Tent dresses, made popular in the 1960s with A-line shapes and unstructured fabrics, wafted around flower children for a few scant years and disappeared into fashion history. A completely different tent dress concept, designed by Angelika Werth, Nelson, B.C., Canada, may have a more durable lifecycle. Werth’s hand-sewn dresses are fabricated of recycled tents, from classic white canvas with grommets to shiny royal blue nylon. “The tent dresses are big enough that you could sleep under them,” says Werth. “I quite often think of the kilt, which used to be a bedroll at night and then was worn as a garment in the day.”
Werth started her career with a three-year dressmaking apprenticeship, followed by work at Yves St. Laurent in Paris, a Master’s degree in design and emigration to instruct at the Fibre Department at the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson. Her designs reflect hours of hand felting, embroidery and beading, and many have a historical genesis. Werth embroidered words from a 16th century Christopher Marlowe poem (“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”) in recycled thread around the hem of a white canvas concoction displayed recently at Circle Craft Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. “It’s a love poem, and I imagine these two under the tent,” says Werth. She has sold dresses at the gallery, many worn as one-of-a-kind bridal or formal gowns.
The age-old hand sewing techniques are very labor-intensive, and Werth’s tent dresses command as much as $2,500 each. Other designers displayed at Circle Craft Gallery’s Off the Grid show, including Jessica de Haas of Propagate Love and Katherine Soucie of Sans Soucie, are reviving the skills of the past in creating an evocative future.