The term “wearable art” encompasses a variety of articles worn on the body, from functional clothing articles and jewelry pieces that showcase an artist’s work to fantastical flat and sculptural creations meant to be exhibited in shows and collections.
A Short History
The idea of creating alternative forms of clothing isn’t new, and its precursors emerged in the mid-1800s, when clothing designers, architects, and artists (mostly men) rebelled against the tightly corseted, bustled fashions that constricted and bound the female form. Instead, they advocated a natural, comfortable style of dress that eschewed corseting and constriction, drawing their inspiration from ancient Greece and the Middle Ages. By the turn of the century and up until the 1960s, the movement increasingly diverged into two main pathways: simple but elegant and non-constricting designs like that of the columnar, Greek-inspired Delphos gown by Fortuny; and the riotous colors and shapes dreamed up by avante-garde painters such as Pablo Picasso, who designed garments that featured their work.
By the 1970s, the concept of wearable art as actual artwork made of a wide range of materials to be hung on the human frame merely as decoration had become cemented.
Wearable Art Today
When you think of wearable art in today’s terms, you most likely picture functional pieces of clothing that portray or feature already famous artworks—mainly paintings, sculptures, or photographs. You might also think of one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces that reflect a specific artist’s particular style.
Other types of wearable art are found in haute couture as concept pieces that evoke a feeling or theme during fashion and design shows—not necessarily meant to be worn as clothing, but flexible artwork that reverences the human form. You will also find wearable art as purely artwork, made of plastics, metals, textiles, wood, or combinations of many mediums and exhibited at shows such as the World of Wearable Art in New Zealand.
Storing Wearable Art
All wearable art, whether functional or purely artistic, should be stored in conditions that control for temperature and humidity. Mixed-media pieces especially require a delicate balance in order to satisfy the needs of all the component mediums. Relying on a professional storage expert for help and advice in protecting such an item is a good idea, as this will help to protect your investment in the long run.