Vogue Vittles: The Cross Between Food and Fashion

Before Lady Gaga’s beef dress, there were Wonder Bread raincoats, waffle pants and Marilyn Monroe in a potato sack

Brazilian bombshell Carmen Miranda, the lady in the tutti-frutti hat
Brazilian bombshell Carmen Miranda, the lady in the tutti-frutti hat Image courtesy of Flickr user patrickrigon

Food has served as inspiration for clothing ranging from everyday wear to theatrical costumes, such as Josephine Baker’s banana skirt or Carmen Miranda’s headgear. But by and large we’re brought up to believe that the things we eat belong in our bodies and not on them, so we probably won’t see the Gap rolling out a line of edible wearables anytime soon. Nevertheless, there are designers out there who have bridged the gap between the kitchen and the closet, so while we’re in the throes of fashion season—Milan’s fashion week closes today, Paris’ gears up on October 3—let’s take a look at the fusion of food and fashion.

Food packaging might be the most convenient resource for clothing and accessories. Wonder Bread wrappers have inspired young home economics students to create raincoats, while the Wonder Bread company similarly noticed the rain gear potential of its product and printed its trademark primary colored dots on plastic rain bonnets. For purses and handbags, look to gum wrappers which, when folded and sewn together, are sure to complement your Wonder Bread wear. You can buy these items already made, or you can pick up a book on vintage crafts to learn how to create them yourself. The only catch is that you need to love gum more than Violet Beauregarde in order to amass enough wrappers to complete a project.

But also consider the lowly potato sack. Devotees of the television show “Project Runway” might recall a Season 7 episode in which aspiring fashion designers were challenged to create runway-quality apparel out of potato sacks, generating some spectacularly surprising results. However, well before Tim Gunn laid this task on the table, actress Marilyn Monroe famously sported the sack. One story goes that someone made the remark that the rising star would look good even in a potato sack, prompting 20th Century Fox to take a series of publicity shots. Monroe certainly looked a lot better than a bag of tubers in the short-cut, sleeveless ensemble. Who knew glittery bracelets and lucite heels went so well with burlap?

But then there is the realm of fashion made from actual food. Perhaps the best-known example is the meat dress worn by Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. The piece was the brainchild of 24-year-old artist Franc Fernandez, who designed a meat clutch for the pop star before creating the head-to-toe outfit that was both applauded and derided. Detractors complained that the outfit was a waste of otherwise perfectly edible beef. (The dress itself weighed 35 pounds). However, after the awards, it was taken to a Burbank taxidermist who preserved the ensemble. Disregarding ethical and artistic debates about the piece, no one can deny that with flank steak purchased at $3.99 a pound, paying $140 for a major awards show dress is an epic bargain.

Gaga’s food fashion-forward sensibilities proved inspirational: Fashion and design students at England’s Bath Spa University crafted melted, molded and sculpted cheeses to create five dresses—and even a handbag and a pair of pumps. But before Gaga there was photographer Ted Sabrase, who shot a series of photographs in 2009 that featured models sporting artichoke dresses, waffle pants and a sliced bread miniskirt. And yes, there’s video of these pieces being created.

So the next time you open your vegetable crisper, do you think you’ll feel inspired to pull out the wok for another stir fry, or will you crack out the sewing machine instead?

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