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Sewing Outside the Box for Peninsula Wearable Arts Guild’s 2019 ArtWear Show

Peninsula Wearable Arts Guild members modeled more than 60 “Outside the Box” creations of their own making at ArtWear 2019, PenWAG’s biennial Runway Show. The wearable, fabric art extravaganza was held May 18 at Mariani’s Inn and Restaurant, Santa Clara.

“Everything is handmade by members. It’s one of a kind, sometimes with exotic and multiple materials. A lot of creativity goes into the fashions,” said Artwear 2019 backstage manager Laughing Flower from Redwood City.

“Wearable art garments are timeless,” begins the nonprofit’s mission statement. “PenWAG’s goal is to bring together designers of artful clothing and accessories, to expand our artistic horizons, to encourage and nurture the creativity in each of us.”


Two dramatic dresses by Billy Lash, winner of the $1,000 PenWAG 2019 Fashion Scholarship, opened the show. He is a fashion design major at Cañada College, Redwood City, Class of 2020.

Lash created his dresses for the Cañada College fashion department’s 2018 garment contest “Cocktails, Anyone?” and the 2019 contest, “50s and 60s Is the New Black.” He won second place in 2018 and first place in 2019.

“Winning the scholarship is a total honor,” said Lash, a California native, at ArtWear 2019. “It is a complete honor to know my designs are appreciated by others.”

Lash described his style as classic with a Billy twist.

“I like to be big and bold. I like accessorizing,” he said. He accessorized the black and white dress “Cocktails, Anyone?” with a black bowtie necklace.

He explained that for the 2019 college contest, participants were given random bundles of fabric and had to use 50 percent of each piece in the bundle for their creation.

He spent many hours gathering and stitching the multiple, hand-dyed petticoats that give flare to the skirt of his 50s dress. In all, he devoted about 300 hours over two-and-a-half months to constructing the dress. It is his dramatic vision of a 50s housewife expecting company for dinner.

PenWAG members modeled their equally creative but more wearable creations. Many of the pieces were vests, tunics, jackets and coats artistically pieced together from an assortment of fabrics.

Some creations were inspired by the annual “Make It Work” challenge, meaning use whatever you have on hand. Old lace was appliquéd and fabrics were upcycled from kimonos, denim jeans and even a wedding dress.

A poignant moment was when WWII war bride Amy Higuchi modeled the wedding suit she wore. She is Japanese and her American husband timed his proposal so that she would not be relocated to an internment camp for Japanese Americans.

“The fashions are spectacular,” said show chair Lona Ingraham. “We’re proud of our artists for the wonderful work they do and submitted to ArtWear 2019.”

Ingraham said that about 150 attended the show and lunch. Small boxes, artistically decorated with buttons, served as table centerpieces and were sold after the show. Donated artwear pieces were auctioned. Funds go towards scholarships and other charitable projects.

PenWAG was begun in the early 1990s by Bay Area women who valued creativity in sewing and designing and wanted to connect with other people with the same interests.

“It lets people develop their creative side and inspires us,” said PenWAG program chair Sherri Tafel. “There’s camaraderie. We’re family. And you can get help with a project if you’re stuck.”

PenWAG meets the second Saturday of the month (except October) at the Campbell Community Center, Roosevelt Room (Q-80), 1 West Campbell Avenue, Campbell. For information, visit


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