My Interpretation of a Liberation Skirt

10 June 2020

This is my initial response to the Marijke Bongers “Liberation Skirt Challenge ” (click to read about the Project).

Liberation Concept


In striving to become independent from – to liberate from – corrupt clothing manufacturing corporations, I want to create a skirt:

  • with mostly materials from my garden in the high desert of Arizona;
  • that is beautiful;
  • the fabrics are re-used (upcycled);
  • the process of creating colors to the garment does not add to pollution of the earth.


  • Each panel of the skirt is dyed by a plant that grows in our yard or around it. Most of these plants have unique healing properties with which the fabric is imbued. I am in enormous Reverence of these plants and the Gifts they offer to Life.
  • Each plant has a story. “Plants are indelible storytellers.” Sasha Duerr
  • Plant stories: a silkscreened print or part of the plant from which the color came. Silkscreen ink made from a botanical ink I make from plant in the yard.
  • Plant stories: Written/embroidered name/place/meaning or traditional story of plant.
  • I will do the sewing by hand. Human creative energy.
  • I’m trying to make the skirt reversible. The back of objects is often so beautiful. Maybe on the back I can write the stories.
  • The shirt will have an optional “petticoat” that holds hoops. I may make that an intentional other layer, partly seen though the outset skirt.
  • I want to acknowledge and honor the local Indigenous People who have used these dyes from plants in many ways and for many ages. I learned the basics from one of them.
  • I want to acknowledge and honor the people who, throughout ages, have been picking cotton under the worst of circumstances, including slavery.
  • The person wearing the skirt will be celebrating the concept of emerging from darkness to light: the victories, the gifts, the beauty, the goodness, and the creativity of Nature.

What I aim to Achieve with the Skirt

The garment/fashion industry has one of the largest carbon footprints on the globe. It hugely overexploits natural resources, causes immense pollution during the process from farm to final product people get from the store racks. The production of garments contributes to health problems from massive use of toxic chemicals and pesticides (hugely poisonous and wasteful dyeing processes), waste water releases to the ocean, destruction of ecosystems, exploitation and oppression of farmers and of workers and factory workers/seamstresses and the transportation to warehouses and stores.

The garment industry is a large player in human rights and fair trade, international development, fashion’s ecological impacts and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly to be achieved by 2030). The manufacturing of garments need to strongly consider environmental protection, responsible production and sustainable consumption. Read Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-Up [PDF].

Also this: Clothing is Political:

For all these processes, most garments are not even worn are than once! …

“These days, more than 60% of our wearable fabric fibers are synthetic, derived from fossil fuels, and not designed to last in quality or style. That’s completely unnecessary, and I’d love to challenge that narrative. When I’m in my studio, even though it’s such a small scale, I dream about changing how we consider the way we clothe ourselves, the values we hold as a society, and the opportunities that surround us we haven’t taken the time to explore.” — Mary Diaz

Click for Source

Our skins are the largest organ of our bodies. When we cover our skin with fabrics that are dyed with toxic chemicals, we slowly allow our skin to absorb these poisons. Click to read about Toxidity in our Clothes. Wearing a garment that is dyed with plants – and specifically medicinal plants – the garment can help heal or keep healthy the wearer (AyurVastra). The fabrics also can be infused with scents – such as those from herbs or fruits and wild plants.

Perhaps this Liberation Skirt will help making people aware of the devastating social, environmental, and health costs of mass-marketed clothing and the possibilities of creating garments that can actually contribute to the wearer’s health.

Skirt Design Concept

A plant seed presses through layers of darkness, but it uses these to come out and create a plant. This same idea needs to be remembered while we struggle through the utter darkness in the world to push our visions and dreams for the good of all.

The skirt design has darker layers at the bottom of the skirt, getting lighter to the top of the skirt, as the seed presses its stem and leaves to the top.

The skirt would look like an opening flower – the focus is Nature.

Skirt Story

The skirt will have pieces of fabric that show the story of their source. How?

For example, on each of the panels of the fabrics in the skirt, I will experiment with writing to show what plants or flowers were used to dyeing these fabrics. I will experiment with designing flower/plant stamps with dye that immersed that panel piece. Each of these plants has a history and human tradition, has medicinal or other useful gifts for other lives, and is meaningful as a life with a name and a purpose within Nature and the greater world. (Ethnobotany)

First Sketches

Mood Board

This mood can easily change!

Colors + Their Plant Sources

I plan to use samples of plant and mineral (pieces of iron and copper) dyes on re-used cotton in shades from dark brown to light cream, with yellows and oranges. Some red and white highlights. They may come from the following plants:

A Realization:

My fave colors to wear are blue and black. It is interesting that, as I make the colors for the skirt, I cannot totally decide what these colors will be, because at different times, different plants offer their colors. So I am listening to the plants to see what and when in the season they are offering, and letting me accept their gifts.

This makes me realize that this listening to what is right here around me is a way of limiting the infinite choices we have that can be overwhelming to a creative maker. It is also a challenge of balancing what I want to create is not just me – it is what is being offered in Nature right around me, helping me decide on the colors.

In addition to plants, I use water in which old copper pipe and iron nails have been soaking for long time, and oak galls from wasps.

Warning Frame for Social Distancing

To be responsible to others, the skirt will have a warning frame about 2 feet all around, to protect people by keeping distance in case the wearer of the skirt is asymptomatic for COVID-19. This frame is to be separate and sown into some kind of a petticoat that could be worn in social distancing, but taken off when not necessary. (To be more protective, I am considering designing a jacket with a hoop on the shoulders. And what about a mask? I can dance at the the Princess’ Ball.)

A soft wire frame will be part of the design. I’m thinking long twigs from Squawbush that grows in our garden.


Process + Techniques


  1. Make a small-seized model of skirt.
  2. Draw a pattern for the skirt. To Consider: make a sample from muslin.
  3. Gather the fabrics and measure if need for more dyeing of fabric.
  4. Lay out the fabric pieces. To Consider: cut on bias?
  5. Hand-sew them together, fit, and adjust.
  6. Make samples for embellishments.

That Hoop!

Even before I start the skirt, Marijke suggested that I start a trial hoop in 1/4 size. I am thinking of making a petticoat, and sew into it long twigs of squawbush (Rhus Trilobata, the local indigenous people used to make baskets).Idea: I could sew a thin muslin underskirt/petticoat, in which there would be bias tape-like places to slide long squawbush twigs into.

Having that inner skirt for the hoop frame actually opens a whole new opportunity for a layered design. I love the natural botanical designs or prints and the weathered wabi sabi – and yet also the modern futuristic geometric clean mod whatever designs. Now I’m thinking about using the bottom layer of my skirt – the one that has the 6 feet apart hoop – and I’m thinking of making that one a super clean modern design texture/print one that gets visible through holes on the outside orange silkscreen more traditional skirt layer. I can make it in a way that the under layer can be worn on top and show the more traditional design through its holes. So a reversible skirt! And yet as a whole it is beautiful. A challenging challenge!

So here’s my planning for a model:

I will get her dressed!


Since I want to test out my frozen botanical homemade pastes from last year, I will see how they still hold up in a silkscreen. I’m making some silkscreen tests, which I will use as samplers. I want to try lots of different techniques – especially some embroidery ones I am new to – but here are some of those silkscreen tests:

Cool Quotes

⁠⠀Sonia Guiñansaca:⠀

Clothing does not exist in a bubble removed from the rest of the world. Clothing is cultured. It is political. It is classed. It is intertwined with economics, ecology, migration, gender, and many other issues. I’ve noticed people talk about clothing and style only by focusing on the aesthetics of them. When we talk about clothes and style, we should talk about ethics—the responsibility of knowing how these clothing pieces came to be, not just for environmental rights, but also for their interconnectedness with wages, labor rights, and the safety of garment workers. What oceans, land, air, and humans have been impacted by your fashion? I’m not asking for folks to politicize clothing; I’m letting you know that it is already political. The clothes many of us have access to speak to income inequality, the fast fashion industry, capitalism’s disregard for environmental and ecological justice, and exploitative labor practices.⁠“⁠⠀


“For example, clothing is political because there is labor of human beings that creates these clothes. My mother and grandmother both have worked in these clothing factories. From 1995 to 1999, I remember going with my dad to pick up my mom at 35th Street and 8th Avenue from her factory job—one of the jobs available for her, an undocumented person. She was mistreated there, often not paid on time, and received wages that did not honor her labor. My grandma worked in a similar factory and still works in one in Queens.”⁠⠀


“Lastly, clothing as style, custom, tradition, and memory is political. For Indigenous and Black and Brown communities, this is important because it is about preserving our cultures, families, and traditions that the United States government and white supremacy have tried to erase and suppress through genocide, wars, forced assimilation, legislation, and racist intervention. This is how we archive and document. This is how we continue existing.”⁠⠀


#1: That Hoop – read HERE.

15 Replies to “My Interpretation of a Liberation Skirt”

Wow, what an excellent preparation! I can’t wait to see the result. I like the hoop idea because I love to create historical look-a-like dresses and hoops were very common then.

@Paulien – what was the purpose of hoops times ago?

Wow @monique…This is really breathtaking and astonishing! All your thoughts and preparation! Very inspiring! Thank you very much!

Thank you, @Mieke! And thank you for creating this beautiful site for our group to share ideas and works in progress. 🙏🏽 Fashion is a creature with a long and hidden tail….

I had some days focussing on my family and health and a project of XR so I had less time to have a look at this website. I will need some time to read it all again, but what an amazing work you have done! Thank you so so much for attending!I hope doing some playful samples will give you comfort and fun! I will defenitly talk about some idea’s tomorrow in the show and tell/ Q&A

Oh yes! Having fun! Will show the samples and my little model on the next blog installment.⧖💃🏽⧖

Diane Baker

Such a beautiful story and plan Monique! I appreciate you sharing it with us. I live in high desert in Colorado and have many of the same plants you describe. I have never dyed before and would love to learn with natural dyes. I do a lot of embroidery and am happy to share that with you. This group is amazing and better together for sure. This journey will be amazing! Congratulations on a beautiful beginning.

I love seeing the connections already growing and will be happy to give some ideas about plantdyeing too. I have done some classes with India Flint and read and reread her books. I have different plants around me, but have many books so we can learn and share the knowledge. I also have a paper on Ayurvastra and help a young women with her collection. (recycle the attic of her grandmother who had many real old white clothes) She studies Ayurveda. So all dots are joining into a beautiful pattern. Like Fibershed and Earthlogic-plan I believe in joining forces. I hope we can find or make a few new paths for people to follow.

Yes, yes, yes! We all are the threads, creating beautiful fabric. Would love to join threads with our new connections. Your help with the young woman’s collection sounds intrigueing!

Thank You, Diane! I do remember you from Zoom. I love Colorado. Perhaps some time we can get together and dye with our plants. Or we could do a small dyeing experiment on Zoom or Skype. Stay safe in the mountains – the fire season around Sedona has started. See you on Zoom tomorrow, yes?

Fabulous! Such a worthwhile project. Thanks for sharing your ideas and process.

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