Dress, Carolyn Kallenborn, 1994, US, 65×18 in
By Jessica Inman, a student in Retailing and Consumer Behavior in the School of Human Ecology.
When looking at the Hellen Allen Louise Textile collection online, I was immediately drawn to the dress called ‘Metamorphosis,’ by Carolyn Kallenborn, created in the United States in 1994. I was interested in this piece not only because of all the beautiful colors used in the dress, but also because of the variety of materials such as metal, glass, silk on rayon, and silk. This dress also intrigued me because it was different to anything else I saw in the collection. This dress seemed to have so much history, character, and detail.
The dress is a sleeveless, V-neck dress that flows down to about the ankle. Notice the hand-painted colors including teal, yellow, black, brown, green, gold, purple and all shades in between. The bottom of the dress is a silk material with an almost watercolor or tie-dye effect where all the colors blend and flow nicely together. The top portion of the dress is in the shape of a wrapped vest, made of a soft, thick velvet material. Different patterns are sewn together in the vest and are outlined with glass beads. The beads are copper, black, purple, silver, and brown metallic shades that add texture and shimmer to the dress. The vest area of the dress has similar colors as the bottom portion, but also has some shades of green and darker blue. A copper piece resembling a butterfly connects the two sides of the vest.
I was even more interested in this dress once I learned that it was inspired by butterflies and their phases of life. Carolyn Kallenborn, the creator of this dress, is a professor in the School of Human Ecology here at UW Madison. She is also the Textiles and Fashion Design Program Coordinator. Carolyn has worked in Oaxaca, Mexico for many years and has gathered a lot of inspiration from her travels. After doing some further research, I learned that many of the common butterflies in Oaxaca have similar color schemes and patterns as this dress.
In conclusion this dress is a beautiful, intricate, and delicate piece that not only has beautiful materials and beading, but also beautiful meaning to the designer. This dresscould be worn by a number of age groups and I would highly recommend trying to see the dress if you ever get a chance.
Discover more about this piece.
In 2019, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology launched a yearlong anniversary celebration of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Over the past half century, the collection has grown from an original 4,000-piece gift to more than 13,000 objects that have inspired and informed thousands of students, researchers, historians, and textile aficionados. The 50-year celebration began on January 27, 2019, with the opening of new Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery, a space dedicated to year-round displays of the collections. Activities continue into 2019 with a calendar of public exhibitions, symposia, lectures, and public workshops.