Polka-dot Headliner

At the top of this blog are polka-dots. Well-worn polka dots on a pair of racing spandex tights.
These tights are well-worn, well-used, and well-loved. Their stitches tell a story of rip and repair, rip and repair, rip. Threads give less and more. They are mundane and extraordinary, extraordinary in their care and the way they now shamelessly flaunt their fibers. They are made to be unmade, worn into the ground. And even then still remain an object of wonder.
A safety pin attaches a small note to the back of the left leg. The date, Decemer 8, 2010, is scrawled along the side. The note is handwritten in neat, yet individualized, script.
Alice B.
Toeclips
1990-
2010 costume.
Jacquie
Phelan’s
unique
sartorial
style
draws on
commedia
dell’ arte,
harlequien,
&
coyote trickster ->
(now I flip over the tag.)
stories.
She has
changed
shape
to elude
capture
her
entire life…
–Jacquie
is giving
USBHOF
these tights
Jacquie Phelan, one of the first female mountain bike racers, gave me these tights to donate to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. She is an inductee in the Hall of Fame due to both her success in mountain biking competitions and her promotion of women’s mountain biking. They are special and deserve to be there. But they also deserve to be touched, even though this will wear them down faster. They deserve appreciation and close analysis.
People should wonder and know about the eclectic inspirations of this style. What is commedia dell’arte, the harlequin, and the coyote trickster? Do people know that the theaters of commedia dell’arte were among the first to employ female actresses to play women’s roles? Do people understand their improvisational style, and that this venue set the stage for what would become comedy? Do they know of the harlequin character that frequented this stage, who would perform acrobatic feats in brightly-colored clothing while attempting to win over lust’s desire? Or do they know the coyote trickster character of Native American lore? Do they know this figure’s shape-changing ways, or the idolization of the coyote trickster by sci-tech feminist, Donna Haraway–my own intellectual hero?
And do people know what fashion has to do with bicycles?
This is why I love the intimate interactions of fashion. They wrap up so much in tight little balls of fabric and flesh. They fray, break, and bleed. They can be repaired or thrown aside, displayed to disintegrate, or preserved to be forgotten. They are remade, reinvented, repurposed, and refashioned. All this fashion-making  creates objects jam-packed with meaning and connections to the wider world. Tights are never just threads and fabric. They are also about fashion because they reach beyond bicycle riding into the world of myths, imagining, materials, and histories that constantly remake what and who we are today.

For a longer version of this blog, visit here.

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