Falling into feeling 

What’s best about the fall? The frail brown leaves that shatter when you step, the odor of smoky earth as it confronts your nose, the stark November trees with bent branches, and an intense, brooding sky.

Clothing designs that capture the smells, shapes and textures of autumn make the essence of this emotive season come into form.

The earth recycles itself every fall, so searching for the latest seasonal trend seems like an exercise in futility. But local costume designer Sarah Spratt dramatizes the concept of an almost-barren, spent landscape by emphasizing raw materials, with ragged construction and heavy but dynamic textures.

Sometimes a sweater intentionally promotes faulty design constructs, proving that old is good and worn is wise.

Spratt gathers clothing from thrift stores and sews the torn-scissored items together loosely with heavy black yarn, attaching worn socks as sleeves and remnants of a tattered striped sweater to complete the torso fragment.

Throughout the piece, the stitch is crooked and loose, so the gaping holes look like the wounds of a dying sweater. The intentional, glaring imperfection of the design reveals Spratt’s latent tendency toward a Tim Burton world of ominous surrealism — think of his clay character "Sally" in the fantastical fall gloom of the film A Nightmare Before Christmas.

Or perhaps the woman in the field wears a costume made by Adam and Eve (Sarah Spratt and Matthew Simonelli) for the sobering performance art of Pray Harder, which played at 1515 Broadway a few months ago.

The top garment is made of burlap and is sewn with unkempt, jagged edges and indecently long sleeves. The organically coarse, heavy texture implies the substantial smell of earth as the air grows thicker and the earth recycles natural materials into the soil.

As the black skirt folds over itself, it gives depth to the design and implies the density of dark, heavy clouds in the shadow of an autumn evening.

Colors are drastic throughout the designs shown here. Whether immense and severe, like the industrial gray of the burlap piece, or striking, like the red-and-white stripes on the sweater, the purpose of color is to promote inspection of the shape and style. Compare this clothing statement with a seasonal one — a leaf maybe, blazing red or goldenrod yellow — but then we miss the strong stance of an aged trunk. Color, here, yields an emotional response, and emotion is what this season is all about.

Photographs: Angie Baan

Models: Tamaira Knight, Stephanie Theisen, Ian Clarke

Location: Paul and Gwen Guenther farm Rebecca Mazzei is the Metro Times listings editor. E-mail her at rmazzei@metrotimes.com

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