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January/February 2005

Wearable Food Shows

In our January/February 2005 issue, we take a look at bread, cheese, and chocolate as media for wearable art. You’ll see Jean-Paul Gaultier’s garments made from loaves of bread; Cosimo Cavallaro’s experiments with covering garments and even fashion icon Twiggy with melted cheese; and fabulous and funky chocolate gowns created by designers and pastry chefs for a fashion show last year.
We couldn’t get enough of the raw expression this medium provides. This special web feature takes the exploration a step forward by looking at two exhibits that featured wearable food in 2004.

Outrageous, theatrical, and surreal, these fashions flirt suggestively with cultural taboos.

Inspired by surrealism and Pop art, Salad Dressing: Food in Fashion featured fashion designers, theatrical designers, and artists who have used food and clothing, two objects familiar to everyday life, to explore the social implications held within both. The exhibit was on display at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, a nonprofit cultural center and museum in Napa, California, September 19, 2003–January 12, 2004.

The exhibit itself showcased 100 garments and photographs and was divided into three sections. The first section was titled Traditionally Speaking and looked at historical references to food in clothing. The second section, Displacement and Illusion, focused on the surreal. According to independent curator Melissa Leventon, Surrealism has been the art movement most influential on fashion during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. She writes, "...for clothing design, food was the perfect Surrealist subject. It lends itself well to the visual puns and trompe l'oeil effects. Surrealists love jokes that may seem frivolous but have dark undercurrents." Standouts of this section included Tony award - winning designer Willa Kim’s Salad Girls, and Eating Shoes: Kobe Beef Pumps, meat-covered shoes by Tokio Kumagai. The final section, Metamorphosis and Metaphor, looked at society, culture, and sex through this combination of food and clothing. These ideas are explored through objects like the 1968 paper The Souper Dress, appropriated from Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup paintings. Notable photos in this section included Robert Kushner’s early 1970s performances Robert Kushner and His Friends Eat Their Clothes.

Published in conjunction with the exhibition was an unusual catalog packaged in a purse-like box with a handle and latch. The box contains a booklet with an essay by Leventon and a set of note cards featuring images of work in the exhibition. The set can still be ordered from the online store at

Teresa Nomura, Keep Your Sunny Side Up, American, 1983; Appliquéd cotton chintz w/bead embroidery; Lent by Libby Cooper.

Raymond Hudd, Sack of Potatoes Turban, American, 1999; Burlap, buckram, plastic; Courtesy of artist.

Tokio Kumagai, Eating Shoes: Kobe Beef Pumps, Japanese, c. 1984; Leather, resin; Courtesy of the Kyoto Costume Institute.

After Andy Warhol, The Souper Dress, American, 1968; Cellulose, cotton; Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Willa Kim, executed by Barbara Matera, Ltd., Garden Salad Ensemble American, 1988; Silk, net, satin, nylon, lycra, velvet, foam; Courtesy of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Willa Kim, executed by Barbara Matera, Ltd., Pasta Salad Ensemble, American, 1988; Silk, chiffon, satin, lycra, styrofoam, nylon spandex; Courtesy of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

This gallery first appeared
online in:

Jan/Feb 2005


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