By Pamela Pyms
Hendersonville’s annual Olde-Fashioned Christmas had more variety this year, thanks to Simone Wood. Most people know Wood as a studio artist with Art MoB Studios & Marketplace, where her lovely watercolor bird paintings are on display. But painting isn’t her only talent.
Last year, she got the idea to bring the 1850s to life by creating clothing worn during that time. “It’s amazing what our ancestors had to go through every morning just to get dressed,” Wood says. The idea to bring fun and authenticity to the holiday street fair was sparked a collectible book called Godey’s Lady’s Book, published in 1849, which Wood discovered in a Goodwill store.
Recreating stunning costumes of the period seemed like a fun project for her and her mother, Alma. “The first outfit took about two weeks to make,” she says, “The first year, it was just Michele (owner of Art MoB), myself and my husband wearing them, but this past year there were eight of us, mainly friends and family, including Mom. I learned so much from making the costumes. It was important to know the steps involved in how the clothing goes on as well.”
Although Wood learned how to sew when she was quite young, the detail that went into the costumes was a whole new experience. Just learning how to cut the fabric to make sure there was enough room for the bustle was a challenge. She explains the kidney-shaped bustle (without which gowns and trains would be stepped on all night long) needs to sit over the derrière. Then there is a petticoat and a crinoline underskirt, depending on how much fullness is needed, not to mention snaps, ties and buttons. She fully researched the period’s clothing, finding details from Pinterest and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume department.
Wood’s life has been filled with art. Growing up in Cato, NY, she wanted to be an artist from the third grade. At 19 she went to work for a small floral designer in Syracuse where she was told she had no talent and then fired. The small disgrace did not hold her back as she decided no one would ever define her again. She landed in another floral shop where she ended up competing and judging floral shows up and down the east coast, Colorado and California. That career lasted 32 years and ended at The Biltmore’s floral department.
Wood moved to Asheville 12 years ago when her husband, a pilot for American Airlines, had to transfer. Asheville topped the list, and Simone has embraced it ever since, particularly the art community. “Here at Art MoB, we are like a close-knit family,” she says. “We bounce ideas off each other, and plan events to help other emerging artists.”
She wants everyone to admire the reproduction garments, without looking too closely for traces of the glue gun or stitches not quite right. “We want the Olde-Fashioned Christmas to be a big part of Art MoB for years to come, and maybe next Christmas we will have more volunteers and even more costumes on display. We are in hopes of inspiring both locals and visitors to come to our shop,” says Wood.
Art MoB Studios & Marketplace is located at 124 4th Avenue East. For more information, visit ArtMobStudios.com or call 828.693.4545. To hear more of the conversation, visit TheLaurelofAsheville.com/podcasts/conversations-simone-wood.