Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 1, Page 13
Fall 1991
Unorthodox fashion creations win acclaim

     Karen E. Schaeffer and Jane Matranga, faculty members in the
Department of Textiles, Design and Consumer Economics,  were
determined to find just the right combination of materials for their
nationally acclaimed fashion creations. So, they skipped off to some
mighty unconventional places to buy the likes of neoprene rubber and
pigmented-polyvinyl-chloride-coated copper, or what is commonly known
as telephone cable wire.
     "Area hardware stores and plumbers thought we were nuts," says
Matranga, a young, effervescent Indiana-native who designed a
graffiti-scrawled, body-length coat.  "They looked at us coming
through and said, 'Oh, there's those two kooky broads again!'"
     Their perseverance and unorthodox design of an outfit called
"Empress of Neoprene" and the "Urban Camouflage" coat has raised
eyebrows. They were selected to participate last fall  in the Center
of Contemporary Art's Artwear Fashion Presentation in Miami.  And
their designs also were exhibited in Denver during a national
competition sponsored by the Association of College Professors of
Textiles and Clothing (ACPTC).
     "Actually, what we did was interpret a very traditional type of
costume, which is a combination of Thai and Tibetan native costumes,
into ethno-, techno-, chemo-kinds of materials," says Schaeffer,
referring to the "Empress of Neoprene," a flowing, oriental-looking
outfit made of neoprene rubber, telephone wire and balsa wood.
     Schaeffer, an associate professor of fashion merchandising,
fashioned the robe from black neoprene rubber with Matranga's
assistance.  Shoulder and side seams are joined with an adhesive.
Neoprene banding on the front, neck, armhole and hem edges are glued.
And robe decorations, which include brass, are caulked into place.
     The headdress consists of rubber tubing which was coiled, tied
and formed into a conical shape. The top of the headdress is open and
decorations were attached.
     "The challenge in this project was using materials that were
non-textile and customarily not used in garment construction and
combining them into an aesthetic costume," according to the
professor's accompanying document submitted to judges at the North
Miami Museum and Art Center, sponsors of the Miami presentation.
     Matranga's graffiti-covered coat is just as special. "Mine, I
thought was timely because it's called 'Urban Camouflage' and a lot of
people have a problem that way. They don't like graffiti," says
Matranga, who was captivated by wall-scrawling while studying for a
master's degree in fashion design at Philadelphia's Drexel University
during the mid-1980s. "Their attitude is that it's really defacing
urban landscape. But on the other hand, there are other people who say
wall-writing or subway painting is as valid an art form as anything.
     "So, I'm trying to play with whether it's an art or is it
defacing property," says Matranga about a coat that explores the
merger of painting and garment construction with an accent on the
surrealist art movement of the 1930s and contemporary urban art forms.
     The full-length, canvas-weight, twill garment features
multi-level pockets and collar. The side-front closure is made of old
chain, worn leather, a piece of rusted iron, an old nail and part of a
glass bottle. The brick wall design and graffiti are hand-painted and
the silk twill lining is dyed the color of bricks and quilted in a
brick pattern.
     Their handmade creations were not made for manufacturing, but for
aesthetic and artistic reasons, and the two professors are considering
new projects.
     Matranga says her next may examine environmental issues. "I might
do an undersea coat, a mountain or any landscape," she says, "to make
people aware of the beauty of the Earth!"
     Schaeffer has an idea, too. "I'm thinking about something for
next year, like making a necklace out of old pen points from fountain
pens," she says. "I'm very excited about that."
                                   --Donald Scott