurring shape in the Art to Wear movement was the kimono. It enables to rapidly turn a piece of custom fabric into a garment.
Performance and conceptual artists have sometimes produced examples which are more provocative than useful. Trashion is another branch of extraordinary wearable art, for example, work by Marina DeBris. The Portland Oregon Trashion Collective, Junk to Funk, has been using creating outrageous art garments out of trash.
A well-known example is the Electric Dress, a ceremonial wedding kimono-like costume consisting mostly of variously colored electrified and painted light bulbs, enmeshed in a tangle of wires, created in 1956 by the Japanese Gutai artist Atsuko Tanaka. This extreme garment was something like a stage costume. Not really wearable in an everyday, practical sense, it functioned rather as part of a daring work of performance art (though the "performance" element consisted merely of the artist's wearing the piece while mingling with spectators in a gallery setting).
In Nam June Paik's 1969 performance piece called TV Bra for Living Sculpture, Charlotte Moorman played a cello while wearing a brassiere made of two small operating television sets.
Canadian artist Andrea Vander Kooij created a group of pieces called Garments for Forced Intimacy (2006). According to an essay at Concordia University's Faculty of Fine Arts gallery website, these hand-knit articles of clothing are designed to be worn by two people simultaneously, and they, "as the name states, compel the wearers into uncharacteristic proximity."
In Belgium, Racso Jugarap, a wire artist creates wearable pieces using the material that he uses for his sculptures. playing with the malleability of metal wires.
Some artists, like Isamaya Ffrench and Damselfrau, create experimental masks as wearable art, using materials from Lego bricks (Ffrench); plastic trinkets, antique hear wreaths and old laces (Damselfrau).
During the 1970s to 1980s, Janet Lipkin became an influential crochet artist within the ArtWear Movement. Lipkin's designs draw inspirations from organic forms and employ bold colors throughout her pieces.
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