Wearable art was the standout attraction of last weekend's Washington Craft Show, including a Russian sable-trimmed, sheared and plucked mink-lined leather coat -- for a dog.
The $1,200 dog coat was by Jeffrey Weiss, whose grandfather had been a tailor for the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Josef.
Connecticut-based Weiss' fashions are worthy of an empress, even a miracle worker -- he designed clothes for the late Anne Bancroft, a.k.a. Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate", and for her husband, writer-director Mel Brooks ("The Producers").
Another designer who produced wearable art for an award-winning performer is Selma Karaca. Esperanza Spalding was swathed in Karaca's frothy, ruffley, chartreusey gown when the singer won Best New Artist GRAMMY in 2011 (click here for video).
One of Karaca's scarlet gowns shown at the Washington Craft Show was worn (by an unnamed woman) to the White House last year, said the Turkish-born, New York City-based designer. For an extraordinary gown, Karaca wound one "250-yard-long spaghetti strap" into a seductive structure for the bodice and torso.
Her "Monet's Garden" dress has shades of irises on one side, and on the other, hues of water lilies, glycines, and forget-me-nots. I could not forget that one or another reversible dress in various flame colors.
For Marjolaine's Touch creations, the French Canadian-born, Adirondack-based artist uses the Nuno wet felting technique -- hand-dying and painting with wool, silk, and other natural fibers.
Joan McGee and husband Dan of Sarasota, Florida loom, weave, paint, and pleat their lush fabrics. They specialize in Shibori, the Japanese art of "resist" dyeing. The McGee booth's silk fashions were flowing and wafting in the slight breeze, which further increased their mesmerizing allure.
Another Shibori artist is Amy Nguyen, who stitches, quilts, or even sculpts her hand-dyed fabrics like silk shantung and metallic organza into gorgeous wraps -- one can be worn upside down. Nguyen returned recently from an extended trip through Japan, and presented a talk on the ways different cultures influence the art of fashion.
The namesake of Boston-based Amy Nguyen Textiles will be at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show from Nov. 6-10.
The Washington show's wearable art wasn't all about the clothes.
Hand-crafted leather shoes custom-made by Molly Grant were among the most practical and delightful items -- oxfords to botanical print flats.
She's the third generation designer-maker-owner of The Cordwainer Shop in Deerfield, N.H. One of the Cordwainers' earliest customers in the 1930s was "the original Henry Ford, who ordered his shoes in black, of course."
Molly and her Cordwainers will also be at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show.
Several of the artisans will return to Washington for the Smithsonian Craft Show next April. But no need to wait -- Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa are coming right up.
Each of these artists is just an embedded click away.