Thursday, September 3, 2009

Claire McCardell Dress (2nd Use)

Accession Number: TR.514.2

Label 1: Woman’s Dress, 1954, USA, Claire McCardell, Gift of Sophia Snyder

Label 2: Claire McCardell Clothes by Townley, fabric by Stafford

Note: This project is not considered complete until every scrap of deaccessioned fabric has found a use. Often this means that a single deaccessioned garment may yied raw materials for multiple new items. In this instance, the garment has previously yielded three witches hats.

This is a sleeveless, black silk, bias cut dress. It is high-necked in the front with a gathered fabric detail at each shoulder. The skirt is partially lined and flares out from the waist. The garment closes with a zipper under the left arm. During previous deconstruction, the skirt portion of the dress was removed.

In this instance, the blouse portion of the dress was taken apart. All seams were removed.

A paper pattern, approximately one yard square was drafted. The pieces of the blouse portion of the dress were placed on the pattern, as were the remaining scraps of fabric from the skirt portion of the dress. Once the pieces were arranged so that the pattern was completely covered, they were pinned in place and hand-sewn together using a blanket stitch. The edges were hand rolled and secured with a whip stitch. The bindle, or hobo-bag, as it is sometimes known, was then laid flat. Various essential items were placed onto it. The alternate corners of the bindle were tied together, and the bindle was then tied to a bindlestick made from a pomegranate branch.

The accession number has been embroidered on the outside of the bindle.


  1. Hi Robert. Your project fascinates me - so much so that I've spent half the day reading up articles and responses about it online!

    I'm hearing crafters/recyclers clapping their hands at your inventive ideas, without much (any!) critical reflection. And I'm hearing vintage enthusiasts wailing at the gorgeous dresses or coats that should be on their backs rather than being chopped up into witches hats and door screens! (I have some sympathy here, declaring my interest as a dress historian!)

    From the art and museum community, there seems to be more of a reflective and thoughtful response, as you might expect. Deaccessioning has long been a touchy subject in museums, and most never even discussed it in public until very recently.

    I'm wondering if any of the donors of these LACMA items are still alive, and if they were notified that their donations were going to be flogged off! There's a sense that some kind of contract or promise has been violated here, although I'm sure every item was carefully evaluated before the decision was made. Although, with my dress historian hat on, I'm not surprised that textiles and costumes are the first to go, being traditionally ranked lowest in the field of art.

    I'm also interested in your choices of what you made - they seem to be either functional or playful, sometimes even (forgive me!) provocatively banal - such as the wastepaper basket. I'm not saying your wastepaper basket is banal of course (its lovely), but that TYPE of object is.

    You've opened up a debate that I'd love to see pursued further - about museum practise, their collections and the trust that the public (and artists/makers/producers) has in them to preserve these items, the intrinsic value or status of objects, about what should or should not be recycled or remade. I could go on, but this comment is overlong already.

    Last thing - I love that you feature the original accession number on each of your remade objects, ensuring that they carry their prestigious history as museum items forward into their next phase of 'life.'

    Good luck with your project, and I will be following it with great interest. LACMA would be fools not to grab the chance to exhibit your finished collection of works - what a great show that would be!

  2. Hey Robert,
    Heard the great NPR piece this morning. Very nice iterview. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your project as your complete the pieces.

  3. I too just heard the NPR Studio 360 interview. Your project is so reflective of our times and your work is wildly inventive and fantastic. I am going to post a link to your project on my art Blog and I look forward to following your progress. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Great touch with the hobo code. Ramble on.