Daily Archives: September 7, 2009

11 years, 1 month ago 10


I had so many ideas about what look to give my Scheherazade doll, that I dedicated a whole note book to sketching out various middle eastern inspired costumes. Wait, actually it was the other way around: for several years I’ve been so infatuated by the Asian costume aesthetic, that I kept sketching them out and collecting magazine clippings or anything relevant to my interest, until a whole note book was filled with it.

In my third year at Emily Carr Institute, (now a university) I took Non-Western art studies. The very name of the course clearly indicates how Euro-Centric Western art education is. The one course which wasn’t about western culture and our art was pretty much called “The Other kind of Art”. I guess it’s like that in every country though- you can only teach what you know, right? Anyway. There were a few different Non-Western art courses available, and one semester I registered for a History of Middle-Eastern Dance course. It turned out to be the most memorable class I ever took because it was so interesting. Technically an academic course, it focused on the theory surrounding Belly Dancing, its enormous cultural impact on the Western civilization and had little to do with the actual dancing part.

To make the most use of my natural sensibilities, I wrote my final essay for this class on the influence of Middle-Eastern dance on Western fashion. Perhaps I was not the first one to make this observation, but during my research I arrived at the conclusion that the introduction of the Belly Dance to West has had a profound effect on the evolution of fashion as we know it today, because it is directly responsible for the abolition of the corset. That, and the industrial revolution and the disintegration of social classes. But anyway.


I spent several days at the library, collecting supporting evidence for my paper, surrounded by piles of ethnic costume and fashion books from every culture I could find. To present my final essay I made a leather-bound book (I also took 2 book binding courses) and illustrated it heavily with clippings from those books to show the evolution of Western women’s costume over the last few hundred years and the covert influence of oriental dance. It turned out so beautifully. My professor loved my project so much that he never returned it to me. This I regret to this day because I would love to have it for both sentimental and practical reasons. At the end of the school semester he left to teach elsewhere and his office was cleared out of all the unclaimed projects and given to another teacher. I presume it was destroyed, but I hope that it still exists somewhere, in some one’s possession.

Taking that class and doing that project has had a profound impact on my life because I learned so much from it and went on to interpret that in my costumed, porcelain dolls. It influenced my creative direction and aesthetic preferences.