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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tanya Marcuse on Underwear and the Ultimate Dress

Posted By on 12.02.09 at 12:49 PM

Floral Bust Enhancer by Tanya Marcuse
  • "Floral Bust Enhancer" by Tanya Marcuse

East coast photographer Tanya Marcuse is not a fashion photographer per se, although some of her projects touch on issues of clothing and the body. Those include Undergarments & Armor, for which she took pictures of items from various costume archives, including the one at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, and Bridal Suite, an exploration of that most iconic of dresses. She'll talk about her work this Friday as part of the School of the Art Institute Fashion Resource Center's Behind the Seams lecture series. I asked Marcuse about her work and how it relates to our beliefs and ideas about fashion today.

Laced Corset 18th Century by Tanya Marcuse
  • "Laced Corset 18th Century" by Tanya Marcuse

Marcuse says she's interested in "the symbolism of dress more than the aesthetics. I never really thought of my work having much to do with fashion--I was so interested in garments, their meaning, their conceptual relationship to body, the way they often outlast the wearer. For example, I was so interested by the corsets--it's such a personalized thing to end up in an archive."

Although Marcuse says she avoids making "simplistic moral judgments" about fashion and the body, issues of women's bodies and control inevitably come to the fore when looking at some of the constricting undergarments, one of which is actually made from wood. Yet Marcuse found "research that male authorities, doctors, were warning of the health risks of what they called 'tight lacing'--there was a clear status associated with these tiny waists." Not so different from sky-high heels and size 0 clothes today.

Bridal Suite #2 by Tanya Marcuse
  • "Bridal Suite #2" by Tanya Marcuse

Bridal Suite, came earlier, when she got married. "That was the first time I had really given serious thought to the intense symbolism of the dress--having these fittings, the white garment." She calls the project "sort of an alternative wedding album," with images featuring the "armature" the dry cleaner uses to keep the dress's shape and her worn white stockings, in which she noticed the "imprint" of her body after she took them off.

As for her own fashion sense, "I'm not a great dresser or anything," she sats. "If I had a different budget! I have a total appreciation for high-end design and beauty."

The talk begins at 6 PM Friday; it's in room 735 at 36 S. Wabash Ave. Tickets are $35; call 312-629-6731.

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