Art of Dying Art of Dying_Volume III_joomag - Page 86
fabric. The back section of the garment is laid
down on a bed before the body is placed on top.
The dignity of the dead is important, so an apron is
first draped over the body. The front piece flips over
the shoulders with an opening for the head. Cords
running through silk highlights allow adjustment of
the garment’s length and shape.
You are dressing, and addressing, each part of
the body individually. The head, hands and feet,
commonly associated with identity, are each
dressed with additional layers. The feet are placed
together inside a footbag, and each hand is placed
inside an organza sleeve. Lastly, the face is covered
with a sheer veil. While the bags and veils also have
practical applications, the main reason for these
different pieces and differing opacities originates
from people saying that closing the coffin lid felt
like they were slamming the door on the person
they loved. The intention with the layering is to
slow this process down, to softly and gradually
cover the body, a fading away rather than a harsh
separation from sight.
The simplicity of my designs offers a graceful ritual
for an emotional situation. The ease with which a
body is dressed allows people to relax, to sit with
and savor the last moments with their loved one. I
always encourage families to bring the person’s
favorite perfume. A husband who doesn't want to
feel the coldness of his wife's skin can still participate
in the ritual through spraying perfume as the last veil
in the dressing process. Whilst you're veiling, you're
If it weren't for death, I would never share this
sacred part of life. Yes, I make frocks, but they make
me as well. Each experience I have with someone
and their dressing becomes part of my life and
inspires me to move forward and transform.
My clients often want to integrate beloved
garments that are not made from natural fibers.
I don't say, "No, you can't use that because it isn’t
biodegradable." Our bodies can have false teeth,
silicon implants, knee reconstructions and other
artificial elements. These are moments when I step
back from my ideal and adapt to my client’s wishes.
It's a symbiotic relationship.
One of my clients loved a 70’s metallic tube dress.
We used that as the central panel surrounded by
plain white cotton that her family painted. It looked
galactic. When I'm fashioning a garment, I'm making
a piece of clothing, but I in turn am being fashioned
by the person, family or community whose journey
I am joining.
In January of 2017, Paola Antonelli, the senior
curator of MoMA, commissioned me to make a piece
for their Items: Is Fashion Modern? exhibition. I was
asked to create a new prototype for the 'Little Black
Dress', to sit as it's final stage of evolution next to
designs by Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, Christian Dior,
Thierry Mugler, and Rick Owens. I wanted to return
to the original origins of 'black' as associated
with death in Western culture. I also wanted to
highlight that my garments are never really about
'The Dress', but the 'dress-ing' process. I dyed a
shroud with a heat-sensitive thermochromic dye
The simplicity of my designs
offers a graceful ritual for an
86 | ART OF DYING