Fashion as Art

Art is an important part of my life. Dance, music, design, paintings - particularly any impressionist work - writing and any sort of communications, they are the beat of my heart and a passion that excites me. I danced ballet and jazz when I was young, and still feel the groove in the privacy of my living room. I’m not a musician, although I attempted it a few times in my youth, and my iTunes account is filled with classical, country, hard rock, pop, musical theater and opera. And I’ve been known to perform in my car but be thankful you’re not there with me. My son and niece have actually asked me to stop in the past, which only really, of course, makes me sing louder. I love interior design and the moods, expressions, and aesthetics you can achieve by changing the smallest of details.


While I’m obsessed with the art masters but since my stick people are crooked, I was not blessed with that talent, but I do make it a point to visit the fine art museum in any city I visit. Being from Southern California, I actually have some amazing resources nearby. No, we’re not New York City or London or Washington DC, but we’re stronger in culture than many realize. We have multiple theaters, or performing arts centers, and I have held a season seat to my closest one for years now. I also have a season seat at the LA Opera, memberships with the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art, and at our local Orange County museum, the Bowers. Other museums in LA include the Natural Science Museum and the California Science Center, which houses the Space Shuttle Endeavor. The Reagan Presidential Library boasts an Air Force One plane, the Dolby Theater in Hollywood hosts the Academy Awards and other productions, and the Walt Disney Theater and Hollywood Bowl take turns hosting the LA Philharmonic and other absolutely mind-blowing concerts. And then, of course, Hollywood. I don’t think that requires any additional explanation.


Another form of art you can probably guess I’m obsessed with is fashion. One thing I can do, and not everyone knows, is that I am an amazing seamstress. I don’t indulge in it like I used to, but I know it’s like riding a bike. The smell of the fabric store is addictive, and I lose myself in the aisles of beading, sequins, lace and satin. And holiday fabric. And flannel. Draping the fabric over the form, cutting the pattern and putting the pieces together like a puzzle to create an original piece - let’s face it, what are the chances that someone else selected that exact pattern and that exact fabric. It’s all mine.


I imagine that I experience a small glimpse into the world of the fashion designer every time I create something. And what is that? That is art.


Art is defined as “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” And I would most definitely say that high fashion fits this description.


This time of year we witness the Big 4 of fashion weeks for the reveal of Spring/Summer fashions from New York, London, Milan, Paris - and we see them again in February for Fall/Winter reveals - as well as local shows in Los Angeles, Miami and other cities. These fashion weeks are important to the industry as effective and exciting communications between fashion’s top and emerging designers and the rest of the fashion world.


As a little side-bar…when I was a little girl, before I understood how the world worked, let alone the fashion world, I was confused why we’d see fashion shows and photos of clothing from next season. Of course, being from California it never surprised me having bathing suits available year-round, but who wants to think about winter coats when the temperature was getting warmer, or about spring dresses when Halloween was just around the corner. Combined with my childish ignorance of the outlandish designs that were shown, shared with the adults in my household, I was actually mesmerized. I thought that world was something magical, some place that you only dared to enter and maybe even had to wait to be invited. I grew up with limited means, and while I never went hungry or wondered where I would sleep, my fashion sense was not only non-existent but discouraged to keep my visions within our budget. Creativity was encouraged, but interests were mocked when misunderstood or different.

Now, as we are coming into fall, we are presented with fashions for next spring, with exciting colors, vibrant prints and flowing fabrics. The shows and photos from New York and London were exciting to watch as are the ones coming in from Milan, and I honestly can’t get enough of the looks and can only assume that Paris will be an amazing culmination of everyone’s efforts.


Here is where it gets interesting. I’m going to ask you to open your minds and take a little chance with your own imaginations and creativity.


Because, if I’m being honest, and I always am, sometimes to a fault, I am well aware that some of the fashions presented during these shows are neither realistic depictions of what real people wear nor are they what will actually be found in retailers - and what we see on the runway isn’t always intended to be. They are often artistic, conceptual, communicating a mood, thought or are a sign of individual presentation. They mean more than just models walking the runway wearing clothes - the process is art.

Art is creative, inspirational, avant-garde, provocative, sometimes frightening, thought-provoking, open to interpretation, experimental, collectible, and reflective the real world. Fashion is the same.


People’s taste in art is subjective, and reactions can range from disinterest to mild to curious to extreme, both positively and negatively. Again, fashion is the same.

Art and design are a part of all of our lives. The car you drive, the chair you sit on, the computer you use, the food packaging that holds your favorite snack…they were all created, yes, of course, with engineering and ingenuity, but also with art concepts. How the angles catch your eye. How the curves make your eyes move. The colors are selected based upon the emotion and mood the designer wants you to feel. Your comfort is considered just as much as the aesthetics, including how the keyboard feels, the pitch of the chair seat, the casing of your phone. These are the same concepts utilized when designing clothes. Color, texture, drape, mood - all things related to art - are part of fashion design, be it high fashion found on the runway or off-the-rack in Kohls.


What I am asking for today, and imploring for understanding, is that fashion is no less important than the fine works of art from the masters on display in art museums. Or danced on the great stages of the world. Or performed live before an eager audience, ready to give their approval for being moved with a certain note or story. No less amount of work, desire, hunger, sweat, or rejection was ever experienced by a fashion designer than by an artist that uses paint, clay, marble or paper.


The importance of art in our communities is paramount to expansion, growth, and stability of our future.


The important part is that it be accessible to all. One skill that is mentioned repeatedly by CEOs as missing from a large part of the workforce is creativity. And with the rise of standardized tests, this comes as no surprise to me. Please note that I realize I have no specific citation for this, but just search the topic and you won’t be disappointed.


No, I am not trying to reduce the importance of STEM studies, but only want to emphasize that each is just as important and in fact, I believe, reliant on each other. The two worlds, logical and analytical and creative, should be able to live beside each other, complement each other, and build each other up. How can tomorrow’s scientist think creatively to find a cure for any ailment without feeling, expression or a sense of curiosity? How can a writer be able to produce the novel of tomorrow without being able to think logically and systematically to keep thoughts in order?



"Vice Principal Wolters: I care about these kids just as much as you do. And if I'm forced to choose between Mozart and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.

Glenn Holland: Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about."

--Mr. Holland's Opus



Art supports, complements, and breeds science.


Dance, music, communication, design, painting, sculpting, singing are art. And fashion is art.


There are multiple organizations that support keeping arts accessible to everyone, and they all include design and fashion as part of their efforts and focus.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965 and is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. it supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America (Arts.gov).


According to Americans for the Arts, whose mission is to build recognition and support for the extraordinary and dynamic value of the arts and to lead, serve, and advance the diverse networks of organizations and individuals who cultivate the arts in America, the arts are essential to all students. Art teaches the path to creative problem solving and collaboration. They also have research that shows the positive effects of art education on culture at large, particularly related to motivation and attitudes, as well as providing encouragement to success in school, life, and career (Americansforthearts.org).


Art in Action, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed by Judy Sleeth in reaction to learning of the lack of art lessons taught in classrooms and the decimation of art education programs in California schools through Proposition 13 and has become an invaluable resource for school communities across the country, students. Through hands-on learning students expand their knowledge in art and art techniques, cultural understanding, technology, and more — so every student has the skills they need to succeed and be prepared for jobs of the future (Artinaction.org).


So do me and yourself a favor…as this season’s fashion weeks are wrapping up, take a few minutes and look at photos through the eyes of not someone who is rushing to find something to wear on a Monday morning, but through those of an artist or at least an art appreciator. You may surprise yourself and find a new approach to see all the beauty this world has to offer

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