Date of Degree
Fashion Design | Fiber, Textile, and Weaving Arts
Grief, Mourning, Clothing, Memories, Healing, Fashion
Beyond its material use, clothing can have powerful emotional effects such as easing grief from personal loss or serving as a memory recall aid for individuals with dementia. It was during my graduate program that I became interested in exploring the idea that clothing can be powerful beyond its aesthetic. Peter Stallybrass’s essay Worn Worlds: Clothes, Mourning and the Life of Things highlighting clothing’s ability to evoke memories and emotions was influential in setting me on my path to research clothing’s connection to memories. Whether it was embodied identity, grief, dementia, mourning rituals, or collective mourning, I was looking at the relationships rooted in the clothes. While there has not been widespread research related to clothing and dementia, Julia Twigg and Lou Taylor have devoted specific attention to understanding the impact of clothing to identity for those with dementia, specifically embodied identity, and memories. I found their work to be both significant and inspiring.
This paper is a qualitative study on how clothing items can have an impact on memories and how they can be used as a comfort tool in the grieving process. To answer this question, I conducted interviews individually with 14 selected participants to identify how clothing can be a catalyst for healing. Each participant held onto a garment or piece of jewelry that held a deep connection to a lost loved one and were presented with a list of questions, prompting them to reflect on their grief and associated articles of clothing or fashion items. I also facilitated a group virtual interview called “Tell me a Story” with a memory care group. In all - 23 participants were included. Based on their answers as well as my own research and experiences, the results, compiled on an archival website, show that these stories and photos illustrate how clothes that were staples in life became memory tokens after death.
The Fabric of Cultures course and project as a whole were instrumental in shaping my research. It provided historical, theoretical, and globalized perspectives of clothing that furthered my interest and its catalogue (www.thefabricofcultures.com) allowed me to expand on the idea that clothing and accessories can serve as a conduit for healing from loss. The idea for my capstone evolved from exhibitions, workshops, and projects while the stories and photographs of Fletcher’s Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion served as the inspiration for me to visually document these connections.
Coleman, Grace, "The Clothing Left Behind: A Collection of Stories" (2021). CUNY Academic Works.
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