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Folk Art in Fashion Culture: Folk Couture

By Paige McKirahan


When evaluating the vast number of art movements that have influenced fashion and design for centuries, it seems like the list of inspirational aesthetics is never-ending. From Art Nouveau to Art Deco, we have seen the line between art and fashion become blurred; the Folk Art movement is no exception and has undoubtedly enjoyed its own transition into the fashion industry. So much, in fact, that the American Folk Art museum created an entire exhibit dedicated to this assimilation. The “Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art” show, which was first introduced in early in 2014, called upon 13 couturiers to create one of a kind designs that correlate with specific pieces in their art collection. The connection between the two may not always be overtly evident, forcing the viewer to truly consider the pieces and how they have similar characteristics. Yes, some specific motifs from the art that inspired the clothing piece are used, but there are no direct translations of the artworks incorporated into the pieces.

Jean Yu’s chiffon dress and its inspiration, Porcupine, created by David Alvarez in 1981

(photo credits to artnews.com)

Fashion may be the hook to reel in some visitors, but the pieces in no way overshadow the art; instead, they complement the work rather than distract from it. The designers chosen by guest curator Alexis Carreño to design and create these fashion pieces are overwhelming eclectic. Even if they do not normally design pieces with folk art in mind, they all had a great eye as to what aesthetics would transition well into fashion and wowed spectators with their work.

Art often envelops fashion and vice versa; we see this cannibalistic practice illustrated with folk quilts being made of clothing scraps and folk painters like Ammi Phillips looking to fashion in print for posing inspiration. In a city where fashion reigns and museums are always looking for ways to draw in patrons, the American Folk Art Museum proved that other New York museums can incorporate fashion into their galleries successfully (and without the help of Anna Wintour). Feeling inspired by folk aesthetics but not looking to create your own gallery-inspired piece? Check out our collections to find some accessories that are already made and ready for you to purchase!



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