A dynamic theory of the body

Chapter 3.2

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What we find here is that, instead of taking the construction methods of contemporary clothing – with its standard block pat­terns drawn from the tailoring matrix or its dress-stands used within draping as reference points for shape creation, as in the second list – the first list presents us with questions directly related to the body. How does fabric react to the body? Where does it drape? How does it fall? What happens to the fabric when the body moves?

Considering the biomechanical functions of the body and the way that the fabric interacted with the living body in ancient ways of dressing, in both full cloth wrap dressing, rectangular-cut garments and in Sevin-Doering’s work, have presented an alternative relationship between the body and dress. This induction was in parts done through reverse engineering and design recovery of these garment types. Reverse engineering is a process of analysing a system to create representations of the system at a higher level of abstraction, so as to bring about new development (Chikofsky 1990). Thus, design recovery may be understood as a subset to reverse engineering in which recovery means: reproducing all of the information that is required for a person to fully understand what a system (or a design programme) does, how it does it, why it does it, and so forth – as explained by Biggerstaff (1989). By quoting principal parts of Sevin-Doering’s work, various representative types of garments were recreated on a live body by using the same working method that she had instructed me in. In this manner, a visual hypothesis for a kinetic or biomechanical theory for garment construction took form, what Bacon terms a ‘First Vintage’. This hypothesis was then refined through concrete experimentation while the human kinetic construction method was developed(as illustrated in Chapter 4).

Three-dimensional sketches for the First Vintage on miniature wooden dolls.

The directions in the hypothesis suggest the places on the body where the fabric 'wants' to fall and where it may be draped so as to neither fall off the body nor restrain its movements. These lines are not suggestions for where to place seams, nor are they guides for where to measure the body, but, rather, proposals for how the fabric may be draped around the body. The way in which the fabric falls and the places where it 'breaks' or folds also highlights certain points towards which cuts in the fabric are supposed to be directed in order to construct garments that move along with the body and create shapes relating to the body. As distinct from conventional draping, in this case, the ‘break-lines’ are not just ‘beautiful’ lines that exist because of how a fabric hangs when it is draped based on the traditional grid. Instead, these marginalised, ‘beautiful’ break-lines are, in themselves, part of the fundamental structure – a grid – of a more dynamic approximation of the body.

Three-dimensional sketches for the First Vintage on half-scale (top row) and full-scale (bottom row) dress-stands.

This is a system of qualitative measurements – i.e., one that studies how fabric drapes on a living body – that are created to explain and achieve what cannot be accessed through quantitative measurements, i.e., numeric measurements that can easily be compared and used for various calculations; therefore, it is a radically different approximation of the body for garment construction. Thus, it is also a theoretical foundation that emphasizes the expression and biomechanical functions of the body rather than the pattern. It proposes an alternative way of understanding the relationship between the body and the fabric in order to allow for not previously seen aesthetic developments in dress, both functional and expressional.

The First Vintage – a rough conclusion of the causes, visualised as lines and points of a more interactive approximation of the body – induced from the lists of cases.

The principal difference between the prevalent theory of the tailoring matrix and this human kinetic construction theory is that the latter is derived directly from how the fabric interacts with the living body instead of being derived from measurements of a static body. As such, this biomechanical construction theory proposes an alternative model for garment construction.

Snapshot from photo studio during photo and draping session.
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