The collars I used in this series of embroidery pieces date from America from the 50’s and 60’s. Descending from the elaborate starched collars that Queen Elizabeth brought into fashion which signified her pure, holy and radiant power, the collars of American mid century fashion were symbols of modesty and cleanliness. They were worn close to the neck and covered the chest, easily removable for bleaching and pressing. They were part of a “good girl” and “respectable woman” wardrobe.
What drew me to the collars as a basis for art was the same fascination that drew me to the vintage gloves. There was a physical blank whiteness like a canvas that called to me to embellish them and both had an implied modesty that was particularly feminine and historical. A collar or kid gloves were nothing that I had ever worn, but it was a piece of clothing that felt like a part of my Mother and Grandmother’s wardrobe. To make an object with a history is a way of honoring linage and to acknowledge historical female repression through modes of fashion.
By stitching and painting tattoo inspired imagery on the collars I am referencing the very flesh that the collar is seeking to cover. I am heavily tattooed and have felt the way that tattoos are seen on a female body to be an expression that comes in direct conflict with the control that the patriarchy exerts on female and gender fluid bodies. In modern American society to wear tattoos is an expression of self creation, self ownership and rebellion.
The confessional nature of the text and imagery I use, has a raw emotional expression that blows apart “good girl” decorum further. I seek an unapologetic narrative like a teen girl diary. An earnest, free expression of yearning for spiritual guidance, wresting with grief, love and rage. These collars are an expression of a resilient, dynamic, rebellious feminine spirit that transcends the confines of the patriarchy and purity culture forces that are implicit in fashion.