Unfolding research methods with Adele Varcoe

Fresh into the third week of our MA Fashion Strategy course, Adele Varcoe came to ArtEZ to give us a workshop. As part of the curriculum, we participate in several workshops with professional designers, artists and researchers to share in their experiences within their practice. Adele Varcoe is an Australian artist and fashion practitioner. I didn’t know her work beforehand but had seen her in her colourful jumpsuit walking around school before our first meeting. After our first day of the workshop, I came to understand why she just wears the ‘onesies’ (as she named her collection of jumpsuits).

More than just the outfit she has been wearing for years now, the onesie can be seen as one of the tools Adele has selected to conduct her research into the effect that fashion, clothing and dress have through our social interactions with them. In her case, the onesie indeed became her new identity as she used to wear just jeans and sweatshirts. What was most interesting to hear was the reaction of people around her when she decided to start wearing the onesies all the time: from friends that started avoiding her, to dates that started being annoyed by the fact she wore just the onesies. What she experienced through the onesies was not only a brand new way of dressing but, consequently, the outcomes from the social interactions upon her choice of dressing like that. To narrate the results of her research, Adele created a series of artistic expressions such as stop motion videos with characters made of clay and handmade drawings with dialogue balloons.

Additionally, Adele also creates collective live performances by producing the onesies on a large scale together with collaborative communities, to then distribute them to the audience that is expected to participate in the performance. Her hypothesis when practicing this kind of performance research is that “by dressing similarly bring people are brought together”. Whatever the topic of research, what I learned from the workshop is how diverse the methodologies within research practices can be, and how these choices can unfold into a wide range of (unexpected) insights regarding the subject studied. Due to the complexity of studies in fashion, clothing and dress the boundaries of research can be pushed by going way beyond the conventional academic forms of exploring a topic. Using different methodologies allows the generation of completely unexpected results and insights for a series of new practices, thus opening up another range of subjects to be studied.

Adele Varcoe also participated in the AIRs symposium during her visit to ArtEZ in September 2017.

— Marina Sasseron de Oliveira Cabral