Jacqueline Kennedy’s pink Chanel-like suit, Monica Lewinsky’s notorious blue dress, Michelle Obama’s sleeveless black dress worn for her official white house portrait. What women have worn at pivotal moments in their lives have become tied to their identities and the stories of those defining moments.
For Time’s Effing Up! I have simulated one of the suits worn by attorney and law professor Anita Hill during the 1991 Senate Judiciary Hearings for the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. During the hearings Ms. Hill detailed instances of sexual harassment that she endured from Thomas. Yet, her testimony fell on deaf ears and the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed Thomas’ nomination. Hill’s reputation, however, was maligned at every turn by Thomas’ supporters and she was infamously labeled, “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” by journalist David Brock.
Recent events have proven, what Anita Hill endured was not an isolated event but has been status quo in the political arena, and beyond, since time immemorial. With Time’s Effing Up! I am repositioning this fearless woman of African descent, who against all odds, did what she believed was the right thing to do. I embroidered a scarlet A, for both her name and its symbolism. Although she was not on trial it was, she who was branded as a wanton woman. The 14 white men who served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Joe Biden as chair, are stitched around the hem of the jacket. Their unscrupulous questioning served to vilify her and secure Thomas a place on the Supreme Court. On the back of the jacket I stitched a quote by Hill that seems to sum up the goal of the hearings. She said: “I became the messenger who had to be killed.” On the skirt I embroidered the names of some of the political figures (aka skirt chasers) who have been involved in sexual scandals since the US political system began. Clarence Thomas figures prominently, and Strom Thurmond was both a member of the
committee that questioned Hill and involved in the sexual scandal that revealed he had impregnated a 15-year-old African American girl that resulted in the birth of a daughter.
Referencing Hill’s quote, there is a black Victorian dress on the floor underneath the suit. It is called widow’s weeds and was worn by women to mourn the deaths of their husbands. This dress has a double meaning in this work. First, it represents Anita Hill rising out of the ashes like a phoenix from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s attempt to “kill” her. Second, it reconfirms the death of the Victorian notion that a woman’s place was in the home where she remained self-sacrificing, uneducated and pure. Finally, I created several mourning ribbons embroidered
with messages asserting that the time has come to put to death anything that threatens a woman’s ability to live with dignity and without fear. Women can no longer be ignored, discredited and disposed of, in order to silence them!
Precious Lovell transitioned from a twenty-year career in fashion design in New York City to one of educator and contemporary artist+designer+maker.
Lovell’s socio-cultural creative practice
explores the narrative potential of cloth and clothing, predominantly focusing on the African Diaspora.
She holds a master’s degree in Fibers and Surface Design and a BFA in Fashion Design.
She has taught fibers and fashion design at universities in the US, Qatar and South Korea. Precious has traveled to 45 countries researching and collecting textiles and clothing. Her work
has been exhibited in the US and internationally.