Recycle Runway Blog

Re-Visioning Erte Published: 03.13.2012 at 9:31 am by Nancy Judd

Last month I indulged myself in designing a new recycled fashion sculpture JUST FOR ME!  Though I love the way that some of my projects more structured parameters influence my garments, it felt luxurious to dive into the purely aesthetic experience of creating Re-visioning Erté!   I’d like to tell you about the three aspects of this piece that made it especially fun to create:

1.  Erté- For years I have been pouring over this incredible designer’s work. If you are not familiar with Erté, he was a Russian-born French artist who created very whimsical  designs, most notably during the art-deco period. Some of his designs were made into actual garments, but many were not, because they were often impossible to wear. You may have seen his illustrations in old Harper’s Bazar magazines– I have always been inspired by his fanciful creativity! Designing a garment inspired by Erté was pure pleasure!

2. Silk – After years of working with materials like shower curtains and convertible soft-tops, I yearned to work with natural fibers that flow and drape. I remembered that a long time ago my Mom gave me some beautiful silk scraps, leftover from a jacket she made for herself. While working on Re-visioning Erté I thoroughly enjoyed the feel of the silky material on my fingers and the lovely subtle colors.

However, the recycling bin is always close at hand, and I could not help but accent the front of the dress with aluminum cans cut into elegant little shapes and engraved with an old pen!

3.  Miniatures – You might not realize it from the photos, but this garment stands only 33 inches tall! For years all of my work has been full size and wearable, but recently I have enjoyed the freedom gained from taking these requirements away. For example, the cape on one of my pieces made last year called the Environmental Steward-ess, is bolted into the dress-form making it impossible to be worn.  Making miniature garments seemed like another interesting direction to explore. The dimensions of this dress-form are approximately one half of a woman’s size 10 form. I made it out of foam scraps left over from Astilli Fine Art Services, the business that crated my Obamanos Coat sent to the Smithsonian last year. (They are also going to crate 18 more pieces for my traveling exhibition’s upcoming museum tour– but that is another story, stay tuned.)

I wondered if creating a smaller fashion sculpture would take less time, and the answer is: yes, and no. The garment itself actually took about 55 hours to design and create because the unusual design required a lot of tinkering to get it just right. However since the dress was so small it did take less time to cut, prepare and sew all of the aluminum accents. (Thank you to Samantha Brody, my new intern from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, for helping to cut the aluminum cans.) My other garments have taken from 100-650 hours to complete, this piece took me about 100 fully enjoyable hours to create!

Re-visioning Erté will make its début this week at an exhibition called the Art of the Dress at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, New Mexico. I was invited to participate in this show by Susan Berk the Chair of the Board of Directors for the New Mexico Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The exhibition will be on display from March 16 – April 15, 2012.

I look forward to seeing everyone’s response to my winter indulgence!

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17 responses to “Re-Visioning Erte”

  1. Carol Dayton says:

    Nancy: Good to see new directions, interesting that the tassel looks quite like a Navajo jingle….

  2. Nina Anthony says:

    It’s gorgeous, Nancy. Glad to see that you indulged yourself for a change. I’m looking forward to seeing the dress in person at the Millicent Rogers Museum. Will you be coming up here for the opening on Friday evening? I’d love to see you in person, too!

  3. Sarah Mitchell says:

    love the fluidity…the flow of the gown. So much of your work embodies a feminine line, this feels etheric and sensuous. Beautiful.

  4. Kim Davison says:

    Lovely work. Erté had an interesting vision – and it is always remarkable to me that art nouveau had such a long reach …architecture, painting, clothing, graphic design and so on. It is also interesting to see how people extend their own art.

    Just a question: Do you keep time sheets of your hours or do you estimate?

  5. I like how the pleasure of making the work had a tactile component for you, ie working with silk and enjoying the feel of the fabric.

  6. Julia White says:

    It is lovely ….and it is so tiny! I want to see MORE tiny dresses! Great post – I love how you talked about your process!

  7. Beth Capdevielle says:

    What a lovely, happy little creation! This is fascinating, Nancy. I confess that my first response is to feel a little disappointed that nobody will ever put it on…but it seems you’re right alongside the artist here in making a play on bodies and clothing, rather than making clothing for bodies.

  8. James Ard says:


    Beautiful! Excited about your new tour! You and silk go together!


  9. Larah Buffington says:

    It is so awesome. I love the Deco look. Keep up the good work and make it a habit of doing one piece for you even if you don’t share it with the world for every two or three you share. Don’t give all of yourself to work ever. You rock here’s hoping your museum tour hits the High in Atlanta.

  10. carol cooper says:

    Nancy, This little jewel is a great homage to Erte’s design, and the sprinkling of aluminum is a perfect touch. Bravo for miniatures! Love the innovation. Carol

  11. Yogesh Karnik says:

    Its great to see your new dress. Wow love the process description. You are inspiring the world. Great work. Keep it up.


  12. Charles Hendricks says:

    Exquisite and elegant! Wonderful work!


  13. bjudd says:

    ahhh, I know that piece of silk well! You are picking up the threads (all pun intended) from your childhood when you used to make dresses for the little Teddy bears, remember?! Sista B

  14. Nancy Judd says:

    Thank you everyone!!

  15. Peggy G says:

    I just came across your blog via Plastic Pollution Coalition. I’m interested in reuse, too, and overall waste reduction.
    Anyway, I used to be a specialist at Christie’s NY and had the good fortune to meet Erte, so I was fascinated by your beautiful interpretation. I certainly think he had a fertile imagination.
    At one point Christie’s sold quite a bit of the later commercial work– serigraphs and bronzes based on Erte’s original designs, but we were fortunate to handle some of his amazingly detailed fantastic cover designs and original fashion illustrations for Harper’s. Real works of art. Fantastic, genius design.
    I think this dress shows a great sensitivity to his aesthetic.

  16. Mary Anne says:

    Oh Nancy, I finally got around to seeing your miniature! Its so wonderful…and I enjoyed your writing about the process. Always an inspiration to us all. I so agree about the pleasure of soft natural materials…there are only many post consumer aluminum cans and plastics one can suffer through~~~:-)

    Its great to see you work on something very personal and self gratifying.

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