Thursday, October 30, 2014

Having fun with mixed media - the World of Wearable Arts (WOW)

Although the history of using the human body as a mannequin for art display surfaced occasionally in the twentieth centure with Atsuko Tanaka's Electric Dress in 1956, it was not until 1987 that Wearable Arts became celebrated in New Zealand as an annual extravaganza. It was the brainchild of Susie Moncrieff and for the first few years it was held in the small, artsy city of Nelson. Once it had become more and more popular, it eventually transposed itself to the capital, Wellington, usually around the end of September and early October, spring in our hemisphere.

These days, Wow is an internationally known spectacular that attracts designers from all over the world such as Canada, Japan, USA, India, Thailand, UK, the Netherlands, Israel, Fiji and Germany.

Even though the art costumes are the reason for being, WOW has become a cross between an art show, a fashion show and the Cirque du Soleil. Lighting, acrobats, music, ballet and other media all combine to make the show truly spectacular. The downside for people who want to see the art costumes up close, is that they become ever more remote and incorporated into the 'fabric' of the show. The only way to see some of the costumes in detail is at the permanent exhibition in Nelson.

There are several categories: Pacifica, Children, Bizarre bra, Avant garde, and sometimes lighting or this year it was inflatables!

The entrants have instructions about the garment and any accessories having to be robust to stand quick changes and several shows, with maybe a tour at the end. Any material can be used, including metal, wood and plastic. Paper can be tricky, and needs lots of reinforcement.


  1. Wow, indeed! I love the third picture down that you have posted with its lovely swirling lines. This post reminds me of a challenge we did in high school to create a 'Space Age' fashion show. We used lengths of dowel to create these massive pointed shoulders on one dress and made another entirely out of aluminium foil, it was fun!

  2. Amazing costumes, the show must be a feast for the eyes. I have never heard of this before, definitely worth paying a visit to Nelson if we ever make it to NZ. Thank you for the post