Barbecued gowns: Natalie Chanin grills dresses low 'n' slow for her artwork

Barbecued gowns: Natalie Chanin grills dresses low 'n' slow for her artwork

July 23rd, 2013 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Natalie Chanin at work designing for her new kitchen line, which she is developing in partnership with Heath Ceramics in Sausalito, Calif.

Photo by Photo by Heath Ceramics

Natalie Chanin displays her barbecued bridal gowns on box springs as a nod to an old rural-South way of barbecuing. "Sometimes people would just dig a hole in the ground, throw the bedsprings over the hole and cook the hog on the bedsprings."

Natalie Chanin displays her barbecued bridal gowns on...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.


Natalie Chanin attended Red Bank High School as a sophomore, then transferred to Notre Dame High School for her junior and senior years in 1977-79.

She is founder and creative director of Alabama Chanin in Florence, Ala., and her work has been featured in Vogue, Time, New York Times and Town & Country.

A member of the invitation-only Council of Fashion Designers of America, she was a 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and selected for the 2010 Global Triennial exhibition, "Why Design Now?" by the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York.

Sources:, Waterhouse Public Relations


What: Natalie Chanin exhibition, part of Crafted by Southern Hands series

Where: Warehouse Row, 1110 Market St., through August

Admission: Free



• Thursday: Opening reception, 1110 Market St., Motor Court between Warehouse Row buildings, 6-8 p.m. Party sponsored by Southern Hands includes cocktails, beer, food from Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q.

• Friday-Saturday: Trunk Show, Amanda Pinson Jewelry, 1110 Market St., Warehouse Row South Building, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; noon-4 p.m. Saturday.

• Saturday: Natalie Chanin and staff of Alabama Chanin lead A sewing workshop; participants will learn her method of hand-stitching and how to sew reverse appliqués. Warehouse Row event space, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., $475 includes all materials for take-home project and lunch catered by Public House. Reservation deadline is today. Register online at

Being invited to show her work at the Southern Foodways Alliance was a high honor and huge challenge for fashion designer Natalie Chanin, so she knew she needed to come up with something unusual.

"The symposium in Oxford, Miss., takes place over three days. It's where some of the most creative, interesting and impressive food people from not only the South but around the world converge," she explains. "Each year they have a theme, and last year it was barbecue."

Chanin cooked up a couture fashion display so unexpected that it's still being talked about a year later.

"It occurred to me that we should just barbecue some dresses because pitmasters would be there. The dresses would be infused with the smell of barbecue. It seemed to me the most straightforward thing in the world," she says, laughing during a phone interview from her studio in Florence, Ala.

Chanin, a former Chattanoogan, is bringing her hickory-smoked bridal gowns to town Thursday as part of the Crafted by Southern Hands culture showcase in Warehouse Row. It marks the first time Chanin's art collection has been shown anywhere since its creation for the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium last year. The gowns will remain on display through late August, according to Taylor Hartley, event spokeswoman.

Chanin designed and sewed the wedding gowns from 100 percent organic cotton. Next she visited the owner of Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q in Birmingham, Ala.

"He's a friend of mine. I think the conversation happened over a beer or two and he was like, 'Oh, yeah!'" she laughs. "We wrote a recipe for a barbecued dress."

Their recipe: Smoke the gowns at 170 degrees for 18 hours, rolling low and slow on revolving grills.

Amazingly, her idea didn't go up it flames -- literally, cotton gowns! -- but achieved a nice char for barbecued perfection.

"Honestly, when we put them in, we didn't know what was going to happen. But the dresses took on these amazing hues depending on how they were folded, how the smoke got to them. The colors were incredible and they have a very deep, smoky smell."

At the symposium, Chanin displayed her smoking hot gowns on metal bedsprings -- a nod to the rural tradition of barbecuing meat on bedsprings over a hole dug in the ground.

In addition to the art exhibition of her gowns in Chattanooga, Chanin will hold a trunk show at Amanda Pinson Jewelers and lead a sewing workshop.

"We carry her basic wrap in beautiful colors. It's a lightweight wrap that you can wear or fold up in your bag," says Pinson. "I understand that she will bring her new line, called The Basics, for the trunk show. The same fabric we carry in the wraps, she'll have [in] T-shirts and all types of tops."

Chanin also is hosting a workshop on Saturday to teach her method of hand-stitching and how to sew reverse appliqués.

"We've taught 10-year-old girls how to sew at these workshops," says Chanin. "We usually work on reverse appliqué. People who cross-stitch and do embroidery love this workshop."

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.