Tanya Williams Wetenhall’s career spans the performing arts, costume studies, museums, and diplomacy. She has managed US tours of foreign dance companies, as well as individual artists touring Europe; directed fashion shows; worked as a cultural liaison for special interest groups visiting Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe; and was a Specialist for the government of The United States at the US embassies in Moscow and Rome. Her recent projects include researching and designing museum exhibitions pertaining to costume history, design and the performing arts, in the US and abroad, as well as consulting for museums. Wetenhall holds an M.A. in Fashion and Textile Studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY) and has taught in FIT's graduate program and in the graduate costume studies program at New York University. She has developed and taught courses on period styles, the history of the performing and visual arts of Russia, ballet history, and has lectured and written on elements of Russian costume.
Zawadi: On Wednesday, February 26th I got to sit down with the amazing Tanya Wetenhall and have a coffee chat about her life and career. From the get go Mrs. Wetenhall was extremely open and friendly, she was bursting with energy and ready to share. We started all the way back at one of her first real fashion jobs with a major designer in the industry at the time. She said they hired her because of how fast she could find her pen and notepad in her purse, showing how organized she is. From this experience she taught me that fashion is a very judgmental industry. Nothing goes overlooked.
Ms. Wetenhall also shared her experiences with travel. Some of the places she has traveled include London, Russia, Paris, and Italy. She shared how each place had a distinct sense of fashion, which was a direct reflection of their culture. I was not aware how diplomatic that not just fashion, but also the arts was globally. When art is showcased for one nation to another it can be very political. From her I learned, that especially in this generation a culture will appeal to or mock other cultures rather than showcasing their own, this is largely due to the shipping of the manufacturing of goods overseas, as well as the Internet and is why we now see universal trends.
But no matter how new these trends may seem, Ms. Wetenhall being a teacher of Fashion History at GWU, shared that fashion always repeats itself. Sometimes without even knowing it we are reflecting and recycling styles from the past. I asked her for advice for a young person, like myself, interested in fashion. Some major points were to study classical art by going to museums and understanding major art styles. By building a visual database I could immediately see where a work of fashion may have gotten its influence from, and be aware of my inspirations. She also stressed the importance of knowing textiles and understanding the way the industry worked. One might have to start small, like she did as an assistant and work their way up as she did to achieve all that she has today!