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Body Ornament, 1966

Arline Fisch

Look closely at this dramatic work of wearable art from MAD’s permanent collection. Consider how jewelry changes the way we feel and move through the world and create your own “body ornament” out of found objects in this object lesson for learners and makers of all ages.


Inspired by textile traditions from around the world, Arline Fisch works at a larger scale than most jewelry artists.  Her designs often blur the boundaries between jewelry and garments.

  • What is the first thing that comes to mind when looking at this object?
  • Please describe the work in as much detail as possible. Pay attention to color, line, shape, texture, and materials.
  • Do the shapes remind you of anything you have seen before?
  • What do you think the function of this object is?


Arline Fisch’s Body Ornament is a dramatic piece of wearable art consisting of a black silk gown worn under two sculpted silver panels (front and back), which hang over the wearer’s shoulders.

  • Imagine wearing this piece. What would it feel like on your body?
  • What would it be like to move around while wearing it? Would it prompt you to move differently? Please explain.
  • Would the appearance of the piece change once somebody moves around in it? How?


Artist Arline Fisch was inspired to create Body Ornament when she saw a collection of traditional jewelry from nomadic cultures in Mongolia. Moving from place to place, Mongol women would wear the family’s wealth on their bodies in the form of hats with hanging elements and  jewelry pieces drifting all the way down their backs.

  • Body adornments play an important role in many different cultures. Can you think of any other examples of traditional jewelry (headdresses, masks, dance costumes and regalia)?
  • In what way are they similar to or different from Arline Fisch’s wearable sculpture?
  • Why do you think so many modern and contemporary artists have been attracted to artwork from cultures other than their own?
  • Do you think it is ok to “borrow” ideas and imagery from other cultures? Why? Why not?


Arline Fisch also found inspiration for this work in looking at pictures of hydromedusae, jellyfish with elaborately shaped tentacles.

What will inspire you?

  • Create your own body ornament out of string, paper, wire, feathers, or any found objects (paper cups, plastic cutlery, bottlecaps, rubber bands, etc.).
  • How will you attach individual elements?
  • Consider the way in which the your finished design will interact with your body and your movements.

Arline M. Fisch
Body Ornament, 1966
Sterling silver, synthetic crepe, and silk
Front: 45 x 121⁄4 in. (114.3 x 31.1 cm); back: 41 x 41⁄2 in. (104.1 x 11.4 cm);
vestment: 53 x 151⁄2 in. (134.6 x 39.4 cm)
Museum of Arts and Design, Gift of the Johnson Wax Company through the American Craft Council, 1977

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