Material Witness will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work, developing projects and inspiration.

Friday, November 30, 2007

After Garments

There is an entire world of garments that I didn't know existed.There is a fashion world for the dead. Garments to be worn for burial and cremation. These garments are available through every funeral director.

I first ran into the idea of burial garments when researching vintage patterns for infant wear. I didn't realize that an entire fashion industry existed for the dead. I thought everyone was like my family where upon death a family member was dispatched to the deceased closet to retrieve a favourite garment. My granny was beautifully dressed in lavenders and pinks. She had chosen a a pink colour scheme for her funeral in the same way a bride would for a wedding. Granny had every detail planned.

I know that I thought about which songs would be played at my memorial. Janis Joplin would belt one out for me. This gave some comfort to mourn myself when I was sick. I wanted to be buried with my boots on. My father had fantasies of us hoisting him up a mountain in a cardboard box and dumping him over some cliff. His ashes are still rolling around my brother's truck waiting for the perfect forest trail or fishing trip. My Newfoundland family told stories of old men propped up in the corner of the parlour with a beer in one hand and passing gas one last time.

"Near cleared the house, we ran in every direction. Jesus, Mary and Joseph... we's sure he'd come back to life!"

I always imagined them dressed in smoky, green cardigans
There are now beautiful and serene outfits for the deceased including false fronts and capelets.
There are men's and women's garments that are offered in a wide range of colours including a powerful, raging red. There are even a range of coverings with choice of puppy and kitty patterns for your beloved pet. Babies can wear halos if you want.

Gone are the days of the plain pine box. No more ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Now there are "fashion" consultants to dress us for our special day.


Quilt Pixie said...

you can still get the "ashes to ashes" plain funeral too if you hunt for it -- its just no longer the only option, and in fact not even the default option....

material witness said...

I will obviously have to check this out. I had no idea of what a very interesting world the death industry is.

My sister-in-law's father was an undertaker. The whole family are quite somber but very funny once you get the humour.

The children played hide and seek in the display caskets and could laugh and cry without making any noise.

Is this another world of craft for me to explore?

arlee said...

There's also a US company that makes quilts to go over the casket!
I was going to apprentice to an undertaker, had all the paperwork lined up, then my Greyman was transferred.
I find this fascinating that death is still feared and dressed up.

material witness said...

How fascinating!

Maybe it is at a very basic psychological place in our little brains. It seems to be very related to things like the yards and yards of cloth that wrapped the dead as mummies.

I saw some Coptic mummies in Paris and they existed in the most exquisite painted linen coverings. A portrait of the living person was painted on the linen and carefully pieced into a sarcophacus cover.

Quilts and costumes for the dead.
And not a new industry. Who'd a thunk it!

Natalya said...

this is very interesting... made me think of my friend just buried in his tuxedo which was so fitting to his life... guess I'd better make notes of what I will want to wear...

material witness said...

How wonderful to think of a friend as having a tuxedo as a fitting exit costume!

I am so sorry you lost your friend though.

If my family were to choose my favourite costume it would probably be that paintee old black sweatshirt and stretched out black tights. Time for a wardrobe rethink.

material witness said...
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