guest authored by Loren Blackwood
Answering the base needs of self-expression and protection from the elements on the human form, the Judith Hendler Cocoon Cloak design competition is inspired by traditional multi-functional garments like the Caftan, Tunic, and Poncho.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The early Greek chitons, simple in construction, used two rectangle pieces of fabric; the top edge was folded away from the body, forming a flap and secured with brooches.
For thousands of years, swayed by culture and climate, societies adopted silk, wool, and cotton versions of the caftan. The sultans of the Ottoman Empire wore silk and cotton caftans embellished with gold and silver thread. The cloth often extended to the wrists, cascading full length to the ankles.
Depicted in ancient Persian art, the kaftan, a popular go-to look becomes an all-encompassing term in fashion for spacious garments. Like the traditional garments of Mexico, huipils or poncho, flowing fabric covers the body, with openings for the head and arms. The kaftan saw a resurgence in the late 1960s – ‘70s with Bohemian chic arrived in London by designer, Thea Porter. Raised in Damascus and surrounded by lavish textiles from North Africa and the Middle East, Ms. Porter created era-defining styles for the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jane Fonda, and Elizabeth Taylor. Her unique aesthetic promoted by Vogue Editor-in-chief, Diana Vreeland through the pages of Vogue magazine.
Mid-century “Fearless Fashion” designer Rudi Gernreich created body-liberating, unisex clothing. Gernreich's designs could be worn interchangeably by men or women. As an early civil rights activist, the designer defied the gender status quo.
IN THE WORLD TODAY
Traditional Senegalese kaftans, also known as Boubou, are made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and silk. They are worn throughout arid Western Africa and similar warm climates.
An over-the-head, draped garment with wide sleeves, bright Boubou textiles are imbued with prints and embroidery having symbolic meaning. Senegalese kaftan fabric is about sixty inches wide and varies in length. The textile is folded in half and marked for an opening for the head. The side seams are stitched about halfway making roomy sleeves.
COCOON CLOAK CALL FOR DESIGNERS
Judith Hendler invites community college Fashion Design students and HBAC members to create the unisex COCOON CLOAK. Use sustainable design techniques and materials to define self-expression and protection as it means to you. The age-old garment design is a blank canvas for your inspiration.
My name is Loren Blackwood, I am passionate about art, fashion design and nature. I have channeled this focus into a bachelor’s degree in Art History from University of California Irvine and the study of Fashion Design and Sustainability in the Apparel Industry from Orange Coast College. Now in my last semester at O.C.C., I have joined the team at the Huntington Beach Arts Center as a student intern. I am thrilled to be a part of this community arts and cultural center serving Huntington Beach and the Southern California region since 1995.
“Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm, come in, she said, I’ll give ya shelter from the storm.” - Bob Dylan “Shelter from the Storm”