Dressing the body

︎ Introduction
︎ Concept / Research
︎ Unfolding the body
︎ Under Construction 

Click on a video and scroll down to learn about the development of an individual garment. 

︎ Contact

Concept / Research

Theoretical Context

The Invention of Pattern as a Template for the Body
Since the 16th century European tailors have been developing the tailoring method of cutting garments: using flat, shaped pieces as a starting point. The relatively new possibilities created by the invention of the printing press allowed tailors to share and distribute their expertise and method. With the introduction of patterns, tailors now had a method of notation through which they could document ways of cutting. Focus shifted away from working on the body with fabric and towards working with the pattern. Using pattern, cutting knowledge could be spread through trade journals and guides which were used in training. Consequently, tailors started working with an abstraction of the body: a template. These patterns could be modified in order to create new styles and garment types. The ease and agility with which patterns could be shared, altered and refined did come at a cost: tailors became alienated from the body. There was no longer a need for the body to be physically present in cutting work).

The Metric Pattern System
The current pattern paradigm is the metric pattern system. In this pattern system we use something called a tailoring matrix: a method of drafting pattern using horizontal and vertical measurements taken from the body. These horizontal and vertical lines are translated to a grid on paper which forms the basis for the pattern. The three dimensionality of the body is translated into basic pattern blocks, abstracting the body to flat shapes which “are a mathematical extraction of a spatial knowledge that is systematized so that it is reproducible and can be sharedthe spatially moving body is abstracted into a series of fixed numbers, and from these, a diagram of guidelines is drawn on a flat surface, and pattern pieces are drafted within this tailoring matrix” (Lindqvist).

The Crafted Body
Dressing the body is an important cultural practice in all human cultures known to us. Our understanding of our body is framed by our experience of the body in its dressed state. Therefore the way we dress bodies is both symptomatic of and responsible for the way we think about and perceive bodies.  As Bernard Rudofsky shows, our perception of our actual bodies can be formed based on the abstracted version of our bodies which are captured in the last and the pattern. This relates to the way in which a pre-defined concept or identity can inform our understanding of the world, before we even engage with the world itself. The living, breathing body is much more than its mathematical approximation in pattern, yet when designing clothing we are referring to the abstracted body in pattern, rather than the concrete physical body.

Taken from “Kinetic Garment Construction: Remarks on the Foundations of Pattern Cutting”, Rickard Lindqvist

Taken from “Are Clothes Modern”, Bernard Rudfsky

Taken from “Are Clothes Modern”, Bernard Rudofsky

How do I make garments based on the concrete body rather than a schematized approximation of the body?

Stagnant vs dynamic concepts
In a pre-defined system of making patterns the concept of the body is a fixed thing: it exists in Merleau-Ponty’s sphere of Parole Parlée. In order to make patterns in a way which is dynamic rather than stagnant we should return again and again to the physical body before abstracting this into patterning. By reinterpreting the body each time we make pattern, we can exist in the sphere of Parole Parlante. By referring to a body each time we create clothing, we also reject the notion that all bodies are just different instances of essentially the same thing: accounting for the notion of difference.

Description of working and research method
When using pre-defined standard patterns we base the garment on an abstract idea of the body. The way in which shape is created is based on the 2D logic of the fabric and the pattern. This is then translated into a 3D shape which emulates a schematized version of the body. My aim is to reverse this so that not the flat shape but the physical, living body is the starting point of the garment.

I am creating my own patterns by loosely wrapping the body in foil and using tiny pieces of tape to ‘copy’ the shape of the body. After taking this ‘mould’ of the body I use the Shingo Sato Transformational Reconstruction patterning method to translate the 3D shape into flat pattern pieces. In this stage, the ‘unfolded body’ is something like a basic pattern which shares a strong resemblance to the glove which sparked this research. These pattern pieces I will treat as I would normally treat a basic pattern. That is, they are the basic shapes from which I create different volumes and garments.

Choice of garment types
Although these patterns could be used to create any kind of garment, I am choosing to use them to create instantly recognizable, contemporary or classical pieces: a T-shirt, 5 pocket jeans, a denim jacket, the Little Black Dress as introduced by Coco Chanel in 1927, a wool waistcoat with pleated trousers and a cotton blouse. This presents me with a challenge: executing the visual language and construction of these items using my anatomical patterns.

Difference and Repetition

A garment which is based on one person’s body will always fit differently on different bodies. In a standardized pattern the body is reduced to an average body to assure the ‘best’ possible fit for as many bodies as possible. In the metric pattern paradigm a good fit is considered to be a fit with as little creasing, folding and tension in the fabric as possible. A pattern which is based on a specific body and its unique dimensions being worn a different body emphasizes the simple fact that each body is a unique thing, rather than just another instance of essentially the same categorical thing. By making clothing based on real, physical bodies I am rejecting the idea of the body as a pre-defined concept.