Dirty Laundry and other women's work
From the Civil War through the middle of the 20th century, so much of a woman’s experience was intended to be kept out of view, lest she or her family be shamed. Women had been ingrained to be submissive, question their own voices and to prize appearance. When I came upon the a vintage slip at a flea market, I immediately knew her name – Betty Crocker - and her story under the apron. Betty’s tale wasn’t about some perfect concoction of womanhood, but she had a tale to tell. I wanted to tell her story and amplify her – and others’ - voice and what better way to do that than with the most intimate of clothing. Intimates are worn closest to the skin every day, and they encounter all that is unseen in a woman’s life.
And so it went: I sought out more underwear, choosing those whose stories came alive at first touch, and even to this day, women struggle to find the best undergarments. Does any women own a comfortable bra?
Using dying techniques I took away a pristine appearance of these vintage undergarments and used iron tools to create rust dye results that are a perfect metaphor for the plight of my subjects. Sewing and stitching have been a required skill for women - some to make and repair clothing, others to pass the time. Hand stitching is a slow process, sometimes painful - needle pricks, hand cramps - but intentional. I became more attached and aware of each women’s story the longer I worked the piece.
You are invited to touch and examine these pieces for an intimate encounter with our tightly laced past and ask yourself if we still have some “dirty laundry” to address.