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


The glove
Autumn 2018 I bought a vintage pair of leather women’s gloves at the Rotterdam flea market. Something about the way they were made struck me; they were constructed of many different panels which were made to fold around and into the different slopes and creases of the wearers hand. There was a main panel which enveloped the hand and covered the inner and outer sides of the four fingers. In this panel was a hole to which the thumb panel was attached, using a small panel in between which was no more than 4 millimetres wide. Tiny pieces like this were used all over in the glove in order to accommodate movement and the transition between different volumes. As a result of this construction the glove rather realistically mimicked a human hand. I decided to take the glove apart and while I ripped open one seam after the other I saw before me the unfolding of this human shape. I could not sleep that night.

Pattern as abstracted body
The story of the leather glove is exemplary of a subject that I find fascinating: the way the human body is reflected in the clothing we wear. Contemporary garment construction is often based on a standardized system of patternmaking. Fashion designers generally create clothing based on ‘basic patterns’ which are 2D shapes which function as a basic ‘mould’ from which different volumes can be created. These ‘ground patterns’ are supposed to emulate the human body in a way that is as simple as possible while remaining as accurate as possible. The pattern is like a last which exists not in the physical sense but only as an abstract concept. Even when a garment is not made from these exact patterns, the designer’s understanding of the body and clothing construction is often rooted in this system of patternmaking.

The dangers of abstraction
There is something eerie about reducing the human body to a flat shape, a set of data. The clothing we wear is based not on our physical bodies but on the abstraction of our bodies that is the pattern. There are some dangers in the abstraction of the world, especially when applied to ourselves. Our understanding of human anatomy is not only represented in but also informed by dress. When the way we come to understand things is not based on their concrete presence but on a pre-defined, simplified definition of them, we are in danger of losing a wealth of nuance, diversity, complexity and dimension.

In my research project at large I have focused on the question What are the problems with current ways of seeing and dressing the body and how is this related to pattern? I will briefly discuss the main points of my theoretical research on the Concept / Research page. The main focus of this website however is the more practical question How can I develop and use an alternative pattern method which goes beyond a schematized notion of the human body?