So much is made of the clothing we place on our bodies. I maintain my belief that the clothes we choose make a statement about who we are. But lately, the concept has been taken further to encompass not just the style of the fashions we wear, but what they are made of, where, and how. In her sculptural work, glass artist Cassandra Straubing addresses domestic and industrial labor, two of the major producers of clothing through the centuries.
Last Monday, as I was driving home, ironically from a day of shopping for a few clothing basics at Target, TJ Maxx, etc., I listened to this story on NPR regarding the trend of “fast fashion” begun in the 1980s and gaining relentless momentum since. Clothing is being produced, consumed, and disposed of at alarming rates, all the while using up valuable finite resources. And although the impetus behind Straubing’s work, according to her artist statment, is linked more to clothing as a representation of who we are and who we become, I see in it a throwback to the simplicity of the way clothing was once viewed– it’s first purpose was practical, perhaps overalls or an apron for every day, a suit and “Sunday dress” for special occasions.
But today, we fill closet after closet with “disposable” clothing, literally buying into what the fashion industry, media and manufacturers tell us we need. As Straubing’s glass articles of clothing suggest, we are all becoming naked emperors.
How do we combat against falling prey to trendy fashion? Perhaps if we imagined each new fashion was sculpted of glass, might we be so quick to want it? Says the woman who travels with 5 large plastic bins of clothes, 1 giant suitcase, and several smaller suitcases. But I’m working on it and have two garbage bags full of Goodwill destined clothes to prove it.
To see more of Cassandra Straubing’s work, please visit her page at San Jose State University.