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Material Girl

At first glance, designer Catherine Chow seemed to be sporting the sort of tight, stripe-y sweater that can be found anywhere from the J. Crew catalog to a trendy boutique. Look a little more closely, though, and it’s clear the top is not your...

At first glance, designer Catherine Chow seemed to be sporting the sort of tight, stripe-y sweater that can be found anywhere from the J. Crew catalog to a trendy boutique. Look a little more closely, though, and it’s clear the top is not your typical hand-washable knit.

Chow, a Chicago artist/designer who goes by the name “Cat Chow,” was wearing one of her own creations called “Conversation Piece,” a rainbow-striped top made of telephone wire.

“Incorporating everyday objects into my work makes it interesting,” said Chow, whose collection of wearable art is featured at the Chicago Cultural Center through November 3.

Chow, 29, who studied costume design at Northwestern University in Evanston, started working with unusual materials when she created chain mail-accessories for renaissance-fair actors. Soon enough, she’d moved on to a pants suit made of Astroturf, a dress made of Nokia cell phone covers and a quilted jacket made out of blue Kleenex. Her most recent creation is a V-neck sleeveless evening gown made of 1,000 donated $1 bills. George Washington peers out from the middle of the dress.

“It’s taken so long to do,” said the admittedly perfectionist Chow, estimating that she worked 40 hours a week for 8 weeks to complete the dress. Now that’s what we call a serious fashion investment.

Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, (312) F-I-N-E-A-R-T.

This story first appeared in the October 9, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.