Costume of Dreams. Explore imaginary worlds through costume, installation and photography read the blurb. How could I resist? I don’t need much of an excuse to dress up as someone else for the day. The someone else in this case was drawn from the notion of ‘alternative self’. This might mean someone who you aspire to be, an aspect of your personality, a body part that you wished to transform and/or celebrate, or something from your inner world, a you from your dreams.
The class was open to anyone 18+ required no technical skills and took place inside two empty units on Humber Street. As the tables and materials were laid out (all materials were provided) I met with my fellow students. The tutors were Lynn Benson, previously Head of Fashion B.A. course at Hull School of Art and Design, and Anna Bean @Bluebeany freelance artist/designer.
I have enjoyed and been inspired to learn more, through working with Anna on a number of performance projects including, most recently La Vie En Rosè for which we devised a cat-like Cupid, for a spokenword piece that passed comment on online dating. However I have barely seen Lynn Benson since passing her workroom on a daily basis, always a hive of activity, on my way to lectures in the DMJ department at HSAD from 09- 12
Introductions over, Lynn began explaining what it was we were here to do whilst giving us the benefit of her extensive knowledge of costumery and fashion, particularly Ertè and Ballets Russes from the early nineteenth century. Anna shared her expertise in visual arts, highlighting her own surreal style and her passion for the challenging, changeling work of Cindy Sherman.
I loved looking at all the art books and marvelling at the designs and images. A world of inspiration lay inside these pages, and what’s more there were two experts on hand, ready to help you understand and explore them in a professional, yet relaxed way.
I looked at some of the 1920s dress designs and was struck by how theatrical and elegant they looked. Some seemed to be inspired by a mix of futurism and art deco reminding me of the early sci-fi film Metropolis. I was particularly taken with the headwear sharp lines and points that gave the the figures status and power.
I would start with an art deco sci-fi hat with repeated triangle motif and then see where it took me after that. I found that rather than worrying about how to start, the pressure of coming up with a complete idea I was better jumping straight right in. I soon found out that what looked a relatively simple shape in the book, was harder to realise in black paper in real life.
Over the next few hours with assistance from Lynn and Anna, the hat came into being, made from different shades and patterned paper and masking tape. By lunch I was sporting my new hat, feeling pretty exhilarated by having made a thing. And straight after lunch I picked up the piece from which the triangle shapes had been cut, looked at it, turned it over and placed it around my neck. To my absolute delight it formed the pointed collar I had envisioned. A round button later and it was a take on a sailor’s neckcloth.
I looked at the black ribbons that circled the legs of one particularly gloriously outfitted Erté woman. The bow design reminded me of laced up ballet shoes. Rather than focusing on legs – which have always been my best feature – I looked at transforming my arm with a ribboned gauntlet, in order to combat the negativity I feel towards it, during flare ups of rheumatoid arthritis. I really liked the gauntlet it made my arm feel strong despite just being card and despite the aching.
Anna turned MUA pinning my hair up and giving me a white face, one exaggerated eye and a kiss curl: a touch of Cabaret and unintentionally Clockwork Orange. The smart salute didn’t quite work, my gauntlet getting lost in the point of the hat, so the arm across the chest was preferred. The smart salute one was supposed to echo the propaganda posters of Russian cosmonauts, hence my idea of having a spacecraft flying across the sky in the background.
Invited by Lynne to name my outfit I struggled, something futuristic from Metropolis maybe? I went from imagining an air hostess in space, to space cadet graduation on Ganymede… still not happy with either… so any name ideas for this look readers?
I would highly recommend getting involved in the Feral Art School, signing up for a course or one of the day events. With Feral you can are free to explore your creativity whatever level you might think you are at, enjoy the camaraderie and share ideas with the others, and have fun learning new skills from professionals.
You can see from the pictures that the class of day students had an absolute ball making and wearing, an array of very striking costumes, each telling a different story about the wearer. We took to Humber Street where one curious onlooker asked, ‘ What is it for?’ I replied ‘It is for fun!’