For this assignment we were required to select an item from a given list that we would then spend the next 6 weeks examining, de constructing and then reconstruct in a whole new way.
I knew that I wanted to work with textiles because of how much I enjoyed the previous textiles project and felt like this would be a good opportunity to indulge myself in what is the field I want to go on to study. The only textiles item on the list was a jumper but I didn’t think I could get as much out of it as I could other items so I decided to bend the rules and hunt through a charity shop to find something that would give me more scope.
It was in the charity shop that I came across a suit jacket which I instantly wanted to work with. The structured form, bold lines and masculine connotations gave me my first insight into what direction I wanted to take this project. Through exploration of gender stereotypes within fashion and the history behind this I was going to de construct this traditionally male garment and reconstruct it into something delicately feminine. This project would not only push the boundaries of my textiles, fashion design and pattern cutting abilities but also my contextual and research skills which was a challenge I was eager to take on.
A history of the suit
During the 1920’s menswear became more casual, in comparison to the previous era, with sportswear being introduced as acceptable daytime attire. A shorter suit jacket, popularised by icons such as Charlie Chaplin and Al Capone, began to phase out the frock jacket that had been fashionable since the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The jacket was often teamed with a waistcoat and could be worn for daytime or business dress. Despite the changes that the suit jacket saw over the following decades it is the style of the 20’s that modern suit jackets are based upon today.
A 1920’s advert showing the style of men’s suit’s that we still use today
The 1930’s brought the dawn of the golden age of cinema and with it came a wave of influential role models plastered across the screens and billboards. It wasn’t just the women wanting to look like movie stars, the men also strived to recreate the styles they saw on the big screen with icons like Clarke Gable and Henry Fonda. The ‘drape cut’ or ‘London drape’ suits became increasingly popular with their looser more comfortable fit, tapered around the wrists and ankles.
An example of the looser fitted 1930’s suit
Expectedly the second world war impacted the world of fashion in the 1940’s greatly. With rationing enforced there was no room for expansive garments consuming more fabric then they needed and so the wider styled suits of the 30’s quickly got nipped into sleeker styles. Tightly fitted with straight cut lines, these minimalistic suits were often made from grey flannel which was very popular at the time. This trend of suits was reinforced by stars like Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart.
Fabric saving suits of the 40’s
The 1950’s meant the end of the war and of rationing and so the comfortability of looser styled suits came back into play. This allowed for freer movement and easier dancing to the popular swing music. With fabric once again accessible suits became double breasted with wide shoulders and turn up’s were introduced to the bottom of baggy trousers. Designers indulged themselves by using richer fabrics, in particular velvet for the breasts of suits worn by ‘Teddy Boys’.
Wide shoulders and turned up trousers
Moving onto the swinging 60’s where The Beatles rocked the mod look of skinny suits and drainpipe trousers. This era was one where the working class and the newly found ‘teenagers’ were centre stage and it was very important to get the look just right, even if it meant carrying a comb with you wherever you went.
The influential band The Beatles in their tight fitted suits
The 1970’s and the era of Disco brought us something brand new in the form of flared trousers and exaggerated lapels along with bold and vibrant coloured suits. Some may say this is not necessary a good thing as this era is among the most criticised for it’s fashion choices but it was an important one as it pushed boundaries and allowed for maximum experimentation, something that star David Bowie took full advantage of.
David Bowie embracing the opportunity to experiment with fashion
Opposing the power-dressed minions of Wall Street, Giorgio Armarni used the film American Gigolo as a platform to launch a new silhouette of men’s suits. He did this through removing the lining and padding and by using softer, more flexible fabrics, instigating a new trend of suit for the 80’s.
Armarni’s trend inspiring suit from the film American Gigolo
The minimalistic era of the 90’s led to matte black, sleek suits with white shirts and skinny black ties. This was encompassed by the film Reservoir Dogs and embraced by many teenage boys and young men wanting to recreate this ‘cool without trying’ look.
A well know scene from the iconic movie Reservoir Dogs
Women’s fashion tells an intriguing story of their fight for independence and equal rights. We can see this through the development and adaptation of fashion in response to politics and sociological changes.
Historically a women’s role, particularly within the upper class, was one of looking pretty and drinking tea. As this didn’t require much physical activity their outfits were often constrictive and impractical. Corsets were used to enhance their womanly hourglass figure, but came with there own complications and in some cases even led to fatalities. As you can see from the image bellow the corset underwent a series of developments in order to modify a woman’s silhouette in accordance to what was deemed fashionable at the time.
From the start of the 20th century fashion began to adapt to more simplistic designs, but it wasn’t until the revolutionary decade of the 1920’s, led by fashion designers such as Coco Channel, that men and women’s fashion really began to evolve. Freed from the constraints of corsets women embraced new boyish silhouettes and expanded their wardrobes to include shorter skirts and trousers.
1920’s women embracing their lose fitted dresses
Examining my item
I began to look at my item, photographing it from different angles as it hung of the mannequin showing it’s own natural form as opposed to being manipulated by the person wearing it. I noted the angular frame and defined edges.
My next step was to see it being worn so I enlisted some ‘volunteers’. I wanted to seen it worn by people of different sizes, shapes and genders in order to gain the best understanding of it qualities.