Monday, November 14, 2011

Power of Clothing

I saw Wicked on Broadway last night, and it was truly amazing. (I love musicals, and I can't believe it took me 8 years to go see this thing. Oh, to have seen it with the original cast!) I have a friend who worked at the shop that constructed some of the costumes, and her tales of the intricate details that went into each piece are stunning. So I expected to be blown away by the most opulent and dazzling costumes, and I was. (My dad said the chorus members all looked like Elton John, which is surprisingly apt.) But it was the more understated ensembles in basic navy and black, worn by Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West) that really held the most power, in my opinion.


What's most impressive is how the clothing tells a story in such an authentic way. It's first a product of good writing, I suppose, that Elphaba's iconic witch costume comes off as real, rather than kitschy. There's a story behind each piece: the hat was given to her as a cruel joke by classmate Glinda, for example.

But the costume designer (Susan Hilferty, who won a Tony for Wicked and also designed the brilliant Spring Awakening) made sure that the costumes told an unwritten story. In fact, the coming of age theme comes across stronger in the clothing than anywhere else. In the beginning, Elphaba wears navy and black shift dresses that play up her dowdiness, but also exude youth. I remember thinking how young the actress looked, and I (needlessly) worried that she didn't have the maturity to pull off such a powerful role.

Fast forward to Act II. Elphaba spends the latter half of the act in a magnificent gown. (See this fabulous blog for many detailed photos of the dress.) It has a distinct Victorian silhouette to it, but the arrangement of the rows of trim play up the body's curves. The actress was truly transformed: sexy, confident, wounded, angry.

Elphaba is an incredible character on her own: a radical who is ostracized and misunderstood because of her ideals. But the costumes took her journey to another level altogether, telling of her sexual awakening and the incredible glamor of being an outlaw.



I don't spend much time with people who think fashion is inherently frivolous or shallow, so I never really have to defend my interest in the subject. But if I did, I would use Wicked as an example of how clothing can carry as much symbolic and emotional weight as any other visual representation.

Which brings me to the question of the day: are you ever made to feel shallow for being interested in fashion and garment construction? Do you think that fashion is a powerful art form, or is that overstating it? Do share!

56 comments:

  1. I'm like you - I don't hang with people who would belittle my love of fashion. It is, after all, one of the largest industries in the world. And whether or not one is a fashionista, clothing and fashion affects everyone in some way or another.

    I haven't seen Wicked either, but I have seen some of the costumes, including the 2nd act gown. Gorgeous! If the Harry Potter exhibit ever comes around again, that's another one to check out the costumes. They were amazingly detailed. You couldn't see much of it in the movies, but the amount of work that went into them was stunning.

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  2. Have you read Tom&Lorenzo's commentary on the fashion in Mad Men? They're listed under "Mad Style" on the blog: http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/page/5?s=%22mad+style%22&x=0&y=0

    We make plenty of assumptions about people based on how they're dressed so talking about fashion is kind of an interesting way to discuss stereotypes. Clothing makes powerful conscious and subconscious statements about who we are and our persona. It's good stuff to pull apart and examine.

    That said, I generally don't think fashion is art. Some fashion, like McQueen, could be seen as art, but clothing to me is too utilitarian to be art. Same with furniture and cars and the like. It can be beautiful and have artistic qualities, but its purpose is its function, not its beauty.

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  3. Uh, it's more like when *haven't* I been made to feel shallow about it? When I was 13 or 14 years old, I told my grandparents that I wanted to be either a hairstylist or a seamstress when I grew up. That precipitated a family-wide meltdown - panicky long-distance phone conversations, removal of all books and magazines with suggestive content (e.g. pretty dresses and hair), and finally an intervention of epic proportions with my parents sitting me down and explaining that such interests were beneath our family (of scientists, physicians, lawyers, writers), our ancestors would roll over in their graves if I ever said such a thing again much less actually did it, etc, etc.
    Needless to say, that ridiulous episode only made fashion and sewing that much more fascinating to me, so I've maintained a hobby-level interest all my life while pursuing that all-important "professional" career.
    From all this I would say that we should encourage our daughters to be finance moguls, rocket scientists, and international humanitarians, but we can do it without discouraging their "girlish" interests. Sheesh!

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  4. I am more like Katrina. When haven’t I been made to feel shallow for it? I grew up in a very small farming town where my mom and I both struggled with this. Now I really only have a couple of close friends who share my interest in style/fashion/etc. Generally where I live people dress as casually as they can get away with. Jeans days at work are definitely the highlight of the work week. I really enjoy wearing dresses, so I do. My co-workers don't get this at all. If you dress up at all the perception is that you are really trying to stand out/show off. They think they only reason to dress is to impress other people. They don't understand dressing just for one's own pleasure. They also equate style with whatever the current trends are, so I sort of get based on this why they would see it as a shallow.

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  5. Maybe it's living in LA, but I've never been made to feel shallow about my interest in fashion and making my own clothing. But for me, my sewing has always come from a place of need, not a place of artistic expression. As I'm entering my 30s, the sewing I'm doing for myself is finally starting to have a cohesive, identifiable style -- which I love -- but sewing has always been about first filling a need that ready-to-wear clothes cannot fill, and only secondarily about an artistic statement.

    My mom taught me to sew when I was 7 or 8 years old, but my interest in it didn't really take off until high school. Post-puberty, my body was incredibly difficult to fit: 5'1", short-waisted, and what I would later learn is a bust best fit by a 28J bra size. So no prom dress off the rack was ever, ever going to fit me, and I was suddenly stuck making my own, or attending in the sportsbra and baggy tshirt that was my every day "style" back then. I quickly realized that I could make things that made my body look much better than any ready-to-wear ever could, and started sewing more and more.

    Fastforward 15 years, and I still have the short waist and large bust issue, but now I'm also dealing with a chronic illness that leaves me with constant joint pain, especially in my hips and knees. I'm saying my farewells to jeans this month, as I simply can't wear them without huge amounts of pain. Imagine removing all denim from your wardrobe. What are you left with? What do you throw on to run to the store to buy milk?

    I was drawn to retro style initially because I like the way it looks, and because 50s and early 60s styles tend to compliment my figure better than modern styles do. But as my disease gets worse, I'm also finding retro styles to be a huge mobility aid, literally increasing the number of hours a day I can live relatively pain-free. Who needs modern jeans, when you can wear cute circle skirts?

    I went to Disneyland wearing a crinoline for the first time yesterday, and it made all the difference in the world. I can tuck all that poofy padding under my sensitive hips when I sit on the hard ride seats or park benches. I can walk around without any fabric pulling my knees out of joint, or weighing on my hip joints. And I can look damn cute while doing it. (And apparently yesterday was Rockabilly Day at Disneyland, which I didn't know about in advance, but I certainly wasn't the only one rocking the retro look!)

    So as I've gotten more ill, my fashion sewing has become more and more a statement about who I am. I am a woman first, and my disease second. I can be pretty even when I feel like death warmed over. I don't have to change my body to love the way I look. I haven't given up on life, even though I'd like a refund for this dysfunctional body. And no matter what curveballs my body, my health, life, the universe, and everything throw at me, with a sewing machine and the right fabric, I can conquer anything.

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  6. I LOVE WICKED. Saw it London, it was excellent.

    As for your discussion - there are certain aspects of fashion I do personally find to be frivolous, namely this whole "wear it once, chuck it away/hide in back of closet" attitude many people seem to pick up. This isn't something which necessarily applies to sewing - after all, I can't say there'd be many people here who would throw away a dress they'd slaved over for hours on end! Not to mention the quality of a self sewn garment is likely to be far higher than something you'll buy on the high street.

    When fashion is an art form or telling a story like you explain here, it's a whole different ball game. Clothes are another way to tell a story, as you point out, and I always feel like the items I have in my wardrobe which are handmade say more about me than something I bought for a pound in a cheap fashion shop.

    I'm pretty much in agreement with you anyway, clearly just used a comment to have a cheeky rant ;)

    Oh my, I think I feel my own blogpost coming on!

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  7. I must admit I am generally not crazy about musicals, but I just saw Wicked in London last week and LOVED it!

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  8. I totally agree from a fashion historian point of view and as a Wicked lover (I tattooed Defying Gravity onto my wrist) http://beebeesvintagedress.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-elphaba-blouse.html

    Fashion is now finally being studied as a legitimate source to research how we have perceived ourselves and been perceived throughout history. I read in one of my study books a fab quote which sums up Elpheba perfectly

    ‎"Clothes, like the skins of animals, serve a double and somewhat inconsistent purpose. They are both self-protective and self-assertive"

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  9. Also saw Wicked in London, LOVED IT so much that I got a t-shirt at intermission with the title to the inspiring song - defying gravity.

    So now I have a tshirt that says "defying gravity" right across my boobs. :P

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  10. I can actually pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with fashion -- when I saw the cast of Wicked come out for the opening number. I turned to my friend and said "That's what I want to do for a living." I'm nowhere near that point, but suddenly I saw how clothing could totally set the mood, make statements, etc. Thanks for posting this!

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  11. I'm definitely used to the "What are you so dressed up for?" interrogation every time I wear a dress or do my hair in a more intricate style (which is pretty frequently). My love of fashion isn't made to seem shallow, exactly- it just seems inexplicable to some people. Or they act as if it's just for people with extra time and money on their hands (funny, because I don't have much of either!) My close friends understand, though (probably one of the reasons why they're my close friends!)

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  12. As a costumer for the theatre, most of the people I know and work with understand the importance fashion holds in telling a story. I have a few non-theatre friends who I implore to take me at my word when they have questions about clothing and appropriate fashion for certain outings.

    Wicked is such an incredible spectacle--just Glinda's wand alone cost thousands of dollars. If I could have a budget like that, I'd make every look like a glittering Elton John, too! :-)

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  13. I don't think fashion is either art or craft, it's somewhere in between. It's everywhere, and, like the work of people who design textiles and reformulate colours, is taken for granted.

    And, yes, I've had my share of "don't let her read that, it will only encourage her" when I was young and always had my nose buried in a fashion/sewing magazine, and the inevitable stares and comments you get when you tall, skinny and wearing something you made that no one else can have.

    Now I'm old, chronically ill and fat thanks to steroids and inactivity and haven't sewn much for me the past few years. I'm finally back, and am going to turn out some very not old lady loungewear for swishing around the house and keeping my spirits up.

    I'd love to see an exhibition of stage costumes where you can get up close enough to see the techniques used to create the stage illusion. That's what I wanted to do, work in the theatre and make costumes, before my family threw a collective fit. Same when I decided millinery was for me. I wish I'd had the courage to just go for it instead of listening to my family. It's great to see (mostly) female persuits finally getting the respect they deserve.

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  14. I can't remember a time when I was not interested in historical or vintage fashion, although I have to admit, I have little knowledge or interest in current fashion ;). I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and my fondest dream as a little girl was to wear a prairie dress and sunbonnet like Melissa Gilbert. My dad worked at a textile factory, so even though I had no clue how to sew, he'd bring home scraps of fabric for me and I'd try to stitch, glue, staple, etc. little garments together for my dolls.

    I had sewing lessons at age 11, so finally knew the basics. I got serious about historic/vintage fashion when I was in my mid teens and that has been a huge part of my life since then; I'm now in my mid-20's.

    I was lucky to have a mom who, although she did not understand my huge interest, gave me the freedom and resources to pursue researching and recreating garments for myself.

    I have long had a struggle with people who just don't get why I am interested in this. I get comments from people that range from somewhat snide to downright rude about how I can spend so much time researching and sewing when I have three preschool boys. It doesn't seem important to so many people, or even a rational hobby. It has been hard.

    But the obsession is strong. I find foundation garments absolutely fascinating. The past few years I have loved getting into the history of the different eras I do, and finding relations between the social history of the time and how that affected fashion and womans body image, and vice versa. It is really amazingly eye opening.

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  15. I loved the book and I am dying to see the play!

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  16. I think that people assume sewing means saving money (ha!) so they don't even consider it frivolous. For me, how I dress helps in how I feel. Similar to make up being called war paint, it really does help me during a hard day at work. If I look good, I will in deed feel good (or at least better). Sewing is an art form for sure. If a painter to uses the canvas to paint, our body is the canvas and the fabric the paint.

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  17. I always find that if you talk about construction and sewing then people are massively impressed and don't think I'm shallow at all. It's more people who spend thousands on name brands and must always have new stuff who get judged.

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  18. This is such an interesting topic and it has sparked such wonderful conversation on the subject. I just saw Wicked in NY in October, and I was absolutely blown away. We snagged some cheap partial view seats in the side section, but second row! So I had to tilt my neck a bit, but it was SO WORTH it to be feet away from all the costumes. (If anyone's planning on going, I can attest that at the Gershwin CC3-7 are fab seats for great price). The amount of thought and effort that went into every unique and elaborate piece of clothing is unfathomable! I'd go see it again ten more times just to look at the clothes.

    As far as fashion being seen as frivolous, my friends and family have varying views. Some, like my boyfriend and mom, take my interest in clothing and sewing very seriously and understand completely when I explain how a design or collection is inspired by a certain, event, era, or piece of art.

    With others, like my dad or brother, I find myself getting embarrassed or flustered, like it's silly to be comparing my "fashion stuff" to great pieces of art or important events in history. It's like I'm imposing the "frivolous" view on myself before I've even gotten my explanation out, and then it becomes harder for them to take it seriously.

    I am constantly telling others that clothing is an art form and it can hold as much meaning as literature or music, but it's hard sometimes when I feel myself doubting it's validity. This post articulates wonderfully how clothing can be a very real, very significant part of someones individuality, creativity, and expression. Thank you for sharing and reassuring my own confidence in my craft!

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  19. Hi Gertie!

    I was one of the milliners for Wicked's initial run on Broadway. The theatrical hat workshop that I worked for in NYC (Lynne Mackey Studio) took Ms. Hilferty's sketches and created almost all of the (really crazy looking) hats for the chorus as well as some for the main characters. I got to make a few for Kristin Chenoweth. It was one of my crowing achievements! (No pun intended. Well, maybe a little.)

    I come from a background of working with super-high-end construction. The problems I run into with other people's thoughts on garment construction is that they've never been exposed to a garment that has been truly gorgeously and thoughtfully made. Minds are blown when I tell them the costs of well-made articles of clothing. They just have no point of reference since the vast majority of our clothes these days are very very cheaply made in a factory overseas.

    But I totally understand! I don't have the budget to buy the things I make. I sometimes struggle to justify a living wage for my work. But the people who get it, get it. And hopefully they also have the $$$.

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  20. I was visiting New York from Australia a couple of weeks ago and we made the time to see Wicked. It was fantastic. Even my musical hating husband ADORED it. He reckons it was the best thing we did in NY. I too loved Elphaba's dress in the second act - really summed up her growth as a woman and a witch.

    I've never been ridiculed for liking fashion, but I have for sewing my own clothes. I suspect it was jealousy. Those people are no longer friends.

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  21. I've always been the one who makes me feel shallow about liking fashion! :) Only recently did I decide to stop feeling that way. Nothing is going to stop making me love fashion, so I might as well stop feeling guilty about it.

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  22. I've also had the same experience as Katrina. I too grew up in a small town that was deeply religious and since most of the community was fairly poor, the idea that fashion was something to worry about was looked upon as "worldly" and as far away from "godliness" as one could get. Needless to say, its not what I chose to get my college degree and honestly, its something I've truly regretted since I don't even use my college degree to make a living. Sewing is my passion first and foremost, but that definitely goes hand in hand with fashion. I do truly wish I had been able to grown up in a community and family where the pursuit of my passion as a career would have been much more accepted. Aw well. Now I know!

    Loved the perspective on Wicked! Something I've definitely wanted to see for awhile and just haven't yet.

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  23. you know what show you should see purely for the costumes (OK, and the dance numbers): Anything Goes. Gorgeous bias-cut evening gowns. I was in awe.

    Sorry, that doesn't answer the question at all. I love fashion and costumes, and don't care who knows it!

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  24. I've never been made to feel shallow for enjoying fashion, at least never at home. My mom sews, my sister is super fashionable, and my dad was always supportive of all of us girls looking pretty.

    The few times where people made comments about me being girly was at work, in particular from a former female boss. My purses were too "girly" if I wore something new (but that met the dress code) I got asked if I was going on a date. Eventually the dress code in the dept was changed, and we all looked like the guys. Polos, jeans, and tennis shoes. I still wore my nail polish and makeup, and got told it wasn't necessary, who was I there to impress?

    No one, that was the answer. I simply enjoy being feminine, and the ability to express my femininity through fashion gives me that chance. That's why I find clothes important in that they send a message. About you, as a person. Your clothes can be an outward expression of your inner self.

    For those of us that sew, there's basically a carte blanche to express ourselves in any way we want, Isn't that fun?

    And anyway, have you seen an authority figure that looked frumpy and was ever taken seriously? Nope, neither have I. The clothes can make a person, and send a powerful message. So we have to think about what it is that we are saying.

    P.S. I left that job years ago...

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  25. People like what they like. Is fashion any less valid an interest than say, fantasy football? At least what I make is real, unlike a fantasy football team. There's more to most of us than one interest, so we just enjoy the differences and carry on, right?

    I spend the entire time at shows and ballet watching the costume details and how the sets move. Fascinating!

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  26. Wicked is indeed a wonderful show, and theatre has the wonderful ability to provide a venue for people to examine attire and environment like they do music and text--"How does it make me feel?" We do it every day when we look at what others wear, but we don't recognize it as a cognitive process until we get the opportunity to examine it from a distance like we can with costumes. It's the fact that it's a costume that allows so many people to step back and think about what it means, it's story, it's relevance to the character... Perhaps fashion wouldn't have as bad a reputation if it were perceived the same way as a costume...

    The nature of fashion manufacturing has colored a lot of our contemporary opinions toward fashion... The industry survives through consumption, so things have to become obsolete quickly to keep selling. It operates on the tendency of people to covet what they don't have. And by extension, the fashion industry must encourage an aura of "have/have not" that most find morally disagreeable. It's very nature tends to encourage judgement of others by what they wear.

    There's a growing tendency today to shift away from market-driven clothing obsolescence toward "slow fashion", which costuming can exemplify much better than most other industries. It's an appreciation of attire that comes not from the owning of it, but from the making of it.

    I think today we're already seeing fewer assumptions and judgments based on a person's clothing, since there's a stronger appreciation of the skill and craft that goes into making it. Today, I think, manufactured clothing has a "look" to it that is just as recognizable as "homemade" clothing used to be... I think that much like being a "geek" has become more acceptable, DIY clothing is becoming more acceptable, and as a consequence manufactured clothing is less desirable...

    I think our criticism of people enamored of fashion is less about them, personally, than it is about everything that has been lumped into the concept, industry, and reputation of fashion. It's hard to draw a distinction. I guess, in the end, it's about how much we as individuals criticize others' lack of fashion and "show-off" our own sensibilities that will make an impression on others and mold their concept of what fashion is. The more we let the industry dictate our needs/wants so they can make money, and revel in the collection of our material possessions instead of appreciating skills and diligence... well, then perhaps we do deserve to get criticized...

    Sounds rather like Elphaba and Glinda, doesn't it? :)

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  27. I'm finding myself confused and needing some clarification about how i feel about fashion. I love garment construction, costumes & vintage clothing and the sociological stories that they tell, but i'm not a lover of contemporary fashion/trends. Perhaps i don't have the correct vocabulary to express myself adequately.

    I really dislike fashion magazines and find that contemporary trends just annoy me. Is it because contemporary fashion is so intrinsically intertwined with consumerism & a capitalist economy (with which i have issues)?

    Perhaps someone can help me sort my feelings out about fashion? ATM all i can say it it's a love/hate relationship that confounds me a tad :/

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  28. Gertie you always spark the best discussions!
    I have become so totally comfortable with my appreciation of Fashion as both art and design (both a creative visual medium and solving design problems by functional objects), as well as my understanding of clothing as a personal means of creative expression, that I kind of forgot that there are is this huge perception out there of fashion as 'vacuous'. I guess it all comes down to your approach to fashion, and your understanding of it.
    I have never been one to follow exactly whats happening on the catwalks and be a slave to trends or anything, but i'm sure that many people understand fashion to be just that, about slavishly following trends and buying the latest thing for the sake of vanity. I've never been questioned by such a person, but I suppose if I were I would just have to re-educate them!
    This discussion has definitely reminded me though of being a teenager and never wearing anything other than jeans and a t-shirt out of the house for fear of the 'why are you so dresses up' questions.

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  29. It's a fact of life, sad or otherwise, that you will be judged by someone somewhere at some time because of what you wear.

    My mom always said whatever you wear, it should be clean and well pressed. She encouraged my interest in fashion but also encouraged me to find ways to make what's 'fashionable' work for my life. For instance when miniskirts were de regeur but not allowed in school (back in the dark ages!) she helped me make decisions about what parts of Fashion could be incorporated into my real life.

    My coworkers may not understand my interests but they claim they are amazed and impressed by my knowlege and abilities! And I love them for saying so...

    I read Wicked but haven't seen the play. I'd love to see the costumes and see if they match what I imagined as I read the book!

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  30. I've never been made to feel bad about my interest in fashion, but I have found people to be either indifferent or interested in the various regions I've lived in. In Los Angeles people were much more likely to compliment me on my fashion/sewing than anywhere else that I've lived. In most other places I've lived people never looked down on my for a fashion interest, but they certainly didn't encourage it either!

    My favorite costume in Wicked was actually Galinda's white school uniform. I loved the perfect crisp jacket and the perfect skirt. I had plans to make something like it, but so far have not gotten around to it!

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  31. Hello Gertie, this is my first time posting a comment here.

    I'm new to the fashion industry and have been a fabric cutter for the last 6 months. My style has been mostly inspired by my need to shop at thrift stores. Creativity is a must to pull off a full thrift store wardrobe and I have garnered a bit of a reputation for it. I'm glad people think I have style rather than being known as the one who can't afford new clothes.

    Now that I work in the fashion industry I'm finding no one really knows what I do. They constantly think I work in the shop selling the clothes. It doesn't matter how many times I tell them. I'm very proud of what I do and find it thrilling to have a hand in making many beautiful things every day. I'm quite sure no one has thought of me as shallow for it. It's such a small part of who I am and just compliments my personality rather than being a stand alone thing.

    I'm an artist so I'm probably just used to being completely misunderstood anyway. I think I left them all confused at least a decade ago. :)

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  32. Being part of higher education and teaching in a fashion curriculum can expose oneself to a kind of prejudice only academia can create. The bureaucrats who run our college most definitely feel that fashion is a frivolous subject. We also don't jive with the Art Dept either, who hate our less than fine art bent. It's a daily fight to keep our budget and respect!

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  33. I do think fashion is a form of art. I have had people telling me that they are just clothes. When I was studying fashion and I told people about it, they automatically think that you are thick and doing a doss course. People think you just get two pieces of material and sew up the sides!! Love the costumes and thanks for showing them to us. XxxX http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.com/

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  34. I've never been ridiculed by my family for love of fashion and sewing as I'm from a family of dressmakers, (4th generation). But within my circle of friends and aquaintances, there seems to be an opinion that 'clever' people aren't interested in fashion.

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  35. I go back and forth feeling that fashion is shallow, and that fashion is amazing. But since I've started sewing more, it's made me realize how cookie cutter so much clothing in stores is. I also watched "Bill Cunningham New York" this weekend, and I loved one of the things he said about fashion: that fashion is, in some ways, like peoples' armor that they greet the world in. I can definitely identify with that.

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  36. oh baby, have you hit a mine field! I dress pretty vintage-y most days. red lips, victory rolls, the sha-bang. the only problem is (it's not my problem mind you) is everyone else. i get the weirdest looks and the not compliment of "oh, what an interesting outfit". really!?

    have they never dreamed of a life outside sweatshirts and yoga pants.

    my husband is an artist and my parents LOVE my style so i never face any objections on my home-front but when i drop and pick up my kids from school its almost like Hester Pryn in heels. man oh man do the other mom stare; and not in a nice way. they think i'm a total wacko and don't get why i identify with and era past. none of my friends are interested in fashion in the slightest. people out here think thrifting clothes is icky.

    i'm on a fashion island full of ideological cannibals.

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  37. Clothing is most definitely a powerful expression of who we are. My mother taught me to clean up, put make-up on and dress well every day. She believed this could make you feel better when things weren't going so well or even feeling ill. She idolized Grace Kelly and Jaqueline Kennedy. She's now 80 and still dresses well every day (she still looks great in jeans).
    I am a Christian and our scriptures mention two women connected with clothing . . . Lydia sold purple cloth (a precious commodity in that day) and Dorcas was known for making clothing for the women in her community.
    Reading the comments is inspiring me to call our local shelter for battered women (Noah Project) and see what it would take to teach basic sewing skills to those women who have literally been beaten by life. How empowering would it be for them to have the ability to create a small bit of beauty in their otherwise hard lives. As a musician (I'm a professional pianist) I have long believed that the way we thumb our noses at the ugliness in this world is to persist in doing what we can to bring beauty to this world. Teaching someone (male or female) to make something beautiful is a way to empower them. Calling those of us who love beautiful clothes shallow is a bit like calling God shallow for making flowers beautiful.
    Keep up the good work, Gertie. And thanks for inspiring me to use my sewing skills to hopefully make someone else's life a little more beautiful.

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  38. I think that when people talk about fashion being shallow, they really mean those fashionistas who are far more concerned with the designer label inside the garment than the garment itself. They would wear a sack if it had a famous label in it. Clothing has always been about power. If you look at medieval fashion there were rules over who could wear what. Further down the line, women were controlled by their clothes, the too tight whale bone corset and the dresses which weighed far too much. People forget that those big Victorian dresses for example made a hell of a lot of noise when women walked. No sneaking into rooms whilst wearing one of those, you'd be heard a mile off. Women and men had fought back through clothing - the mini skirt made more of a statement than fashion. Nor are such statements reserved for 'fashion' as such. Military uniforms were designed to be intimidating, or to act as camouflage. Every aspect of our clothing has deeper meaning whether we mean it to or not. You may think that wearing jeans and a t shirt is an every day thing but a woman in some parts of Saudi Arabia could be faced with the lash or worse. Women in some parts of Africa may choose not to wear any clothing at all. In the UK you'd be arrested for that, not to mention very cold and wet. Clothing has power whether you mean it to or not. There's nothing shallow about that.

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  39. I have seen Elphaba's gown up close. If anyone says the designer and seamster of this dress isn't a artist and brilliant, well they're stupid. I love when fashion designers are giving credit in museums for their power to transform. But we also need to give more credit to the seamsters that bring the designer's work to life.
    So yes, fashion is a powerful and wonderful art form. And we get to wear it. When was the last time you could wear a statue?

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  40. Hi Gertie
    I am not what you would call a fashionista. I don't necessarily go all out for the latest trends (which are remakes of what I wore in the 70's and 80's here in Ireland at the moment, why didn't I listen to my granny, don't throw anything out, it will come back into fashion, I'd have all vintage) but what I do like is the fact that I can make somehting for myself and make it my own, the equivalent to a designer make but at a fraction of the price. When I was in secondary school, I was the only one who liked sewing as I had been making my own clothes from age 12. Most of the girls in my class looked down on me but to me I had the last laugh as they all had to dress the same (part of their code) . Now, even though I don't get to make as many of my clothes as I would like, I still get that great feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment when I finish a garment.

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  41. I would love to see wicked, the costumes look amazing!!

    I've been made to feel shallow about fashion. people used to ask what I was studying in college and when I'd say fashion&clothing, I'd get commonly get this response 'what are you going to do with that then' whilst giving me the once over and raising eyebrows.
    As a fashion department in the art block at college we also suffered. The course was seen as a dumb subject, yet we had the highest number of students going onto university and last year one of the student's got accepted in to central saint martins to study fashion, so much for being a dumb course!!

    There's also a particular friend of my boyfriend who happens to be a solicitor, she will go out of her way to not even say hi, and just ask 'have you made your dress then' whilst giving me a snide look. but I guess it part of fashion and being able to making your own clothes, those who don't understand it or have no interest, or are just plain jealous are the ones to make the snide comments.
    another one that really really bugs me is if someones know you are interested in fashion or that you study it they expects you to look like you come straight of the catwalk, and if you don't and lets face it in reality who really does, they just assume that you nothing about fashion and smirk!! They obviously haven't heard about style either!!!

    as for fashion being art, for me that's a yes especially costume/couture wise, but I definitely think that art is in the eye of the beholder.

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  42. Oh I would LOVE to see Wicked. My friend got a backstage tour when they were in town, and wow! what awesome pictures she had.

    Interesting question. I was raised being taught that Vanity was the mother of all sin and that fancy clothes, jewelry and make-up were all vanity. Learning to sew was about function and about being self-sufficient, making pretty clothes was somehow ok, as long as it was inexpensive, because somehow if it was cheap it was less vain??? Anyway when it came time to choose a career I was highly conflicted that most of the things I loved were "based in vanity" and pursuing them would be a commitment to vanity as a profession. So I did not pick a career at all, I worked but not at anything I loved. Now I am working on building my own business from home and have shed (most) of the baggage I was raised with. I can still see that I'm influenced heavily by the "function as fashion" but turning that around to mean less-waste, more re-use and things made of quality materials so they are lasting. My concience works overtime sort of like Lisa Simpson, but if she were raised by the Flanders family, so it's been a long road of learning to drop what is not important and hold on only to the core of what matters.

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  43. I definitely believe that fashion is a powerful art form. It has the ability to make you feel confident, beautiful, and people look at well dressed people in a respectful way. You can express so many things through fashion and also inspire others through the way you dress. I always dress up for an occasion rather than play it safe and it almost always works to my benefit. My friends always tell me how they are jealous of my motivation do dress so nicely and that I always look put together.
    I am the kind of person who really appreciates a garment with great construction. My friends think I'm picky for not wanting to purchase anything that is a good deal,but poor quality, so I tell them this: in the long run it is better to have spent more for a garment that will last 20 years than a little for something that will wear out in a year.
    However, my opinion might be biased because I do want to study fashion and go into fashion industry, so I probably think more highly of fashion than most.

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  44. It is the post which i like mostHey I read your articles every day and I am a great follower, but never struck in my mind that you be praised for your hard work. Here’s a token for your efficiency and the hard work you put in your articles. I just love to read it.

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  45. I've never been interested in fashion but I love sewing and I love that your focus on things that are made for the female form.

    One reason I've never liked fashion is that it's focus is on skinny little models, I have always been curvy and now that I'm older even more so. It's hard to find things to fit unless you make them yourself. What is available in the store makes me look like I have a flour sack on. Nothing form fitting if you're overweight or not 110 lbs.

    Anyway enough ranting. I love your blog and creations.

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  46. I don't know if I was made to feel shallow, persay, but rather odd for wanting to sew my own clothing. A lot of people have no idea how a garment is constructed, let alone how it is PROPERLY constructed. I also think that a majority of society is focused on things like labels and looking "now" vs. looking good (I give hipster pants as an example. I love these pants... on stick straight people with no hips or calves. On people like me--I have hips, I have a small belly--these pants look ridiculous. However, cigarette pants are another story because of the way they're shaped. Similar style, but different shape). I made a promise to myself at the beginning of 2011 that I wasn't going to buy anything new. Partly because nothing FITS and partly because I dislike the quality of off-the-rack clothing. And I haven't. And some how, that makes me odd. My friends who sew get it though.

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  47. nice post. Now you can use this service providers directory to promote bulk clothes buttons import & export business.

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  48. I know I'm late to the game on this comment BUT I have the opposite reaction to being interested in fashion and garment construction. I love the creativity and most people find it cool (or odd) that I make things with my hands but it's also driven from an awareness of slave labor in the clothing we buy SO most people either ignore it or think that what I'm doing is cool and relevant.

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  49. I took Laura to see Wicked on Broadway back when it first opened and it sortof changed my life. It was that moving. I listened to the soundtrack so many times I can sing every song. Then I read all of Gregory Maguire's other books. Everything about it blew me away. Uh oh, her it comes ... oh what a celebration we'll have today! Thank Goodness!
    (I like the odd time meter in that one)... I could go on.. and on.... I really need to go and VACUUM.

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  50. This comment is a little late, but I thought I'd note that I've actually had a very good response to being interested in sewing and garment construction. My friends love it and ask me about what I'm sewing all the time. I'm in my early 20s, and I feel like there's sort of a crafty revival among people my age. It's novel to us because ready to wear is almost all there's ever been in our lifetime. My family loves it too! My mom is a doctor but she does beautifully neat blind hems by hand (on my brother's well-loved clothing!) and whipstitches, mends, and patches while reviewing her medical books. I think it would help if crafty people also didn't so regularly complain about having to do math. People who will do all sorts of adjustments in a minute talk about having to add two measurements like it's rocket science! I'm sure they're better at addition than they think, but it's in *their* minds too that technical mindedness and creativity are mutually exclusive. My two cents!

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  51. Oh YES! I was just having a conversation with my roommate about this the other day. We live in a town that is very popular among rock climbers and people who are generally into the outdoors. We have both felt that we've come under "passive-aggressive" attack for being into fashion. For example, I've had people say to me, "Oh those shoes are fabulous. I bet they were soooo expensive." As if they're trying to make me feel guilty for spending money on something as frivolous as high heeled shoes, but they completely overlook that they are clothed from head to toe in tech-y Patagonia, Mammot, or Arcteryx clothing that is incredibly expensive. I just smile and thank them. No one needs to know how much I spend. Usually, most of my wardrobe is thrifted. LOL.

    I have seen Wicked and LOVED it! The costumes were beautiful and the performances were breath taking.

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  52. Yes, I have been belittled by 'friends' because of my interest in fashion! They bought booze with their money, I bought clothes with mine. Hmmm, I wonder why we aren't great friends anymore?

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  53. After looking at the stills on the linked blog, I am just blown away-- what an incredible work of art! I am with you, fashion is so much more than "just clothes" to me. Much of clothing is just clothing, but fashion can actually take your breath away, and leave one dazed and dazzled. Like Elphaba's gown does. Wowza!

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  54. Yes, people sometimes dismiss me as shallow and frivolous because of my interest in clothes. I am only very moderately interested in fashion; I try to keep up in rather general terms, but mostly because I'm interested in the history of fashion and costume and the psychology behind it, and it seems a little stupid to completely ignore the present and future just because it doesn't appeal to my personal taste much.

    However, like Len and probably many others, I find the consumerism at the heart of fashion troubling and, yes, frivolous. I won't say that this is the main reason I was drawn to vintage clothing and learned to make my own, but it has become more and more important to me. It makes me a little sad that parts of the retro and vintage culture feels increasingly consumerist, too; more overpriced off-the-rack repro and retro-inspired, less DIY and thrifting.

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  55. I just saw Wicked in Hollywood Nov 30th, it is here for the HOlidays, and was just taken with Effie's dress. Wow the detail and it sparkled too!

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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