Thursday, November 10, 2011


 It's not often that you run across something, anything, perfect. As you realize, i am in no ways a perfectionist and happen to appreciate the rugged edges, the unexpected, the unfinished in our world. Life is neither perfect nor fair, which accounts for both sadness and beauty in life. In style and clothing (ostensibly this blog's focus) i adore the unexpected, the worn, the "not quite right but somehow it works". In fact, 'perfection' in style often turns me off - it can so easily become too precious, overly fussy, expected, matchy-matchy.

But oh the incredible moments when perfection is done right. When it actually IS perfect. I innocently walked into perfection at BiBa on Halloween. The boutique participated in Pacific Grove's Friday Night Art Walk by showcasing pieces from Anatomica. Anatomica is a collections of women's clothing as wearable art. Artist and printmanker Tobin Keller collaborates with artist/clothing designer Barbara Bartels in the production of these objects - each one made to order and custom designed and created for a specific woman. Every dress is created as the result of a commission and is intended for wear by one unique woman. The pattern is created for her particular measurements and 'considered as an artistic expression of the wearer - individuality will persist.' (quote taken from Anatomica publicity material kindly supplied by Mona Kelly).

While there is a definite cohersion of line, graphic quality, and materials in these garments, the range of color and value contrast is stunning. All of the garments i saw consisted of a silk charmeuse or crepe 'core' with overlays of chiffon. Additionally, the dyes are overlaid one upon another, as well as the various screen prints. The jubilant, exuberant use of overlapping prints (all done by hand) is especially joyous in the piece above. The marvelous thing is that this layer upon layering of images is just as 'deep' in the more subtle pieces - they draw you in to try to spy the shadows of pods, leaves, cross sections hidden in the folds of fabric.

I neglected to get certain pictures ( i was so overwhelmed!) and for that i apologize. Each of these dresses had a feature i'll try to convey to you now. On the 'core' pieces of the dress is printed, in shadow grey with fuzzy edges, a head and shoulders silhouette of the artist himself. You can only 'find' it by holding the layers against one another and holding the whole garment up against the light. It's difficult to imagine anything more delightful than a dress which leads you on a treasure hunt to find it's subtle charms; and how very different from the many 'over the top', put-it-all-out-there creations of today. Mr. Keller and Ms. Bartels truly grasp the mystery of dressing and seduction.

The overall silhouette of these designs is fairly simple, flowing and unfussy, allowing the whims of the fabric drape, the color, and the design to shine.  The detail and quality of this printing is exquisite. The screen printed patterns on these garments really draw you in - the colors and shapes are so intriguing and striking from a distance, but you can't quite make out what they are depicting. Upon closer inspection you discern that some of these patterns are taken from botanical illustrations, though many retain their mystery no matter how close you get.

This luxury carries over into the construction. Anatomica garments are sewn by a high end lingerie company, in order to make sure that no sloppy edge finishes or zipper insertions take away from the color, drape, line. I haven't had the pleasure of owning any designer clothing. But i can tell you the particular  zipper applications on these dresses i've only seen on clothing in the Chanel boutique on Maiden Lane.

Tobin Keller is the Director of the Cabrillo Gallery at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA. Mr. Keller has been screen printing for decades, always maintaining an interest in overlaying a variety of images. Barbara Bartels has recently shifted her focus from her decades-long career in clothing design and fashion illustration to drawing and painting. While Anatomica is only about a year old, as it turns out Tobin Keller has had a long term 'fun' passion with costume making. Who knows what spark leapt between the two various parts of his creative mind and set the 'wearable art' fire ablaze. Who can tell what kismet led Barbara Bartels to say yes to this project. I can only be thrilled that it did! And that BiBa decided to display these gorgeous pieces in the morning sun.

Anatomica pieces were featured at BiBa boutique for one week in late October, 2011. This post made possible by BiBa boutique (permission to photograph) and Manager/Buyer Mona Kelly (background materials). Thank you!

Tobin Keller website:

Barbara Bartels website:

Clean & Contemporary European-style Fashions and Accessories
211 Forest Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950


  1. Oh, how totally fabulous. Yet another thing to covet...

  2. Cynthia, these dresses would be really beautiful on you! Now i feel terrible, as they would blow your budget big-time :)

    Fortunately it's easy to appreciate them in the abstract as well!! steph

  3. Beautiful fabric! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Stunningly beautiful! Your descriptions are as elegant as the garments.

  5. The name of the store doesn't have anything to do with the '60s clothing line Biba, right?

  6. Thank you Anon for commenting!

    Judith, you would smolder in any one of these gowns... but the red one and the pinky-rose (in the second pic next to the purple top) - oh my goodness! & of course a hat!!!!

    Hi Wendy! i am pretty sure it doesn't - you can read about the boutique where these were shown at my post here:

    i will ask Mona Kelly next we 'talk'.

    Happy Monday All! steph

  7. Those are totally heavenly - I love that green dress!

  8. Wow, these are truly stunning. I'm with Sheila -- the green one is my favorite!