Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I want to be an Almond Hershey Kiss!

Saturday I had the pleasure of attending Cattle Track Couture: Fashion by Rachael Ellis. I never knew such an incredible place as Cattle Track Compound existed in Arizona. Located near the 101 and McDonald Rd., Cattle Track Compound has been a haven for artists to live and work in the desert since the 1930s.

The exhibit focuses on the work of Rachael Ellis as part of a celebration of pioneer women and Arizona’s centennial. Teacher, horsewoman, mother, painter, costume designer; Rachael Ellis sewed an entire wardrobe for her daughter Janie, as well as many pieces for herself, her family and friends, and over 3000 pieces she made as a costume designer.

The show features some of Janie’s favorite pieces from her wardrobe ranging from girly party dresses of her youth to a unique pair of pants her mother sewed with a large slit up the side to suit her life as a dancer in New York.
In addition, the exhibit showcases numerous pieces from the 19th century that Rachael altered to fit women today.

Never receiving professional training, Rachael and Janie worked together to create outfits for her from existing commercial patterns. Rachael was truly a pioneer woman; growing up in what was at the time the middle of nowhere and raising her children there as Arizona grew around them.

As Janie tells the story, Rachael learned to sew because she did not want to take Home Ec in school. She went so far as to request a note from her doctor to excuse her from the class. Apparently the doctor only agreed to sign the note if Rachael promised to still learn to sew at home and it is clear she made good on that promise.

The mother daughter bond is palpable in this exhibition. Walking through the exhibit, listening to Janie talk about her mother, it is easy to feel the love only a mother and daughter can have. Janie speaks very candidly about her upbringing and her parents.

Both being teachers in addition to artists; educators apparently were not permitted to marry at that time so as Janie frankly puts it, “they lived in sin and kept their jobs.”

The attention to detail in the show is wonderful. With the help of Dennita Sewell, Fashion Design Curator at Phoenix Art Museum, family and friends, Janie made over 70 dress forms to display the garments. Unique touches such as displaying the various trims and tools Rachael used and even creating mock-cameos for the 19th century gowns with Rachael’s picture are what makes this show so special.

Seeing all the amazing pieces made me think of all the outfits my mother has sewn for me. Every Halloween she made our costumes from scratch, even indulging my desire one year to be an Almond Hershey Kiss rather than plain because I wanted to be gold.
Having an older sister and a cousin the same age as me we had a lot of matching outfits. Matching dresses, matching socks, matching pj’s, matching Halloween costumes…maybe that’s why I strive to be an individual in the way I dress now?...
Open from now through April 30th, Cattle Track Couture is definitely not to be missed (see below for visitor information). Take your mom and thank her for all the embarrassing outfits and stellar Halloween costumes over the years.


Cattle Track Couture: Fashion by Rachael Ellis
March 10 – April 30
10 – 5 Tuesday – Saturday

Cattle Track Compound
6105 Cattle Track Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85250 
For more information email: info@cattletrackcouture.com

1 comment:

  1. This looks brilliant! It sounds like it was a wonderful event and a great show. I love all the pictures. It also made me think about all the costumes my mom made for me over the years until I was old enough for her to teach me how to sew them myself. :)