Wearable Art New Art for a New Generation

  • Sumo

Art to wear, or as it’s sometimes called wearable art or artwear, has been slowly gaining popularity since the 1930s. This kind of modern jewelry encompasses everything from clothing to shoes to earrings and is usually handmade by an artist. Each piece is often designed to be unique, which contributes to why it’s called art.

American Craft Revival

The 1960s is when the movement really took hold during the “American Craft revival”, refining itself in the 1970s and growing bigger over the next twenty years. Today art to wear is no longer just individual pieces of jewelry or clothing sold by artists for people to wear. It now ranges from small businesses that produce the art for profit to those who use the items as features in their performance art. Small museums are even starting to host displays of earlier artwear.

wearable art dresses

The movement that spawned Artwear in the sixties is referred to by most in a negative way as the hippie movement, but it happens to not only have given birth to artwear but other experimental studio experimentation movements using other mediums clay, glass and metal. The fact that traditional values were questioned and expression of self was the norm was the perfect environment for these alternative forms of art to develop and flourish.

Set Yourself Apart

What sets the wearable art movement apart from the other experimental art forms that developed during that period is that it uses the body to get information across, whether it is social, autobiographical, or political. Traditional clothing making techniques such as weaving, quilting, or knitting are utilized in ways that have never been done before.

Another huge difference between this art form and others is that for the most part the pieces are functional, i.e. the art acts as clothing or accessories. It is a form of expression or empowerment. At the same time they are often meant to be seen as separate entities from those who wear them, with a voice of their own. Many of the artists who make art to wear are influenced by different cultures and their long traditions using fibers and other materials to make clothes and jewelry. Unlike mass-produced clothing, the focus on superior construction is just as important as the need to make a statement. This has created a different and unique type of artist who needs to be proficient as a designer, craftsman, and an artist all at the same time.

Fiber Art

A majority of the art to wear these days is made out of fibrous materials. This type of art is usually called fiber art, which can include art that one can wear and art that is for display only. As the wearable art movement has continued to develop in the last couple of years many different types of fiber art practitioners have cropped up. Some buy finished fabrics or other fiber-based materials, while some dye or paint their own virgin material. As the green movement has grown in popularity in the last ten years , so too has the idea that wearable fiber art does not need to be expensive. This art is no longer restricted to jewelry or accessories but now includes shirts, hats, and pants, often made of recycled materials or affordable fibrous materials such as hemp that are not harmful to the environment.

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