Art, Fashion

Wearable art for the artist

Designing a jacket for an artist? No pressure!

Meet Irma, Los Angeles painter, known for her striking abstracts, landscapes, portraits and still life oils. She sent me two jackets. On one she wanted dragons and the other roses. When I tried to pin her down on colors and styles she gave me no specifics, “just make them vibrant!”


I’ve known Irma for a dozen years now. As far as I know, she’s always painted. I asked her how she got started. “I had an artist friend. I loved to watch her paint. One day she handed me a canvas and a brush… I jumped right in and loved it!”

When she paints, she uses rich colors and bold strokes that often come from the shoulder, not the wrist. The results are compelling. I keep several in my workshop as inspiration, including this one above my sewing table.


Irma is passionate about her art — and she’s a very stylish dresser — so I really wanted to get this right. I began on the dragon jacket, since that was a new idea to me. Researching, I came across a lovely legend. It tells of four playful and kind hearted dragons who brought desperately needed rain to the people of China, and explains the origin of China’s four great rivers.

I positioned the long dragon, the yellow dragon, the pearl dragon and the black dragon swooping and diving across the back, down one sleeve and peeking over the shoulder. I did not stick to the traditional colors because this is art (or trying to be!). And I further muddied up the folk story by adding in a few extra dragons. What can I say? It’s a long jacket!


IMG_1231I surrounded these mythical creatures with flowering vines also Asian in inspiration. To make sure it would be vivid enough for Irma, I used contrasting colors which I chose by referring to the color wheel.

The most striking combinations are found opposite each other – blue and orange, red and green, yellow and violet, etc.

This color mix isn’t easy on the eye. It’s challenging, arresting, and not for everyone. I was a bit nervous when I shipped it, but happily, it was just what Irma wanted. She plans to wear it to her niece’s graduation from law school, over a flowing silk dress.

I’ll save Irma’s rose jacket for another time. It’s not your average rose jacket!

What will you wear today?

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