Fashion / New York City

American Folk Art Museum

This week’s study tour trip was to the American Folk Art Museum.

I was expecting banjos. Instead, I got couture.

Folk Couture was the museum’s exhibit during our visit, featuring garments crafted by designers who were inspired by pieces of art in the museum’s collection.

In Kent State’s fashion curriculum, we are constantly reminded that fashion imitates art, and art imitates life. So while some of these garments were not wearable, the design process of making materials into clothing makes them fashion.

One piece our wonderful tour guide focused on was a piece designed by avant garde design group threeASFOUR. Inspired by a quilt done by women from three different Quaker families in the 19th century, the intricate garment featured many subtle details found in the original art. Our tour guide explained some of the features of the quilt – it had three layers, was decorated in stars resembling the star of David, and each star was filled with a different graphic and a name, which were the names of deceased family members. Because the design group is very interested in religion, the designers took the piece as an opportunity to combine the symbols of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, using three layers of a flower-patterned patent leather dress to feature cutouts of stars of each religion. Unlike some of the pieces, this garment was completely wearable, as it featured a power mesh lining.

The best part of our tour was having the opportunity to go around the collection and find our favorite piece, sketching it and sharing it with the class. I loved the interactive aspect of this study tour trip, and am so glad there were no banjos.

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