Wearable Furniture, but make it Art

Is this a thing?

Jane Starr Drinkard

We might just fashion ourselves a costume out of furniture...

Spooky season seems to always sneak up on me, leaving me scrambling to find a costume for Halloween festivities (not to mention the disruptions caused by the unfolding supply-chain crisis). This year, I’m anticipating the teal Squid game tracksuits to be ubiquitous but I’d rather stand out. Perhaps, it’s the amount of time I’ve spent working from home during the pandemic but I’ve turned to my domestic sphere for inspiration and my search has led me to the topsy-turvy world of wearable furniture. I’ve begun to see wearable furniture not just as a potential source for costume inspo but also as a way to establish control, set boundaries, and construct identity in an often scary and kooky world.

Bea Camacho's "Enclosure"

I started considering wearable furniture as a costume in earnest when I stumbled upon a tweet about the Philippines-born artist Bea Camacho who spent 11 hours in 2014 crocheting herself into a red cocoon for a live art piece called “Enclosure.” Camacho’s work got my introverted senses tingling (someone retweeted “bea camacho is all of us.”) For Camacho too, her wearable work serves to comfort: "To me, crochet is associated with home, warmth and security," she said in an interview. 

Google “wearable furniture” and the first piece that comes up is SharkMan, designed by product designer and student Yang Zhao. It’s a “wearable space” that also functions as a laptop carrier. In its fully-zipped up form, the wearer resembles a grey shark replete with fins and a zipper mouth. SharkMan won the certificate of excellence in the Mayor of London's international student innovation award. This costume is perfect for a student who might be finishing up a paper before heading to a party—you won’t even have to change!

Yang Zhao's "Wearable Space"

New York based-platform and nomadic gallery Super Group recently posted a series of wearable furniture in 7 slides starting with a sculpture by California pop artist Paul Harris titled “Woman in a Pink Gown” (1964). Eerily domestic and claustrophobic in feel, this was not Harris’ only woman/sofa hybrid work. Harris had a thing for creating stuffed and sewn female figures attached to chairs and sofa.  Super_House poses the question: “Where does the chair end and the woman begin?” Eerie (!) and ripe with costume spin-offs. Needless to say, an adaptation of this for Halloween would be epic. 

Super Group's "Woman in a Pink Gown"

Or dress up as a RISD student heading to class! There’s a Wearable furniture class at RISD. Apparel in the Context of its Environment that explores “the physical relationship between the body and surrounding environment” and asks: “Can an object that is imbued with a store transcend the initial functionality and purpose?” Poignant.

Is it or is it not furniture? Frida Kahlo's prosthetic leg

If you’re not sure how to cover up a cast or an injury this hallow’s eve, wearable furniture can even serve a medical function. What are crutches if not a form of wearable furniture? The Mexican artist  and icon Frida Kahlo comes to mind. Kahlo suffered from polio as a child, leaving her disabled. This was compounded by a bus accident when she was 18 years old from which she never fully recovered. Kahlo—ever the artist—hid her disabilities and injuries with her infamous traditional Mexican garb. Beyond this, she fashioned herself a prosthetic leg with a chunky red leather boot. Through these wearable pieces, Kahlo was able simultaneously to construct her artistic identity and comfort and support physically.

Lastly, if you’re feeling like having a more low-key or lazy halloween, maybe just handing out candy consider Noonee’s “Chairless Chair.” Instead of being a skeleton, you can wear an exo-skeleton. Its inventor Keith Gunara was inspired by working long hours on a packaging floor in the U.K. Not only will you be cheering neighborhood kids, but you will simultaneously be working on your posture. If it’s too late to snag a Noonee of your own, tape a chair to your butt and call it?

I’ll leave you with this strange video posted in 2009 (ahead of its time!). Is it a chair? A table? A broomstick up the butt? Simply a vehicle for AppleJacks? Unclear but oddly, mesmerizing.

Jane is an independent contributor at Dendwell.
Cover photo by Janelle Rabbot


Dendwell was a rigorously curated marketplace and magazine for vintage decor. From 2020 - 2022, we dug into the trends, tastemakers, and how-to's of vintage object collection. This is our archive site, and is no longer being updated.