While doing more research on shibori, I was reading one of my new books, called Fashion, The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century. I not only found some great reference photos for fabric dyeing techniques, but I also started thinking again about the issue of practicality when choosing the type of material to be used in sewing a garment.

Yamamoto - vest and skirt

This particular book pictures quite a few amazing articles of clothing, some that are so artistic that they are practically un-wearable, or at least would be for the vast majority of us in our every-day lives.

The town that I live in would be a million times more interesting if people had the guts (or leisure, or boredom, etc) to wear something like this dress on the right, by Yohji Yamamoto (1991) for a simple trip to the grocery store.

Of course, garments such as these are never really meant to be worn except on a runway, which seems a bit of a shame. (At this moment, my big blue Plastic Ball Gown is lonely and neglected, folded up and stored away in bags in the garage.) When a designer does this, creating a garment that is purposely awkward to wear, it is to make a statement and make the viewer question his/her concept about the role of clothing and its traditional uses. In essence, our modern ready-to-wear clothing is primarily a functional covering for our skin, with style being secondary to the need of “staying mobile” while wearing it, which is why most of the clothes at the mall are frightfully boring.

But, I digress.

As an extreme example of what I mean by non-traditional media, there are a lot of artworks out there made from various raw meat products–yes, meat. Not only articles of clothing but also furniture, cars, a chessboard. You name it, somebody has probably made a version out of meat.

Some of these works are quite tasteful (as in “aesthetically pleasing,” not yummy) and others are just crude and inelegant. Here are a few that I particularly enjoy: Jana Sterbak’s meat chair, and “eating shoes” by Tokio Kumagai.

Kumagai’s “eating shoes” - women’s pump
Kumagai - “eating shoes” - men’s loafer

These shoes are actually made from resin to resemble bacon (using Japanese food sample production methods), a technical feat which I applaud, because… you actually could wear these to the grocery store!

Hanah Kim - t.p. wedding dress

I love finding and thinking about art made from non-traditional materials. It fascinates me–and also frustrates me–because the result is often “why didn’t I think of that?” or “why didn’t I actually do that when I was thinking about it?!”

A while back, I was contemplating making a wedding dress out of toilet paper, only to find out that lots of people have already done that, too. Here’s my favorite one so far, made by Hanah Kim for a contest that was held for just such a topic. I really wish I could see all of the little details on this, and I wish I had made mine when I wanted to before! Bah.

I suppose I’d better go make that underwear out of corn husks that I’ve been thinking about.