Sally Fink of Westmont is a contemporary artist who relishes the past.
The retired Tribune-Democrat art director will exhibit a selection of her fantasy and historical costume collection at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County from Tuesday through July 28.
More than a dozen mannequins will be dressed in some of Fink’s most elaborate attire, several of which have won national and international costuming awards.
Fink will be on hand at 5:30 p.m. Friday during an artist’s reception to offer a gallery tour and a discussion of her creations for the “Fabric Fantasies 3” exhibition.
“I will explain some of the ideas behind the costumes, how they were made and the materials and techniques I used,” Fink said. “Every costume has a story.”
One of her newest creations titled “Steampunk Victorian” features a ruffled bolero, Victorian-style skirt, longline corset and an eye-popping pinch-waist top hat.
In the world of costuming, Steampunk originated during the late 1980s and incorporates elements of science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction.
It involves a setting where steam power is widely used – whether in an alternate history such as Victorian-era Britain or Wild West-era United States.
“I would call it an industrial look that represents the technology associated with fictional machines like those found in novels by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells,” Fink said.
The exhibit also marks the return of Fink’s “The Iron Orchid,” a 1987 creation that won most beautiful, master class and best of show workmanship awards at CostumeCon 5 in New Brunswick, N.J.
“I’m repeating it for this exhibit because ‘The Iron Orchid’ has been on display for seven years at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle,” Fink said.
Fink has been creating fantasy and historical costumes for nearly 40 years.
She started making fantasy costumes for Star Trek and other science-fiction conventions in the early 1970s.
Compared to what she is creating now, the initial costumes look rather elementary.
In the mid-1980s, Fink discovered the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group which re-creates the European Middle Ages, and has been in love with historical costuming ever since.
To date, she has made several hundred historical costumes ranging from Roman times to the 17th century.
The collection includes gowns from the Renaissance, Tudor and Elizabethan periods in Italy, Germany, France and Spain.
To get the look of the Renaissance, Fink will improvise with curtain or upholstery fabrics.
“We can simulate what people had to work with in that time period,” Fink said.
“We can never be exact, but I incorporate velvets and brocades to fit into my designs.”
She buys 90 percent of her fabric from JoAnn’s Fabrics & Crafts in Richland Township.
“I stockpile fabrics I find interesting and that I may have use for later,” Fink said.
“For something I can’t find locally, I buy online.”
Fink has worn most every full-size costume, some of which she good naturedly labels as Phinque (Fink) originals.
It takes a multitalented person to create the outfits Fink has designed and made.
She is adept at pattern drafting, tailoring, beading, soft sculpture and embroidery.
Fink is successful because she has a knack for mixing the right fabric and best color.
Perhaps her strongest suit is millinery.
“I hate wearing hats, but I love making them,” Fink said.
“With every costume I create, I make the hat last because I view it as an appetizing dessert to a satisfying meal.”
Since retiring in 2002, Fink has dedicated much of her time to researching, designing and creating head-turning fashions.
“They are not Halloween costumes, they are more couture,” Fink said.
Inspiration for a costume can come from the simplest things.
“I once designed an entire costume around a brooch that intrigued me,” she said.
Some costumes can take as many as 400 hours to complete.
Fink works on costumes from late November to May each year.
“I tackle one costume at a time and work on it from start to finish,” she said.
The only time she changed her routine is when she created her award-winning “Dawn and Dusk” costumes in 2011.
Each one will be on display.
Each costume is made from 10 different fabrics, numerous beads, machine embroidery, placemats and handmade tassels.
The project took two months to construct.
“The only difference between the two is that one is orange and the other purple,” she said.
“In creating them, I would make each piece twice to maintain consistency throughout the process.”
Who: Costume designer Sally Fink.
What: “Fabric Fantasies 3.”
Where: Community Arts Center of Cambria County, 1217 Menoher Blvd., Westmont.
When: Tuesday through July 28.
Sally Fink of Westmont is a contemporary artist who relishes the past.
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