When do clothes become wearable art?


By Kara Baskin Globe Correspondent 

What’s the difference between simple clothing and wearable art? A group of fashion experts will explain at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester on Sept. 7 at a salon presented by the museum and the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts on Cape Ann.

“Wearable Art is handmade. It’s one of a kind. It’s art on your body. The only common definition of wearable art is using the human form as the basis. Even tattoos could be in that category,” says sea-glass jeweler Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco, cofounder and chair of Celebrate Wearable Art (CWA).


CWA is a recurring event for artists to dip into fashion and showcase their wares on the runway. A fashion show and market, Celebrate Wearable Art IV, happens on Oct. 1 at Cruiseport Gloucester with elaborate dresses and accessories, many for purchase.

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“The salon is the educational portion of the event,” says Ganim-DeFalco. “In this discussion, we’re exploring: Is wearable art embroidery? [Is it] hand-painting a piece of silk or any other techniques in fabric? Is it replacing what people think of as haute couture? This is really boundary-less, in a sense.”

Salon panelists include Jay Calderin, executive director of Boston Fashion Week; Jennifer Varekamp, a professor of fashion design at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design; and wood sculptor Rick Crangle, who won a CWA “best of show” award for a wooden skirt. Paula Bradstreet Richter, curator for exhibitions and research at the Peabody Essex Museum and a champion of the wearable art movement, moderates the discussion. The museum recently hosted the “World of WearableArt” (WOW) exhibit, showcasing clothing made of everything from fiberglass to taxidermy.

Ganim-DeFalco is enthusiastic about Cape Ann’s thriving artistic community finding a new medium for their work. The salon and runway show help to spotlight local artists who are often inspired by the area’s natural beauty, like Camilla MacFadyen, whose hand-dyed silks are printed with seaweed.

“There are so many artists here from every genre — the number I’ve heard thrown around is 2,000,” says Ganim-DeFalco.


And wearable art fans are willing to pay big money for a one-of-a-kind piece.

“We have people who come to the runway show and spend $25,000. They feel the same way they do when buying a piece of art for a wall. They feel proud, different, special. That’s what I love about it. They know the artist. It’s a personal connection,” Ganim-DeFalco says.

Panel tickets are $10 for museum and Cape Ann arts society members, and $15 for nonmembers. Learn more at and

Kara Baskin can be reached at