Working With Difficult Materials: Part 2

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Garment images are from the project “The Garments May Vary” by Nadine Goepfert via Thisispaper»

As we began to discuss in the previous post, Working With Difficult Materials: Part 1», there are many strategies that you can adopt when designing and working with difficult fabrics. In this post we will discuss some tactics you can try to help you to experiment with how you sew the fabric and some ways to streamline your draping and pattern making processes as well.

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Working With Difficult Materials: Part 1

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Garment images are from the project “The Garments May Vary” by Nadine Goepfert via Thisispaper»

Some of the most eye catching new conceptual designs are made from surprising fabric choices that require new methods of construction. From creating the patterns through to sewing the seams there are a number of different approaches that you can try so that the design that you imagine does not become plagued by construction and process issues.

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Thom Browne’s Off The Body Tailoring

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Thom Browne, AW13, New York.

When the silhouette of a garment moves far enough away from the body, all the old pattern shapes become almost obsolete, and the garment needs to be dissected by a new set of panel lines. The Autumn-Winter 2013 collection by Thom Browne showed a perfect example of how traditional tailoring can be stylised to the point where new pattern cutting techniques are needed.

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Glitter Club at Christopher Shannon

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Christopher Shannon, Menswear, SS14, London.

The Spring-Summer 2014 collection by London designer Christopher Shannon was part candy coloured street styling and part monochrome deconstruction. Men’s wear classics like shirts, t-shirts, slouchy shorts and wind breakers were worked in chintzy florals, sheer rubber and denim, and all offset by hair caked in glitter.

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Black Volume at Viktor and Rolf

Viktor and Rolf, Couture, AW13, Paris.

The Autumn-Winter 2013 couture collection by Viktor and Rolf was an exploration of organic black shapes created by panelling generous volumes of fabric.

The collection provided a perfect example of how seam lines can be used to manipulate the shaping and volume of fabric. By inserting seam lines into fabric it means that you can increase and decrease the volume on each side of the seam line independently, causing half the garment to expand or contract as needed to create the desired silhouette.

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Shaping the Shoulder Curve: The Dropped Shoulder and the Set In Sleeve

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Antonio Marras, RST14, New York.

When pattern making any garment that crosses over from the shoulder to the arm, you need to consider the placement of seam lines and have an understanding of how the seam line placement will affect the shaping of patterns. The position of the armhole seam line, and the amount of volume in the pattern will have a large part to play in how the silhouette is created, and in how much movement there is in the armhole for the person wearing the garment.

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Blended Felting Techniques

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Alexander Wang, AW11, New York.

Felting is a fabric technique that can produce a variety of different effects depending on the method, from wet felting and nuno felting through to needle punch felting. There are many wonderful resources online that show quite craftsy looking projects using different felting methods, but don’t be put off by the projects themselves as the techniques can easily be adopted to create contemporary garments.

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Trims in Negative Space at Christopher Kane

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Christopher Kane, AW13, London.

We often think of trims and braids as something that goes on the outside of garments. We run trims around edges, sew them on top of seams and add them onto finished garments. There’s no reason though why we can’t make space for trims within the panelling of garments, taking advantage of windows of negative space. There was a nice detail in the Christopher Kane show for Autumn-Winter 2013 that serves as perfect inspiration for some new ways to approach trim details.

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Couture in Rubber and Denim at Margiela

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Maison Martin Margiela, Couture, AW13, Paris.

Never a label to play by the rules, the Maison Martin Margiela couture collections always include elements of subversion that play against the hand worked details and construction elements of the garments. This season it was the use of rubber and denim, used in tandem with flowing silk and heavily beaded headpieces, that helped to make the idea of couture a little less rarefied.

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Fundamentals of Pattern Making: Tucks and Gathers at Prada

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Prada, as shown with Menswear SS14, Milan.

As part of the recent menswear show, Prada also showed a selection of womenswear pieces that will be sold as part of Resort 2014. Among the womenswear pieces were a variety of examples of how tucks and gathers can be used to create shaping and fullness.

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Lurid Prints and Sweaty Silks at Prada

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Prada, Menswear, SS14, Milan.

In the recent Prada Menswear show for Spring-Summer 2014, Miuccia reworked florals in lurid colour combinations, pairing the patterns with wet look silk textures and pinstriped suiting.

The collection aimed to subvert traditional ideas of summer and our ideas of the exotic and central to this was a reworking of the aloha shirt or hawaiian shirt. The shirt shapes were often panelled with contrasting striped trim and sometimes styled as a base layer underneath a shorter sleeve knitwear piece in a contrasting floral.

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Ways To Think About Pattern Changes and Fitting Alterations

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Comme des Garçons, AW97. Photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia 1997.

This amazing photograph of a Comme des Garçons dress provides a perfect visual example of how to think about parts of garments as separate plates that come together to create a 3D form. Thinking about a garment in this way will help you to recognise fitting problems and to correct pattern issues.

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Simple Geometry at Balenciaga

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Balenciaga, AW13, Paris.

The Autumn-Winter 2013 collection at Balenciaga used a simple palette of monochrome to explore careful draping and pattern cutting around a geometric theme.

The monochrome palette was also punctuated with metal hardware and a series of textures that mimicked the cracks and seaming of marble.

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Matched Pinstripes at Alexander McQueen

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Alexander McQueen, SS06, Paris.

One of Alexander McQueen’s more subdued collections Spring-Summer 2006 provides a garment that is a good case study for precise pattern cutting. The relatively understated piece that blends a tailored jacket into a tailored pair of shorts, uses a carefully measured dart to flow the pinstripes continuously through the front of the jacket.

A waist dart is used to create shaping in the front of the jacket without disturbing the line of the stripes and allows the eye to follow the pinstripes down over the welt pocket and through the waistband of the shorts.

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