Clothing Memories

Today in between sewing pillows I went to see a show, entitled Communion, of Jon Coffelt’s clothing miniatures at Susan Hensel Gallery. (The links connect to the Fiberarts article on Jon and to Susan’s post about the show and the opening.) Seeing these hand-stitched miniatures, each with a story, stimulated my own memories of clothing. One of my favorite pieces in the show was a replica of a Pucci dress, made in ocher cotton, silk-screened with a psychedelic curvy black linear pattern. The dress style is from a 1971 (or so) pattern. I instantly thought of the Pucci outfit my sister made for my mom around the same time. The ensemble consisted of palazzo pants and a sleeveless tank, sewn from a wild, green and fuchsia watermelon cotton print. My mom had great taste in clothing, and really no need to sew since her mother and and 2/3rds of her daughters were handy with the sewing machine. After cooking supper for 8 each night, and raising 6 kids, mom preferred knitting, perhaps because it’s more meditative.
The sewing machine and I aren’t the best of friends, but from time to time I make a piece of clothing. After the show today I dug into my fabric trunk looking for a scrap of batik fabric from my favorite high school blouse, still good as new (the blouse is long gone). I think I wore this twice a week during my junior or senior year, between 1973 and 1974.

(Images below, left to right: batik with fish imagery; circa 1972, a sketch of the pattern as I remember it, and a bit of amateur Photoshopping — which can’t hold a candle to Coffelt’s hand-stitched replicas!







Author: Kit

I use the materials and techniques of the Japanese art of katazome (paste resist stencil dyeing) to capture my experience of nature. My work celebrates daily meetings with the wild birds, plants, and lake breezes of my local urban surroundings.

9 thoughts on “Clothing Memories”

  1. What a great idea – Photoshopped clothing! I can’t make clothes conventionally but maybe I could do this. And then Photoshop myself in the clothes to see if I looked OK? Haha no more changing rooms any more!! x

  2. I talked to my sister after seeing the show yesterday. She told the story of finding one of my mother’s blouses in a rag bag. Actually, it was half of a blouse — a soft linen sleeveless pale yellow shirt, which my mother had carefully cut in half before adding it to the ragbag. (We all have this habit now of cutting up soft, worn old clothing and using them for rags.) Anyway, Fran described how smelling the shirt flooded her with longing for my mom, days gone by. Then she describe how lovely this half-blouse would look draped over an antique metal dress form that she admired but DIDN’T buy from a Minneapolis antique store several visits ago. What a lovely sculpture that would make!

  3. Thanks for bringing John Coffelt’s work to my attention. Very cool, and so true about how evocative clothing can be. I just finished a course in Material Culture of New England and it was profound how intense it felt to view and handle articles of clothing from centuries past. Also made me think of the Quilts of Gees Bend and the sensations I got from seeing quilts made from the clothing of field workers. I like your Photoshop blouse!

  4. Now I remember the batik & the shirt — nothing like pictures and what a great way to try out a cloth & pattern combo! And I had totally forgotten the great phrase “palazzo pants.” Since clothes are really a second skin, it’s no wonder that we get attached to clothes & cloth and also sometimes give meaning to certain colors, patterns & types of garments.I was hooked by age ten, when I would occasionally drop into a “dry goods” store (Madrill’s) on my way home from school & run my hand down the two rows of bolts they carried.

  5. Oooh, looking forward to seeing the finished product! (I wish I could sew my own clothes, but book jackets are as far as it goes these days…)

  6. I’m not actually going to stitch a new shirt, since I don’t have enough fabric! I could try doing a miniature, that would be fun…but too many other projects going on right now!

  7. Good job Photoshopping, Kit.
    You reminded me of working in an online mail order business. One customer wanted a garden set with umbrella, cushions & matching tablecloth in tartan, instead of the plain green pictured. Guess what I had to do that morning 🙂
    Cheers, Peter.
    (I came here via Michael Nobbs’ blog)

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