Wearable Feminism

February 7, 2018

Master's student Christina Trupiano recreates a historic dress.

ChristinaTrupiano in library with model
Master's student Christina Trupiano with her recreation of the Tangara dress

One of the highlights of the recent exhibit at Queens College, Fabric of Cultures: Systems in the Making — an examination of artisanship and technology in Italian fashion — was a 109-year-old dress stitched together with a political message. Actually, it was a recreation of a dress that Professor Eugenia Paulicelli (GC/Queens, Comparative Literature) said, “defined the liberation of women’s bodies in public space.”

The recreation of the Tanagra dress was inspired by Paulicelli’s research on the seamstress and political activist Rosa Genoni. During the early 1900s when women’s clothing was as restrictive as their societal roles, “Genoni wanted her dress to send a strong aesthetic and political message of autonomy; a statement about a woman’s body and her intellectual life,” Paulicelli said.

But, while the political aim was clear, no pattern for the dress existed. Luckily, Paulicelli’s student, Christina Trupiano (MALS/Fashion Studies), was a professional patternmaker, and so the design and Trupiano’s project took shape.
Working only from several photographs, Trupiano confessed that, “The process of creating the Tanagra dress was more challenging than I could have imagined. As a professional patternmaker of 10 years, I would normally dissect a garment’s components and begin drafting a flat pattern. What makes the Tanagra dress so dynamic is that it can be worn many various ways. … It took over four months for me to understand the pattern for this garment because not only did I have to deconstruct it in my head, but I had to see all the ways in which it could be worn.”

Trupiano created the dress from silk left over by the fashion industry. Making the dress expressed one of the reasons she entered MALS. “I had a strong interest in sustainability and ethical garment manufacturing that has led me on this academic journey,” she said.
She entered the MALS program with the goal of teaching fashion one day and found that her MALS project was instructive. The Tanagra dress taught her “to design more instinctively and go with the fluid and movement instead of just the images and visual lines of design.” 
She is beginning her second year in MALS while working full time in the very demanding fashion industry, and hopes to complete her degree in a couple of years.