Fashion as Art

Written by Carole’s Spring 2018 intern, Isabel.


I am surrounded by dyes, paint brushes and fabrics; strips of rainbow-hued silks dangle down from the ceiling. I feel (as the dryer whirs behind me, and someone power-washes a screen printing board nearby) that I have been transported to another land, one of the whimsical forests of Disney, perhaps, morphed into an artist’s workshop. I am in the studio of Waller and Wood.

As Carole Waller leads one of her classes, the room buzzes with creativity and the women take their paint brushes to fabric. The finality of each movement terrifies me; down goes the brush and wham – a permanent imprint is made. But, I remind myself, such is the nature of art. Only this art would be worn.


And so, it was only a few minutes into my internship at Waller and Wood that I began to consider the distinction (if there is any) between “fashion,” i.e. clothing, and “art.” Is all clothing — from the runways of Dior to the rails of Zara — a form of art, or are there limitations? Certainly, clothes can be a product of an artist, or of artistic expression, but does that render it art within itself?

art n. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

The question might seem simple enough. According to the definition of art above, articles of clothing must be art: someone (or their creativity) made them. I mean, those articles of clothing that weren’t created by an algorithm and fed en masse to us hungry consumers; clothes that were created.

But what about the less rigid, less definitive conception of art? The notion that (and please disagree with me on this) art is meant for public appreciation (or reserved for the wealthy), for the creation and expression of emotion, and is rarely produced in large quantities. Is clothing —from the sweatpants I wear at home to the plain white tee-shirt I wear everywhere — still art? Is the way we dress ourselves “art”? Is fashion, defined as a popular trend in styles of dress and ornament, “art”?

I turned to museums for answers. A centuries old home for the arts, the museum as an institution must decide what it determines to be art, and what, of that art, is worthy of public consumption. While rare it is to find a museum dedicated solely to the celebration of fashion (making it even more exciting to have The Fashion Museum here in Bath!), it seems to be increasingly common to find fashion exhibits in art museums.

In 2011, the New York Times determined that there are at least a dozen fashion-focused exhibits happening at any given moment worldwide (not including galleries or displays); a number that I’m sure has only increased since. These shows are often reserved for the haute-couture, the powerhouse brands or designers whose clothes and creations are expensive and, well…artistic. These brands, available for purchase only by a select few, can afford to be creative and are expected to be such. Their runway shows have devolved into the theatrics, their window displays have transformed into fairy-tales, and their advertisements speak like short, still films. But they are only a small portion of the community of fashion labels, and these exhibits are strictly business.

The groundbreaking exhibit on Alexander McQueen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2015, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, was the V&A’s most popular exhibit, ever. It sold almost 2,000 meters of fabric for scarves, 150,000 postcards, and 80,000 books. The idea of a popular fashion exhibit thus became a guaranteed way to get people into (and buying from) museums. It is all business, after all.

Alexander McQueen's "Savage Beauty"

Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty”

And so we return to square one. If museums have fallen victim to the call of commercialization, what hasn’t? How can I know if clothing is art? As I sit and watch Carole tease images onto fabric, I cannot ignore the obvious: she is an artist at work. But still I grapple with the question: can this label of “art” be applied to all clothing?

At its heart, the production of clothing is very creative. Someone, somewhere, had an idea for something that could be worn. But I fear that the average article of clothing has distanced itself from the artistry from which it sprung; at a certain point, the production is reduced to a science. What will sell? What will trend? What can be marketed? As clothing is produced at a quicker rate, the creativity involved seems to slump. If “x” sold, so must “y,” I imagine the designer thinking, as they tweak a graphic tee-shirt. The notion of producing something so that its beauty is appreciated seems to be less important when producing clothing for the masses or “fast fashion” brands.

Now this is not to say that I believe that clothing is losing its beauty. Some, mostly designer and independent labels, seem to produce for beauty, or to make a statement, or to carry a message. These brands can be few, and rely on those who appreciate the communicative and expressive powers of clothing (and who can afford to buy them) to stay afloat. But seeing Carole Waller’s and her student’s work has left me inspired. The clothing that we put on our body should be art; the way we dress ourselves should too become an expression of creativity and emotion. Why do we not present ourselves to the world as bodies of art?

Carole Waller Painted Fabric Hanging Installation with Painted Dress, London UK

I dress myself subconsciously, and yet it remains an expression of who I am. An influence, internal or external, prompted me to buy the clothing; perhaps it was to dress a part — that of the student, the intern, the 20 year old — or perhaps it was in response to inspirations I have collected. When I dress myself, it is a projection of a part of myself, of my creative side (or lack thereof), of my imagination. When I shop, the decisions I make are also a product of my creative side and my imagination, as I look at a piece and gauge its potential in my wardrobe.

This has become most evident to me throughout this internship. Never before had I occasion to see the clothes I lust after being created. When Carole makes a piece, she is an artist at work; watching her dab her paint brush over the fabric, one almost imagines oneself absorbing her creative energies. Her clothes are definitely art within themselves, and they make me wonder: can it all be art, too?

In short, I am inspired: inspired to wear clothing that I appreciate as artwork; inspired to dress myself in the creativity of others, but in a way that allows me to express my own creativity, as influenced by theirs.

Christmas Wrap

pink tab 497our Christmas Exhibition at Waller&Wood runs from November 16th to December 23rd (closed on Christmas Eve) open every day of the week and open late during Bath Christmas Market

Handmade Chelsea

Find me on Stand 66 at Handmade in the Old Town Hall, Kings Road, London from 10th – 12th November with a new collection of velvet jackets, coats and scarves – some wonderful quilted coats – and fine wool and silk painted blouses and shawls.


One Two Five Gallery, Bath



5 minutes from Bath Spa Train station ( from Paddington every half hour)

2 minutes south of Bath Abbey


Waller&Wood is the exclusive outlet for Carole Waller’s original painted clothing, scarves , glass works and paintings – alongside beautiful ceramics by Gary Wood and wonderful colourful jewellery by Annie Beardsley and other renowned British contemporary jewellers such as Kaz Robertson, Shelby Fitzpatrick, Adele Tipler and more.

Under a beautiful tree in a Georgian square in the middle of Bath, surrounded by other independent shops such as

The Foodie Bugle and a lovely guest house at Three Abbey Green

Open:  Wednesday to Saturday 11 – 5pm  Sunday 12 – 4pm

and by appointment anytime Call 07803 033629

Come and visit us to buy or commission  the latest collections of clothes exclusively available from the gallery where Carole is often to be found – or make an appointment to see her.

Visit one the third Sunday of the month between May and October and enjoy the lovely little Bath Independent Market at the same time – also in Abbey Green. During Bath Christmas Market we shall have extended opening hours 7 days a week :

Monday to Wednesday 10 – 7

Thursday to Saturday 10 – 8.30

Sunday 10 – 6

T 07803 033629




One Two Five Gallery as moved to 4 Abbey Green in Bath BA11NW


11 – 5pm Wednesday to Saturday

Sunday 12 – 4pm

and by appointment call 07803 033629

‘wrapped’ – Select Festival

May 2nd saw the opening of the ‘Wrapped’  exhibition at One Two Five Gallery (do have a look and like our Facebook page for notifications of our activities) The gallery was then located on Box Road, near Bath.

The exhibition runs until May 24th and is part of the Select Festival based in and around Stroud for the next three weeks.

katy lux webKaty Luxton shows 3D printed necklaces, earrings and bracelets of such satisfying precision and luminous  colour. She makes a drawing, translates it into a digital file, has it printed and then hand dyes the final three dimensional nylon form.

IMG_7240Annie Beardsley works with lightweight aluminium and heat transfer printing – sublimating imagery onto both sides of the metal so that the interior and exterior of her beautiful rings and cuffs transmit colour and narrative.

Alice Butler Print on debris for inviteAlice Butler prints onto debris from skips – her witty images are found on broken slate , paving stone and tiles. In her second year at Bath Spa University , She says:

‘I have been exploring ‘wrapped in the man-made’. During my excursions into the inner city I found glimpses of beauty all around and took the opportunity to capture them. For me, the contrast of colour, composition and fabric found on concrete creates a refreshing snapshot of the mundane. Transferring the photographs onto found materials brings texture and presence.’

Two figures in a landscape web‘Two figures in a landscape’ by Gary Wood , who has made a completely new body of amazingly powerful ceramic forms. He describes it thus :

‘This is my response to a photograph of two Sri Lankan monks. I am particularly interested in the folds in their robes …….. the resulting piece of work aims to reflect the quiet energy emanating from the photograph but also carries with it a suggestion of landscape and movement. A photograph of Burmese nuns in pink robes triggered the smaller torso forms. these pieces refer to containment and protection.

torsos web


mask web‘Mask ‘ Gary Wood


For my own – I went recently to the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford (which is the most wonderful place ) – looked at feather cloaks , mummified animals, Aleut seal intestine coats – and thought about the way cloth acts as a second skin for us from birth to death.

aleut coatThis is a coat made of thin horizontal strips of seal gut hand sewn together so finely you can barely see the seams.  Given the fragility of the material the workmanship is extraordinary. They were made by Aleut/Unangan people on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska in the early 19th century.

I tore a small piece of wool gauze and magnified it to make a screen printable image to put back onto the same fabric made into dresses and shawls – layering up the grid imagery to allow the woven structure of the cloth to become its own decoration and create its own narrative.

carole wrapped 2

wrapped warren dress frontSilk crepe printed and painted dress with a necklace by Annie Beardsley.

wool gauze scarf 3Wool gauze shawl . Wearable art by Carole Waller.

The collection will be posted in the shop of the website very soon!


Women of Bath March 2015

On March 9th 2015 I had the honour – and fun – of presenting a small informal fashion show for Bath Councillor and Mayor, Cherry Beath as part of her event ‘Women of Bath’.

This was to celebrate the  amazing achievements of women in Bath at the time of International Women’s Day on March 8th and raised money for the Mayor’s Relief Fund –  which offers real and immediate help to individuals in Bath.
It was a wonderful event attended by gorgeous women – and some lovely men.

I try to make clothes which can be worn by all ages – which completely goes against the grain of fashion marketing which targets a specific demographic – but transgenerational is the word for me I am afraid
I asked 20 wonderful real women to model for me and they all said yes.
My daughter Geena’s friend, Ciara, was the youngest and some of my fantastic third year students from Bath Spa University Contemporary Arts Practise Course , fellow retailers from the Shed – new and old friends –  joined the set. Amongst  the wonderful, good humoured and beautiful others, we convinced Lisa Brett, the lovely Deputy Mayor, Barbara Walker, one of my most loyal clients, and the lovely JoJo Stanton Iles, who produced my last show at the Octagon, so deserved a more front of house role this time!!

Emily Taylor graduated in contemporary Dance from Bath Spa a few years ago and who runs ‘Must Dash Dance’ . She and I have worked together several times and she agreed to choreograph my women …….
After several weeks of making clothes and meeting models it began to come together when re started to rehearse on the Monday afternoon . We mixed my painted clothes with the amazing creations of Ray Harris – who also designs my shapes and came specially this evening to oversee and added his special calming presence.
The great and the good arrived at the Guildhall in Bath at 6pm and Margaret Heffernan gave a great talk about life! – She talked about ‘the journey from trying to fit in – to trying to stand out’
I believe my clothes stand out and I know they don’t fit in to the commercial rules of the fashion world – but they have some kind of energy and they do come to life when they are worn and bringing them to life in this way makes me supremely happy . The clothes are part of my spring collection and will be on the website very soon if not already there ……

Some pictures by Kevin Mitchell :
Carole_Waller 5

Carole_waller 7


slavenka and emily

t shirt 3




Thanks to Mayor Cherry Beath for inviting me to be involved in her event –  and for her patience , thanks  to Lorraine Morgan Brinkhurst for organisation, to Sandra Flower for front of house organisation, her helpfulness to me and for administration.

My great thanks to Caroline Kay Mouat for her marvellous voice and to Ruth Kenyon for her beautiful playing of the harp, and to my wonderful models and choreographer Emily Taylor. Also to my students form Bath Spa University who modelled, assisted, performed and laughed……. and especially to Emily Caldwell for her performance piece.
Thanks to Fran Landsman for the little video of the day whcih will be published soon ,  and to Kevin Mitchell and Naomi Wood for photos.
Thanks to ARTIZAN BARTLETT ST for such fantastic hair and Bath Media Make Up for the loveliness of the faces …….

And to the Sponsors of the Mayor’s event  to raise money for the Mayor’s Relief Fund ,

Thank you to : The Charter Trustees of the City of Bath,  to Crest NicholsonCuro, and  Ralph Allen Press

and to Naomi Wood for the great pictures of preparations  which will be found on my Facebook page.

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Frozen World at Lacock Abbey

station at Lacock abbey 1Station at Lacock Abbey 3 8mbStation at Lacock abbey 6Station at Lacock Abbey

Locating glass panel paintings in a new environment changes the work  – it adapts to its environment and mingles with its surroundings.

This opportunity was afforded me last week when I installed ‘Station’ in the expansive grounds of Lacock Abbey for their Winter Exhibition,

Reflections of Winter ‘Frozen World’.

Horizons in the paintings and the actual landscape coincidentally lined themselves  up and the caught image of the central figure is opposite the window from which WIlliam Henry Fox Talbot took the first photographic negative.

The images were actually drawn from photographs I took in Paddington Station of anonymous travellers crossing back and forth over the shiny floor of the station forecourt

paddington 1 paddington 2 paddington 3 Paddington 5

Lacock Abbey was founded in 1232 and was used as an Augustinian nunnery until 1539 and the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.

Parts of the nunnery, including the cloisters, chapter house and sacristy, were preserved when the building was converted into a private residence in 1550.

The owner, Sir William Sharington, had travelled in Italy and he introduced the new Italian architecture to Tudor England.

Sir William died childless in 1553 and the abbey was inherited by his niece Mrs John Talbot.

Lacock Abbey

A have a patch of it for myself briefly  ……. it is beautiful and peaceful.



one two five gallery Sale ad for web


A sale  of my painted clothes and scarves runs until 18/01/2015  – at the new ONE TWO FIVE Gallery

at the SHED Box Road near Bath – 11 – 5pm daily.

Hope to see you there – fab coffee , cake and food too

Christmas and beyond

ONE TWO FIVE Gallery has moved into our new space in the SHED on Box Road  near Bath – and The Christmas Exhibition has been going really well – thank you for all your support – its great to meet up with old friends and meet new ones in this  friendly and unique retail complex –  it has a  good cafe and parking, 3 miles away from the city centre, on the London side of Bath, on the A4 .

We have beautiful pieces from Annie Beardsley, Robert Race , john Krynick, Orson Kartt , Gary Wood and my own new velvet and wool  jackets, coats , tops and scarves to show you every day from 11 – 5pm – up  until December 24th when we close at 2pm.

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IMG_2392 web long straight silk satin  jacket IMG_3001 web

We re-open on january 3rd at 11 am with a SALE of my clothes from previous collections.

Please call 07803 033629 or  email me for further information [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]