“Teen Stylin is a program for Virginia students in grades 6 – 12 with a passion for clothing design. Participants attend an orientation followed by six free Creative Clothing Workshops led by VMFA educators, who guide students in using a variety of alternative fashion materials to create one-of-a-kind works of wearable art. After a dress rehearsal, the program culminates with a runway exhibition featuring student designs.” – Virginia Museum for the Fine Arts (VMFA)
Last month, Veritas Sophomore Molly Crew’s dress won “Best in Show” at the Teen Stylin Show at the VMFA. Best in Show! She has been awarded a trip to New York City to meet with designers and artists, to attend a Broadway show, to visit museums and galleries and to tour the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Reflections from art teacher Sunny Rosebro:
When I first approached Molly about this competition, part of the discussion centered around the whole idea of the program’s theme: FORBIDDEN. Just the sound of it had an ick factor. Stretching herself to participate opened up some very interesting discussions these many weeks about/around it, about why she felt that way – about how teenagers might be expected to engage the idea of the forbidden, about trying to do something different, about creating something objectively beautiful.
Students were tasked to create ‘wearable art’ from a selection of inspiration pieces in the VMFA, and to include a visual reference to the current “Forbidden” exhibit featuring art from the Forbidden City in Beijing. No traditional clothing materials were permitted.
Just as what she had to work with was unexpected (instead of cloth and clothing, trash-bags, duct tape, paper, Q-tips, doilies, spray paint, brass brads, etc. were her materials of choice), so was the vision that arose out of it – even in the midst of others with more ‘know-how’ or gumption or (at least in Molly’s eyes) with a more courageous approach to art. What we see now, the beauty of design rendered so well by Molly’s trained hand and skilled persistence, would not have been revealed at all, had she shunned this opportunity.
One of the most striking elements of her design came from Molly’s hand-designed, hand-carved printing plate inspired by the chandelier in the VMFA’s Worsham-Rockefeller Bedroom. Veritas students practice various forms of print-making throughout their years in Upper School art.
Any reluctance, based on the image of what the word FORBIDDEN originally represented to her, has faded or been transformed by her art through this experience. In her willingness to engage this program she herself has been very personally engaged by the God Who is in the Midst of His People. Right there in the midst. The not Forbidden.
“Human creativity, then, images God’s creativity when it emerges from a lively, loving community of persons and, perhaps more important, when it participates in unlocking the full potential of what has gone before and creating possibilities for what will come later.” – Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling
We can see that her artwork has transformed everyday materials, and that this process has indeed infused Molly with joy and confidence in new ways. We also hear that it has challenged judges and instructors, and enlivened those working around her during these many weeks of being together. The fragrance of Christ has been splashed generously on many unknown to us, but not unknown to Him, in her willingness to simply be a part of this. Humbling.
Molly’s project, between the six sessions at the VMFA studio, daily work with Mrs. Rosebro during lunches and after-school and at home required almost 100 hours of work over eight weeks.
Molly continues the story:
I’ve always liked fashion – I can remember sketching clothes on paper dolls as early as 3rd grade. My taste tends toward the classy rather than the edgy; I am not trying to push the boundaries of our modern culture, but rather to reflect a time – like the Worsham-Rockefeller Bedroom at the VMFA – of feminine, flattering beauty. The doilies I chose for the bodice were inspired by the exquisite lace on the bedcover from the turn of the century bedroom exhibit and the skirt panels from the graceful petals of a Chinese lotus flower.
The whole process was more challenging than I expected. I drew many sketches, and incessantly updated the design and fiddled with the details. Since we’ve studied printmaking in art class, one of the only things I absolutely knew from the start was that ink prints would play a big part in my design, but it wasn’t until I experimented with both the gold and scarlet from the “Forbidden” exhibit that the beauty fully emerged – brushed gold layered over brilliant red.
The construction challenges were significant … from 200 spray painted doilies glued to a duct tape bodice to the relative inflexibility of paper to closures without the benefit of buttons or zippers … there were many surprises along the way.
Molly’s dress had to be more than art. It had to be wearable art. Able to fit on a human form, to hold together as it was modeled before judges and a sold-out audience at the VMFA. The first time the model walked, the panels of the skirt flared out like a lotus blossom. Beautiful, but definitely requiring an underskirt be fashioned. One old shower curtain and hundreds of gold glitter-dipped Q-tips later the skirt was beautifully fringed and show-ready.
There was a lot of trial and error, and frustration for the first few weeks. I didn’t know anyone beforehand, and the instructors really struggled to understand my vision as my sketches weren’t doing justice to the picture in my head. Finding 100 extra hours as a sophomore at Veritas wasn’t easy either. This was really hard work.
Fashion is often felt dismissed as either too vain or immodest or edgy, but I think dressing carefully and beautifully is part of the story we tell others about who we are. This unique opportunity gave me a chance to bring together history, design and art in a beautiful and unexpected way, and to share that beauty with fellow artists, designers, judges, instructors and audience members.
“If there is a constructive way forward for Christians in the midst of our broken but also beautiful cultures, it will require us to recover these two biblical postures of cultivation and creation. And that recovery will involve revisiting the biblical story itself, where we discover that God is more intimately and eternally concerned with culture than we have yet come to believe.” – Andy Crouch, Culture Making
Molly’s “Best in Show” dress will be on display at the VMFA through late January in the Education Center.