It doesn’t take a true fashionista to see that art and history are captured in the clothes we wear.
Charleston artist Leigh Magar captures both in Madame Magar’s Workshop, an installation that replicates the creative process of her textile workshop, from paper patterns to finished garments.
Magar’s workshop has taken up residence in the gallery of 701 Center for Contemporary Art, located on the second floor of 701 Whaley St. in downtown Columbia.
Over the course of six weeks, Magar will develop her Mill Collection of garments, showcasing the process of designing patterns, cutting fabric, sewing by machine, fitting the garments on dress forms and displaying the finished pieces. Each garment will combine various artisan techniques – hand dying, drawing, needlework embellishment and sculpting.
The Mill Collection is inspired by the homespun frocks, aprons, hats and accessories worn by early 20th century textile mill workers. Magar’s family is from the mill villages of Spartanburg County, where her grandmother and other relatives worked in the mills. The design of the garments also borrows from Lewis W. Hine’s collection of historic photos of the children who once worked in the mills.
The installation also features a collection of more than 400 museum quality antique and vintage hat forms.
Magar, who studied millinery at the Fashion Institute in New York City, opened Magar Hatworks in Charleston in 1996. Her hats, ranging from fedoras to elaborate cocktail wear, have been sold by high-end stores such as Barney’s in New York, and to celebrity clients including Elvis Costello, Eartha Kitt, Gregory Hines and Christina Aguilera. In 2010, she established Madame Magar, a dress and accessories line.
Madame Magar’s Workshop will be open through May 4 at 701 CCA. Magar will present her completed Mill Collection in a fashion fete on April 24.
During exhibitions, 701 CCA’s hours are 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Wednesdays; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays; and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.
Bridget Winston, Special to The State