Art Trip: Little Black Dress

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I just wandered into ‘The Little Black Dress: from Mourning to Night‘ at the Missouri History Museum, not particularly interested in the subject at the get-go. Once I whipped out my pencil, I found myself getting kind of into it.

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It was popular, lots of people, mainly ladies, many of them dressed up on a Sunday afternoon. There was a nostalgic enjoyment in the air, like people window shopping, remembering old dresses of their own. People felt comfortable here. And it was fun listening into the conversations around me. I got asked some unusual questions whilst I was drawing (including “are you a pattern maker?”)

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(I also kept thinking of that line from Dan Clowes, whenever he’s stuck watching a boring film, he watches the clothes move and studies the folds. Good advice. Watch the folds.)

My favorite part was the glass case containing the sewing machine and dressmaking tools. Suddenly I was thinking about my step-grandma, Ethel, who died a few years ago and of all the years she spent behind her own sewing machine. That special sort of concentration of cutting a pattern out of fabric, transforming the flat material to the body’s shape. When I was in college she reversed-engineered my favorite dress so I suddenly had three of them in different colors. People would ask me about those dresses whenever I’d wear one of them.

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Art Trip is a series that features reflections on art and comics, and the adventures that transform those who seek it out.

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Sacha Mardou is a Brit making comics in St Louis, Missouri. Sky in Stereo is her most recent comic.

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