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A riot of WearableArt

A riot of WearableArt

by Siren Deluxe - Friday, 8 March 2013

Dog-walking Vampire, WOW stage show, 2005

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Collection manager Siren Deluxe has been entranced with the WOW awards since the first show in 80s. She has modelled and performed at three shows – once romping down the runway in a vampire-cum-dominatrix outfit, with a pack of dogs. She looks back at the awards, and pays homage to the dame who created this riot of culture.

Perhaps motivated by the ominous adage, the devil finds work for idle hands, my nana, my mother and my sister, kept their fingers very busy indeed. They were crafters: knitters, seamstresses, embroiderers and weavers. Many of my childhood memories are of making things with these industrious women: attempting to spin wool, learning to tack darts, jamming the sewing machine over and over again to my mother’s consternation.

Ever since the dawn of the WearableArt Awards in New Zealand (way back in the late 80’s), the show has been a point of discussion and fascination among the women in my family. In the late 90’s when I was at Art School, I won tickets to the Nelson show and attended it with my mother and my sister. We watched the show with wide-eyed awe, and on that night a shared ambition was born to create a garment worthy of the competition. (Over the years, we have tried and failed to get a garment accepted into the show, and our failure to reach the necessary bar of fabulousness has only intensified our admiration.)

I have watched the Wearable Arts Show (now branded WOW) with my mother and sister in Nelson as a teenager; and with my mother in Wellington as an adult. My mother took her mother to the show as an 82nd birthday treat. That night Nana was quite overwhelmed by the magic of modern stage craft and learned a new word: pyrotechnics.

In 2005, the show moved to Wellington to enable both the event and the vision to grow. And grow it did. Currently the WOW show attracts crowds of 50,000 people per season. I was in my late twenties when the show moved to Wellington, and leapt at the opportunity to audition as an unpaid performer in the stage show. I auditioned as my alter ego Mistress Succubus, and to my delight was cast as a dog-walking vampire-cum-dominatrix, who wove herself in and out of the surreal, ever changing landscape of the performance that year.

WOW pre-show entertainers troupe 2010 (Siren is on the far left in spots).

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira

That first year of partaking in the Wearable Arts Show was heavenly bliss. Two months disappeared in a flurry of electric eccentricity. Little People, drag queens, professional dancers, aerialists and children all united in manifesting something hedonistic, and defiantly decadent.

The Wearable Art Show is first and foremost a show designed to honour the extraordinary skills of the garment designers. However, the show also celebrates more broadly, a community often overlooked in Aotearoa; a group of people who do not have a skerrik of farmer, rugby, or investment property about them; a gang of odd dressers, rich in experience but largely broke, and unconventionally skilled. At the helm of this troupe proudly stands Dame Susie Moncrieff, a true hero of the Arts in NZ. To me, Susie Moncreiff is like Sir Edmond Hillary. She is a conqueror, a battler, an icon – a woman who built a mountain, which towers high in NZs cultural landscape.

Now that I live in Auckland WOW is something that occasionally sashays through my dreams. I performed three years in the show – twice on stage and once as part of the preshow entertainers troupe. I made friendships with the wonderfully tall and slim, the bountifully rubenesque, the magnificently strong and the overtly sexy. All of them enriched my life.

Vistors got to experience the World of WearableArt (WOW) Up Close when this touring exhibition came to Auckland Museum in early-2013.

  • Post by: Siren Deluxe

    Siren is a Collection Manager in the Collection Care department at Auckland Museum.

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