Meg Cowell is a photographic artist based in Melbourne, Australia, who submerges clothes and photographs them.
Symbolically she is interested in the transformative power of feminine clothes, inspired by fairy tales, children’s stories and also literature like Ophelia. The idea that the down trodden, or ordinary girl’s transformation into a princess is shown through the gown / change in fashion.
Her symbolism really attracted me while writing The Bound Heart, where the heroine Olive Thompson finds a path to independence through art embroidery and fashion.
The role of sewing and embroidery in Victorian times were often roads of liberation for women who had to support themselves at the loss or abandonment of a husband. This role has often been denigrated or undervalued. However, women took this field of work and used it to quietly build independent lives (seamstress) and to establish themselves as artists (art embroidery).
It was also an area of real activism. The great debate around the corset, was used in women’s literature at the time to represent the corseted nature of women in society. Novelists had their female character express some of her radicalism through dress, as in the New Woman by stepping away from expected dress patterns. The releasing of the corset and the rise of suffragettes can’t be seen separately when women and her clothing are so closely linked.
This relationship to clothes and their ability express our position in society, and also act as a vehicle to transform our place in society and our view of ourselves is still very present.
Have a look at the video’s below of Meg’s work, they are amazingly beautiful and quietly powerful.