Sandra Garcia in an orange dress with multicolored ribbon trim that is a traditional Mexican dance costume

Costume Studio Demo Artist Sandra Garcia

Sandra Garcia will be in the Costume Studio demonstrating Mexican heritage through dance and costume July 1-2 and September 2-3, 2017.

Holly Nordeck: What will you be demonstrating at the Denver Art Museum? What can visitors expect to see?

Sandra Garcia: I will demonstrate the fabric and color selections for the regions of costumes from the 1800s to 1930s era of Mexico's dance costumes. Showing how to cut the patterns, pictures of samples for selecting the style of a region and how to create a design to complete the item. I also will have materials for the children to color and cutout samples of costumes if they want. The pictures are of dance costumes from different regions of Mexico and they can design their costume.

HN: Can you talk about your background a little bit and the importance of it in regards to the work you make?

SG: My parents were born and raised in southern Colorado, my mother Carolyn Gonzales and her parents and many generations were from New Mexico. We moved to Denver from San Luis in 1965, and my mother hand-sewed everything that she and my sisters and I wore for home and for school. She would design her clothing using measurements and I would watch, follow along with scraps she had and make my own doll clothes. I became interested in dance costumes while my daughters were in Mexican folk dance classes in the late '80s and thought that their costumes were cheaper and easier to sew on my own. Other parents liked my costumes and I began taking orders to sell them costumes. I studied the history of Mexico's old photographs of the dance and made my designs from there.

HN: I see that you also are involved in teaching dance classes, how do you think movement and dance influences the work you make?

SG: The movements of the feet, arms, hands, and torso have to be considered for different types of costumes, and the region and dance they’ll be used for. Accessories such as hats, masks, baskets, bottles, canes, and so on will be created with different types of materials—fabric, paper, plastic, glass, beads, ribbons, paints, sequins, etc.—to be used for the dance performances.

HN: Do you have any inspirations or influences?

SG: Definitely my mother and older sister Diane, as they taught me a lot of the basic steps of sewing. My influences are the historic traditional clothes the people wore back in that century and the history of why each traditional costume is different from each region.

HN: What fabrics and colors do you use? Is there significance to these fabric and color decisions?

SG: I normally select a fabric that is light as possible for the ease of dance movements and to make the wash and care easy for the dancers and instructors. A color is chosen by the performer if purchasing their own and I select the standard colors for ribbons if needed and select the colors and fabric types depending on the needs of the regions. Broadcloth, sheeting, and poly cotton blends are normally used for most costumes as these types are easy to launder and iron.

HN: Lastly, do you have a personal favorite dance or costume?

SG: I enjoy mostly the region of Jalisco, Mexico. The fabrics are a solid bright color, white laces, and multitude of layers of different color ribbons. These are my favorite costumes to sew and I may have sewn at least 900 of these types since I began. I was at the Celebrate Culture Cinco de Mayo festival in May and saw a little girl wearing one of my costumes for her dancing, and did not recognize her or her parents and thought she either purchased it from one of my old dancers or it had been given to her. I know it was my costume that I made! But I have many other times seen my costumes I have made from years ago worn by dancers I didn't know.

That is the main reason I sew the art of dance costumes, to share the culture of these historic clothes used to dance and perform in, and to carry on the history of Mexican folk dancing with many people.

Images courtesy of Sandra Garcia.

Holly Nordeck is a studio and artist programs intern in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum. Holly is working toward her BFA in drawing with a minor in arts management at Colorado State University. She loves the museum’s modern and contemporary art collection.