Costumes extend beyond film and theater. They're anything we wear to perform a role. Unconsciously, most of us wear costumes to work each day: scrubs, a tie, a logo shirt, a pantsuit, a reoccurring style.
Richmond's visual art community in particular is known for blurring a unique blend of clothing. Stereotypes range from the changing hairstyles of an undergrad at Virginia Commonwealth University to the professional, all-black ensemble. But what do artists, art historians, art collectors and teachers really wear to work? And how does that occupational dress help shape their identity? Conversely, does their unique role cause them to dress a certain way?
Contemporary artist Andrea Zittel, who wore a self-made uniform every day for six months, describes clothing choices as "sites of investigation ... to better understand human nature and the social construction of needs." With Zittel's words, "costume" expands from something we control to something that controls us. So here's to our investigation.
Assistant Professor, Art and Design, Virginia State University
Graphic Designer and Illustrator, Lot 15 Studio
Functional. That's how Meena Khalili describes her wardrobe as a professor and practicing artist. Go-to items include "storytelling" boots (for traveling on her Stella scooter), a shoulder holster handbag (to insure safety when working on projects such as Traveling Sketchbooks), something black and perhaps a brightly colored pattern. Because her clothes often take a beating, she looks for "feminine but not delicate" items at Anthropologie, Phoenix, Clementine, Goodwill or Beacon Closet in Brooklyn, N.Y. She attributes her love of black and beautiful patterns to her first generation Iranian-American heritage. When teaching, this self-proclaimed clothing lover dresses as a professional role model "in a way that reminds me of the thing I like best about my job — it's about having fun and wearing interesting clothing that I can get away with as an artist."
Partner, Hunton & Williams
President, Richmond Bridgepark Foundation
Art Director, Fall Line Fest
Photographer, Writer, Capital Style, RVANews.com
Executive Producer, The Common Wealth
Personal style is an art form, Ted Elmore says: "It's not about dressing up, but stopping to express yourself for a small fraction of the time." As someone with many roles, Elmore's dress hinges on the demands of an environment. He says he's discovered "a pair of tailored Shockoe Denim jeans and a Ledbury shirt can take me almost anywhere with a possible shoe change or jacket addition-subtraction." Other shopping frequents include Need Supply, West Coast Kix, Saks and Billy Reid. Essentially, he considers dress a gateway for creating positive energy that connects him to engaging people. But he acknowledges that his style remains an anomaly to his peers: "My law partners wonder why I think Vans are appropriate at the office while my mates at the Martin Agency question why my pants extend beyond my knees."
Adjunct Instructor, Art Foundation, Sculpture and Extended Media, VCU
Furniture Conservator, the F.C. Vogt Co.
Artist and Sculptor
Jacob Copetillo attributes his classical style — Levi's jeans, cargo shorts, solid-colored T-shirts and Pumas — to his upbringing. "I don't want to become something I'm not," he says. "I come from a background of blue-collar people that work hard and wear clothing that matches their lifestyle because it's functional." For a wood-based artist, that means wearing steel-toed boots, $85 level-sized cutting gloves and safety glasses. Practicality, safety and comfort reign supreme. But there's a deeper connection to history and durability. Coming from the craft tradition, Copetillo and his work, which explores family dynamics, espouses trends for long-lasting traditions. "For me, I've always been anti-trend," he says. "I'm very much aware of things that have lasted over time and have not changed. I want to hold onto those things because I think they're more real. They last longer."
Art Teacher, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School
A public school art educator for 21 years, Kori Mosley calls her style eclectic. "I prefer bright colors and bold patterns, which I am not inclined to make match ... [but] my dress is in no way outrageous." Mosley typically dresses for comfort: something dressy for drawing, while saving her "beloved overalls" for clay. Additionally, her clothing, culled from thrift stores, consignment shops and outlets, must be functional. "There have been days when I regretted an outfit choice," she says. "Being an art teacher is far more physical than most people might think — I regularly climb on tables, chairs or ladders." Primarily, she hopes students remember her for her work — not her clothes — teaching "students to find their voice, one that is genuine and unique, that will serve them well in whatever direction they choose."
Tosha Yvonna Grantham
Ph.D. Candidate, Deptartment of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland
Curator, Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville
For Tosha Yvonna Grantham, form follows function. She gravitates towards: all-terrain pieces that travel well, Patagonia for example, clothing with sentimental value (especially from her travels), independently owned boutiques (Clementine), and anything quirky. Because her life balances professional with student work, her clothing must be neither "fussy nor girly," fit for "climbing trees and going to the gallery." However, clothing mostly takes a backseat while "in a dissertation funnel. There are parts of writing where my entire house could collapse around me and I wouldn't notice," she quips, laughing. "I follow Einstein in the sense that he had five identical suits so that he didn't spend a lot of time worrying about clothing. Instead his brain energy went towards work. Sometimes I have a uniform that's a black T-shirt and jeans. It's about whatever's most comfortable."
Corin Hewitt and Molly McFadden
Assistant Professor, Sculpture and Extended Media, VCU (Hewitt)
Advisor and Licensure Coordinator, Instructor, Art Education, VCU (McFadden)
Artists (occasionally collaborative)
They may be married, but Corin Hewitt and Molly McFadden are worlds apart in clothing choices. This disparity rolls into their art-making: McFadden calls her work "less tangible by the day" while Hewitt identifies himself as a maker of things. "Most of my wardrobe comes from eBay," she says: "vintage Yves Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake, Jill Sander and Chloe. I have one pair of very expensive black Maison Martin Margiela boots because they make me look like a fancy camel." Hewitt's look: "Brown Dickies. Blue shirt. Clarks. Brooks Brothers underwear. Black Hanes socks." While McFadden chooses her wardrobe to "construct a look as a way of seizing control in the social sphere," Hewitt succinctly answers, "the pants are cheap, replaceable and don't show dirt. Brooks Brothers makes great white boxer shorts and Hanes has deals on 12-packs of socks."
Director, Reynolds Gallery
Art inspires Bev Reynolds' self-professed "minimalist, tailored and elegant" style, as she strives to balance "looking well-dressed while wearing clothes that work for you in the physical environment" of a gallery. She chooses clothes like art: by aesthetic. Her interest in minimalist paintings equates to bold colors, elegant lines, high-end fabrics and simplicity. Similarly she thinks of her wardrobe as a backdrop to the art. For Reynolds, dressing is like art-making, "layering elements to create interesting compositions." A simple black top is elevated by "a wonderful neckline with a gathering, pucker or a fold. It's the design and cut, the fitting of things that creates a black top that is spectacular. Partner those with a great pair of linen pants and shoes. Then add a unique necklace or bracelet, and a shoe with a texture."