Elizabeth Tolson’s Performance Art Dress Exposes #WearableWednesday


Elizabeth Tolson is an artist who often brings to light issues faced by women, as in Vessel–a series of garments that uses LEDs to indicate fertility. I would describe her work as blunt, refreshing, ironic and just plain wise. So, I was certainly excited to find her new design on TMagazine–it’s for a show called In the Presence of Myself. She had various dancers work with the piece for the opening, but lately she has been experimenting with it herself.

I have been performing in my piece outside. Pushing myself to blend in to my surroundings and overcome my own body image issues

The costume has the look of a shell with it’s white and silver cotton, while 100 LEDs create a pale glow. Although the construction of the piece is curious, it’s really the combination of artist and dancer that makes this an interesting project. Notice how the piece can collapse like a hoop skirt, allowing for transformations.


On the movement side, dancers worked with the sensation of the lights, which are often aimed towards the body. There are some interesting metaphors here with illumination and the turtle like shell that Elizabeth is addressing.

By using the dress as an object to discuss how you become obsessed over a certain aspect of yourself that makes you self-conscious, it shows the beauty behind those imperfections.

Image is definitely a subject that Elizabeth has worked on before with her art, and I feel this piece is a more tender look, perhaps even a digging deeper. The diffused LEDs really allow the movement to become important. So, small articulations become jolts of feelings to the audience. It’s so nice that this isn’t a runway piece and that it is meant to be felt! In fact, just imagining this show really has me interested in creating performance art. If you are also a performance lover, you might want to take a look at some inventive costume designs in our book 1000 Incredible Costume and Cosplay Ideas. It’s not too early to start thinking about Halloween or your next Maker Faire. Costumes just make everything more fun.


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