The Fabric of My Life
OpinionClosing Thoughts

The Fabric of My Life

Chana Shapiro reflects on textiles of her past.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

I’ve always been a pushover for interesting textiles. If it’s handmade, beaded, embroidered, batiked or silk-screened, I’m hooked. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of sewing, but I’ve also purchased fabric simply because it’s exceptional.  Some people like precious gems; I like precious fabrics, and I have a lot of them.

Nowadays, I seldom sew. I don’t want to buy more material that will remain unused along with my current stash; however, I still need an occasional fix.

I found an alternate way to satisfy my addiction to textiles and sewing. It’s SCAD FASH, the fashion museum of Savannah College of Art and Design at the Atlanta branch on Peachtree Road. One has only to visit one of its extraordinary exhibits to be hooked. The most recent show features period costumes from television and film, but this description doesn’t come close to the reality of getting close to the clothing and accessories.  I’ll let you explore SCAD FASH at your own convenience; however, let me tell you what just happened.

My friend Viky and I asked a few orientation questions to the students who greet visitors at the admission desk, but they couldn’t help us. That was fine, really, because the show was a sensual experience, and the TV and film shows in which the costumes had appeared were clearly identified.  Unlike many other museums, this one does not provide audiotapes, which add interesting and helpful tidbits and ancillary information.  We were on our own to enjoy the show visually, sufficient in itself, but we wanted to know more.

Luckily, a young woman, whom we had noticed standing among the students at the front desk, came up to us.  She had clearly noticed that we were interested in the intricate details and structures of the garments.  She asked if we’d like her to give us more information about the costumes and creations. You bet we did!

Our unofficial docent stayed with us for more than an hour. She showed us additional photos and explained the background, sources, intricacies, personalities, and tricks of the trade in building authentic costumes. How did they get modern-day satin and velvet to look like that of 200 years ago? How did women manage to get their waists so narrow, and was there collateral physical damage? Where did they find a mannequin slim enough for Johnny Depp’s costume?

She explained how perfect replicas of two crowns were created and modestly revealed that she was the one who made them with a 3-D printer and specially-ordered Swarovski crystals. Those crowns were fabulous and would have definitely fooled any of today’s sitting royalty.

Naturally, we wanted to know more about our incidental docent. Her name is Tina, a student from Serbia, who is planning to be a fashion designer. She’s a senior, with several leads on jobs. (Their brochure claims that a degree from SCAD is a powerful tool in the competitive world of fashion.) On her phone, Tina showed us pictures of her work.  It was modern and classic at the same time. It had the touch of a true seamstress, and I had an idea.

“What kind of sewing machines do you have?” I asked. I was sure she had a few.

“The best,” Tina answered. “I use the ones here at school.”

“Do you like to sew your own clothes, too?”

“Of course!”

“Do you sometimes sew just for fun?”

Tina laughed, “Absolutely!”

“I have a lot of wonderful fabric, and I’d love to show it to you. I’ve had most of it for years, and it needs to belong to someone who will use it,” I explained.

She was surprised, of course. “That’s an amazing offer, and I accept!” she exclaimed.

Tina pulled a business card from her pocket, an original must-have for SCAD students in the job market. On one side is a picture of her senior design dress. She asked me to call her to set up a time to visit.

When I got home, I went downstairs and visited my containers of textiles. After spending a long time appreciating my collection, I called Tina and left a message. I decided to offer her everything.

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