Folk Art Couture

Gary Graham’s coat of wool/cotton jacquard in front of his inspiration — an 1810 Ann Carll Coverlet: “Blazing Star and Snowball.”

Gary Graham’s coat of wool/cotton jacquard in front of his inspiration — an 1810 Ann Carll Coverlet: “Blazing Star and Snowball.”

Delightful, whimsical carved animals from New Mexico don’t often appear on the runway with couture, but they certainly take center stage in the American Folk Art Museum’s fantastic show, Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, which closes today.

No worries, though, the museum has created a detailed, media-rich exhibition site on Tumblr that gives you a close-up look at the fabrics, fashions, and folk art that inspired these fun, creative looks.

The museum pulled 100 of works from its collection and asked thirteen
designers to create clothes – wearable or not – that would reflect the scope, spontaneity, and sheer funkiness of folk art.

A steady stream of fashion-lovers worked their way through three galleries of beautiful clothes and creations inspired by collection pieces from across America — New Mexico folk-art porcupines inspired Jean Yu to make a straw-chiffon cocktail ensemble; an 1810 coverlet from Westbury, Long Island inspired Gary Graham to create a gorgeous jacquard-pattern coat and leggings; a religious sculpture made by German immigrants in North Dakota inspired Brazilian designer Fabio Costa to create an other-worldly white ensemble that would look at home in any avant-garde collection.

Closep-up of Michael Bastian’s sweater icon based upon an 1840s weathervane of the Archangel Gabriel. The look also features a hood with built-in earmuffs.

Closep-up of Michael Bastian’s sweater icon based upon an 1840s weathervane of the Archangel Gabriel. The look also features a hood with built-in earmuffs.

Apparently menswear designer Michael Bastian is a fan of this museum and loves its collection, so he fairly faithfully replicated an angel-weathervane icon on the front of his guy sweater and thought it would be fun (which it is!) to take the top hat and eyewear from a Michigan folk-art sculpture and put them right onto his mannequin’s head. The look is great — modern artist and old-fashioned at the same time.

Visit our Flickr album and the exhibition site to see all of the inspirations from the museum collection and learn more about each designer’s working process. We particularly liked the inspiration board in the gallery, which showed some of the process from art to reimagination to finished gown, coat, and dress.

You can’t really beat Yeohlee’s paper dress, featuring images of New Mexico folk-art animals printed on Kraft paper and made into a modern and mod shaman ensemble. Chic and magical at the same time, just like her all of her collections and fans.

Yeohlee’s dress — Shamanistic Printed Prayer Flag Dress from Brown Kraft Paper. Among her whimsical inspirations — a ram carved in 1988 by New Mexico artist Johnson Antonio

Yeohlee’s dress — Shamanistic Printed Prayer Flag Dress from Brown Kraft Paper. Among her whimsical inspirations — a ram carved in 1988 by New Mexico artist Johnson Antonio

We’ve heard that this inspirational show will tour and we’ll keep you posted.

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