Memories 25.03.2013

“Anatomy: Soul” – Modern Mourning and Burial Garb

For all of the Mourners living in Australia, tomorrow is your chance to see a wonderful program entitled Anatomy: Soul on ABC1 at 10pm, featuring Pia Interlandi and her work creating and investigating burial costume. Below is from the ABC’s website:

“Pia Interlandi is a unique kind of fashion designer – she makes beautiful shrouds; garments to be buried in. SOUL tells the story of Pia’s evolution from student and designer of ‘Garments for the Grave’ to practitioner, as she creates her first shroud for a client.

Her Nonno, or Italian grandfather, was the first dead body she ever dressed. His death and the dressing of him marked turning points in her development, informing her beliefs around the soul. It also showed her that the current rituals around dressing the dead body are in fact outdated.

It was with these realisations that Pia began her PhD in ‘(A)Dressing Death’ at RMIT’s school of Architecture and Design. Now in the final stages of her degree, she is documenting the sculptural works she has created which blend fashion, forensics and a Victorian gothic sensibility. This includes photographing her ‘dissolvable garments’ which mimic the decomposition process that happens to a body once it has been buried.

Her PhD nearly complete, Pia now must begin the tricky job of finding clients and tailor-making garments to their specifications. Her very first customer is a woman named Kaalii who is in her 60s. Braced by the recent experience of burying both her parents, Kaalii is seeking the garment to prepare herself and her family for her own eventual death.
Pia’s first collaboration with Kaalii is a success but not without its trials. Ultimately the experience reinforces her desire to pursue her career and lifelong passion of helping families create meaningful rituals for their loved ones’ deaths.”

For an understanding of the jewels and art seen in Art of Mourning, an understanding fashion and its culture is essential to interpret the fundamental concepts that generate the affectations of mourning in fashion. Burial is an important factor in the concepts surrounding the body and how mourning was (and still is) upheld by the family. These garments equate to the symbols of mourning, be it the Neoclassical era and the use of white and classical drapery, through to Victorian home interment. Pia’s work in garments will no doubt define modern mourning and return mourning as a factor that isn’t far removed from society, but a fact that people must eventually deal with. 

Further Reading:
> In deathly garb (The Age)