Senior major in textiles, merchandising and fashion design and Honors Program student Joelle Tangen has taken on the task of combining two very different ideas to create her art: drag and sustainability.
The idea of drag and drag clothing is to break the boundaries of gender norms by creating clothes that can express oneself as it is. To Tangen, this looks like a ruffian garment that is earth-colored and does not fit, like cargo shorts.
Each year, seniors in the Honors Program must create a project that will enable them to demonstrate their individual talents and abilities. Whether it’s through a thesis or a physical project based on their major, these seniors have one year to complete their project and graduate from the Honors Program.
“I want my honor project to be something fun. I don’t really want to use a traditional thesis, and because I have an art major, I can work on non-traditional projects and get away with it, “said Tangen.
Her advisor and mentor, professor Sandra Starkey, said she believed the project was smart and fresh. That’s something that hasn’t been done much before, and Starkey said he was impressed by Tangen’s ability to bring these topics together.
“It takes ambition to tackle a project of this type,” said Starkey. “I only worked with one other student who was interested in drag fashion, and that is in a more traditional sense. Joelle addressed the topic in a unique and creative way by adding a sustainability component. ”
The idea of getting out of the box may be stressful for some, but Tangen says she knows what she has to do and finds inspiration along the way. Tangen can find one person who shows both interests: Pattie Gonia, sustainable drag queens who combine their love for the environment with drag.
“I’ve always been interested in sustainability, but also in attractiveness. Since it was time to narrow down my project, I thought that I should focus on one or the other, ”said Tangen. “One of my main inspirations is Pattie Gonia, a transgender activist, and I think it’s really cool how they can mix sustainability and drag at the same time.”
After realizing that he could take his two passions and put them together, Tangen was very excited. She submitted her sustainability project idea and drag honors in March 2019 and started working on her soon after.
Tangen spends most of her time at the sewing studio located in the Human Science Building on the East Campus. Sitting at her workplace, surrounded by some cream colored dress shapes, Tangen traces the image Pattie Gonia to find inspiration for the attraction.
The coronavirus pandemic added to a series of challenges that were unexpected at the start of this project. Whether it’s getting enough time in a sewing studio or being able to find materials, the whole process gets more and more difficult over time, according to Tangen.
Tangen wants to emphasize the importance of sustainability in fashion by using recycled materials found in thrift stores or by utilizing leftover materials from online factories. However, during the creation of his first project in April, these supplies were hard to come by as most businesses were closed due to the pandemic.
“I am not sure how I will get the cargo materials because there are many second hand shops that I don’t think are open. I finally got this [cargo material] from the thrift store Black Market, and I think they’re reopening in April or May, ”said Tangen.
It was very inconvenient for him to work within the limits he spoke of, but Tangen was able to complete the task and focus on the aspects that were most important to him. Starkey said she was amazed by Tangen’s ability to adapt and focus on people or gender ideas that were less visible in the mainstream fashion market.
“As designers, we need to think about sustainability regardless of the target market. I compliment Joelle because it’s a creative approach to dressing that is fresh and quite relevant, ”said Starkey.
Tangen is forced to work faster than ever to finish his first part, hoping to start his second part. Joelle has two pieces of clothing to make before the project’s March 2021 deadline.
Going from being a waria to a disaster for her second outfit, Tangen will keep in mind her attractive style inspiration and continue to use second hand clothes to create her look. She cites photos of the oil spill as inspiration for this look. Although this second project had not yet started in physical form, she had spent a lot of time in the sewing studio working on sketches and finishing her thoughts.
Through this project, Tangen hopes to raise awareness around the university and society about the importance of sustainability and environmental awareness. After graduation, her goal is to work for a fashion brand that focuses on sustainability.
“I was very stressed about climate change, and that’s why I ended up choosing this course,” said Tangen. “The fashion industry is one of the worst polluters on the planet. I wanted to go into fashion just to try and hope it had an impact on that. “