The garment-sculptures of Caterina DeRousse are delightfully camp and excessive

“People shape garments and garments shape people,” says the Chicago-based artist.

12 April 2022


Caterina DeRousse’s work is nothing short of chaotically brilliant. Part-garment and part-sculpture, these overgrown creations emulate a kind of camp energy that is hard to replicate, let alone capture in words. “Before any garment, I start with a lot of drawing,” Caterina explains to It’s Nice That. “I work very sculpturally, so drawing helps me think from every angle.” The ideas for these garments-cum-sculptures came when Caterina started sewing whilst entering the fashion program at School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). “I had barely any experience but I was captured by fashion’s relationship with people,” they say. “It is so deeply intertwined with our identities, the parts of ourselves we want those around us to notice, and the parts of ourselves we’re hoping to smother.” Tapping into the “symbiotic relationship of garment and identity,” Caterina combined her skills of sewing, drawing, and making to come up with their sculptures.

Needless to say, these creations are a lot of tireless work. The first layer of structural support is “made entirely of a thick upholstery batting,” which is where a lot of the shape will initially develop from. “When I’m finally happy with the proportions, I move onto the fabric covering that envelopes the whole garment,” Caterina adds. “I sew on the body hair and airbrush the creases for added dimension, then I drape the clothes the piece is wearing.” Overall, the whole process for one piece will take around three to four weeks for Caterina to complete.


Caterina DeRousse (Copyright © Caterina DeRousse, 2022)

For their senior collection at SAIC, Caterina was largely inspired “by the absurdity of celebrity-dom,” she says, “from A-List celebrities to influencers.” The severe detachment of celebrity disposition from the material conditions of reality is a “fascinating and infuriating” subject for Caterina, and fuels a lot of her practice. “I wanted to create garments that could capture that luxurious delusion,” the artist explains. “My research process included pouring through paparazzi photography, watching an obscene amount of influencer apology videos, and drawing my own characters from these scenes.” With that in mind, the project certainly leaves us with a critical eye over celebrity-dom and its farce.

In more general visual terms, Caterina finds herself picking inspiration from a suitably eclectic list of sources. “Right now I’m gravitating toward anything pink, Tonya Harding, Sex and the City but not the reboot, and David Hockney’s Paper Pools,” Caterina lists in their characteristic wry sense of humour. And, better yet, despite how largely impractical Caterina’s creations can be to move around and set-up for photoshoots, the artist is dedicated to loving its most silly aspects. “I think over time I’ve definitely seen a growth in humour in my work,” they tells us. “The more work I make, the more comfortable I feel laughing at it.” Whether that be the garment itself, its malleability, or general reception from others, Caterina takes it all with a wink and a nudge. “I love watching someone try to squeeze through a door frame or bend over to adjust their shoe when they’re wearing it,” she says. “When a garment is that massive, it swallows a person whole.”

GalleryCaterina DeRousse (Copyright © Caterina DeRousse, 2022)

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Caterina DeRousse (Copyright © Caterina DeRousse, 2022)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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