upcycling and underwear
I began using underwear in my work as part of an inquiry into identity whilst exploring issues of upcycling and sustainability, feminism, body image, and the exposure of self through the subversive use of intimate and personal clothing.
By using donated underwear in my artworks, I touch on the culture of fashion and the fashion of culture, and open up the possibilities of exploring the sociological factors behind why we wear what we wear, why we conceal what we conceal, and how and why we are influenced to do so.
The women’s underwear I use is donated by friends, family, colleagues, students, eminent feminists, anonymous contributors, underwear companies, celebrities and members of the public.
Each donation comes with a story, which forms part of the feminist narrative behind the pieces/installations. The stories received have been funny, moving, intriguing and full of memories and comments on how our bodies change over the years.
In my making process the undergarments, stories and names of donors (if given) are not aligned, so identity and ‘anonymity’ are respected.
Through my work with underwear, I aim to push the boundaries of art textiles and to make a feminist statement that gives women, whose voices may not otherwise be heard, a platform to speak through my art. My conceptual pieces display what is (usually) unseen: marks, stains and holes, which are preserved as ‘landmarks’, holding memories of previous owners and echoes of former identities.
I am the creator of the ‘Bra-ra Dress’ and my first three created quite a storm when launched. They were filmed by the Press Association, featured in many articles in the media, appeared in fashion shows, exhibitions, catwalks and textile art books. I created my fourth Bra-ra Dress for my hour on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, and it is highlighted in Antony Gormley’s book ‘One and Other’. Many celebrities and underwear companies supported the creation of my ‘Pink Nation Bra-ra Dress’ and gave their pink bras to the project to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer (now Breast Cancer Campaign).
I have created a series of ‘Knicker Dresses’ from donated undergarments, which have been exhibited widely and worn in shows and on catwalks.
I have also created several installations of ‘Knicker Bunting’ with donated underwear which have bedecked street celebrations, been wrapped around monuments, installed in bars and used in university workshops and women’s groups to stimulate discussions about body image.
I have worked with several groups to create unique ‘Knicker Bunting’ for specific sites and occasions. If you would like me to work with your group to create your own installation, please email me.