Weird politics, urban visions and fairy mysticism are the terms custom clothing designer Julie Chambers uses to describe her clothing line, RAG (Radical Angry Girls), and those are as appropriate a description as any. Clothes to Make Revolution Fun, as she likes to put it. She sells through IndyIndie.com, displays at various outlets and alternative music festivals. Julie Chambers in her handmade 'Revolution' skirt, along with other examples of her work.
"When I started making clothes I really had no money and used whatever materials I had, trying to make what I owned more interesting," Chambers says. "How can I make it more 'me'? And then over the last two years I've made it into more of an artform, and over the last two years more of a political form."
She's continued to develop her theories about communication, clothing and the body in the meantime.
"Your body is the first billboard you're given and the first way you had to communicate with the world," Chambers says. "This is just an extension of that, a shortcut to letting your opinions be heard and seen. You use something loud or something subtle, you'll get somebody else to think about something without having to have a conversation at all times. It's like reading a book in the condensed way."
Her interest in politically-themed clothing stems from an intense frustration with the increasing unpleasantness of the political scene in the last two years.
"I always try to balance the political activism with the fun side," Chambers says. "But lately I have to be vocal. I'm in a position where I'm going to lose my civil liberties, not just within the gay and lesbian community, but as a woman, as an artist, as a self-employed individual."
Her repeated theme of Revolution is an encouragement towards not any one cause, but revolution within self: "I'm encouraging people to act through new ideas, action, talking to your legislator. It's all going to change the world, one piece at a time."
Her work tends to be slyly and subversively humorous. One of her favorite bits of irony is using her Revolution icons on Army- and Navy-issued clothing.
"I'm going to be in the peace movement and make my art out of military wear!" she says. "And they're also very good clothes; they hold paint really well, and they last a long time."
And then there's her deconstruction projects. Her whole approach to fashion tends to involve tearing apart old clothing and rebuilding it in a whole new way, whether it be party skirts with "Revolution" stenciled on them or combining pants and neckties (which works out better than it sounds).
"I love taking things that aren't quite acceptable and tweaking them and making them acceptable. I like to play with people's sense of normalcy and stereotypes."
Her ambitions include moving into designing fashion for individuals and to continue trying to bring people together in an art co-op.
"What we need here is an inexpensive, multimedia space where people are comfortable hanging out. Where kids are encouraged to be there and express themselves. Because there's a lot of isolation in this town."