- See also art jewelry.
Wearable art, also known as Artwear or "art to wear", refers to individually designed pieces of (usually) handmade clothing or jewellery created as fine or expressive art. While the making of any article of clothing or other wearable object typically involves aesthetic considerations, the term wearable art implies that the work is intended to be accepted as a serious and unique artistic creation or statement. Pieces may be sold and/or exhibited. The modern idea of wearable art seems to have surfaced more than once in various forms. Marbeth Schon's book on modernist jewellery (see the section on jewellery below) refers to a "wearable art movement" spanning roughly the years 1930 to 1960. A 2003 New York Times review of a book on knitting refers to "the 60s Art to Wear movement".
Most wearable art is made of fibrous materials and constitutes therefore a branch of the wider field of fiber art, which includes both wearable and non-wearable forms of art using fabric and other fiber products. Wearable art as an artistic domain can also of course include jewelry, or clothing made from non-fiber materials such as leather, plastic sheeting, metals, etc.
Wearable fiber art
Artists creating wearable fiber art may use purchased finished fabrics or other materials, making them into unique garments, or may dye and/or paint virgin fabric. Many believe that art is something that requires money in order to make it, but a lot of clothing artists are now starting local clothing companies that produce quality art work and clothing for a decent price. Wearable art is not restricted to jewellery but is also seen in graphic T-shirts and even pants.
As with any other art form, the talent and skills of artists in this field vary widely. Since the nature of the medium requires craft skills as well as artistic skills, an advanced artist can be expected to study color theory, chemistry, sewing, clothing design, and computer software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. Classes in clothing design and marketing may be learned from such colleges as the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
The New Zealand city of Nelson has gained a worldwide reputation in the field of wearable art, with its World of WearableArt Awards, held annually since 1987. From 2005, the show moved to Wellington. In Australia, the Shearwater Wearable Arts or W.A.V.E. (Wearable Arts Vision In Education) has developed from a High School initiative to become a leading Wearable Arts Event.
Jewellery as wearable art: the mid-20th century "wearable art movement"
Some 20th-century modern artists and architects sought to elevate bodily ornamentation — that is, jewellery — to the level of fine art and original design, rather than mere decoration, craft production of traditional designs, or conventional settings for showing off expensive stones or precious metals. In "Modernist Jewelry 1930-1960: The Wearable Art Movement" (2004), author Marbeth Schon explores unique and innovative wearable art objects created by surrealists, cubists, abstract expressionists, and other modernist artists working in the middle decades of the 20th century. For the main article on this kind of wearable art, see art jewelry.
Extreme examples of wearable art
Not all garments created as wearable art are made from traditional fibers or fabrics, and not all such artworks are meant for ordinary, practical use. Performance and conceptual artists have sometimes produced examples which are more provocative than useful. Trashion is another branch of extraordinary wearable art. The Portland Oregon Trashion Collective, Junk to Funk, has been using creating outrageous art garments out of trash. www.junktofunk.org
A well-known example is the "Electric Dress", a ceremonial wedding kimono-like costume consisting mostly of variously colored electrified and painted light bulbs, enmeshed in a tangle of wires, created in 1956 by the Japanese Gutai artist Atsuko Tanaka. This extreme garment was something like a stage costume. Not really wearable in an everyday, practical sense, it functioned rather as part of a daring work of performance art (though the "performance" element consisted merely of the artist's wearing the piece while mingling with spectators in a gallery setting).
More recently, Canadian artist Andrea Vander Kooij created a group of pieces called "Garments for Forced Intimacy" (2006). According to an essay at Concordia University's Faculty of Fine Arts gallery website, these hand-knit articles of clothing are designed to be worn by two people, and they, "as the name states, compel the wearers into uncharacteristic proximity."
- http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F02E3DD143CF937A35756C0A9659C8B63&&scp=1&sq=%22art%20to%20wear%20movement%22&st=cse query.nytimes.com
- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=modernist+%22The+Wearable+Art+Movement+%22&qt=owc_search worldcat.org
- http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/art/reviews/9937/ nymag.com
- http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE2D7143DF93AA35752C1A967958260 query.nytimes.com
- http://fofagallery.concordia.ca/ehtml/2007/acting.htm fofagallery.concordia.ca
- Brancott Estates World of WearableArt (WOW) - New Zealand website
- Morgan Culture - International wearable artist in WOW
- SE Arts Event - Wearable Arts event by SE Arts Market
- The Wearable Art Awards - Wearable Art competition held yearly in Port Moody, Canada
-  - Wearable Art competition held annually in Alice Springs as part of the Alice Desert Festival