Constricting traditions – Conceptual garments by Sára Kocsis
Reaching back to old traditions and evoking the forms used in peasant culture is a recurring pattern in the methodical reconstruction of national culture. In the 19th century, Matyó became the representative embodiment of everything Hungarian, with a prominent role in sketching a romantic national self-image and an impact that can still be felt to this day. Sára Kocsis’s My Hungarian Heritage collection explores the relevance of peasant traditions, how they interact with young people, and how they can be incorporated into fashion.
Sára’s conceptual clothing design seeks to tap into the discourse around the preservation of traditions and lending them a modern interpretation. At first glance, we see garments subtly hinting at traditional Hungarian motifs, which after more careful scrutiny appear gradually more and more constricting, eventually becoming what they really are: female clothes that in fact hold the wearer captive and limit their range of movements.
“What I want to articulate is that there could be a lot of negative emotions mixing in with our national identity. In Hungary, traditional values are given high priority, which is a source of anxiety for many young people, thwarting any frank and open discussion.”
The garments display motifs typical of traditional Matyó costume, while some silhouettes are practically identical to those of folk costumes at the time, and the flower prints also provide a very similar take on folk art. Judging by the details, everything seems fine, yet once we move beyond the primary aesthetic considerations, a symbolic reading can provide a better understanding of the designer’s intentions, and in turn, the claustrophobic nature of the concept.
“I reckon the problem young people searching to find their own identities have is not with their Hungarian origins, the preservation of or respect for traditions, but the outdated and forced forms of expression they take.”
Clothing has long played a role in communication, and it is doubly true for Hungarian folk art. The rich motifs and symbology often served to add variety and expressiveness to our communications. These prints were displayed on clothes, home textiles, and various items. Many female garments were indicative of the wearer’s status within the community, social, cultural, or religious ties. As such, following the meaning creating logic of traditional folklore, Sára sought to join relevant discourses around subjects such as tradition preservation, national culture, or experiencing femininity.
The project was completed at the Textile Design BA programme of the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design with Adrien Nagy as Sára’s consultant.