Today’s Pattern Story: Advance 8296

by Erin on September 21, 2014

Advance 8296

 

Isabelle: So that’s what he said to me — honestly Estelle — I thought I was going to fall down laughing right then and there.

Estelle: I can’t take it!

Isabelle: Seriously I thought he was going to bust a gasket. I have never seen a man so upset in my life.

Estelle: And he really just said that? Like, out loud? Did he hear himself?

Isabelle: Totally! Right as it came out of his mouth. And then he got even madder!

Estelle: So he really, truly said “Not all men say ‘not all men’”?

Isabelle: I got it on video. I’m thinking animated .gif with a dance beat!

 

You can buy today’s pattern from sandritocat.

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Because It’s There

by Erin on August 25, 2014

So the other night I went to a Designers + Geeks meetup because it was about “Fashion Tech Design.” I always think that I will like the idea of fashion tech design but I usually come away slight less than whelmed.

The speakers were fairly interesting — my favorite was Meg Grant, you should check out her work here — but they left me with more questions than answers, the biggest question being, “Why?”

Grant’s work was a very straightforward answer to the “Why?” question … much of her work is art-project-y, and and such raises art-project-y questions. There are dresses that emit poems when touched, and gloves you can whisper secrets into, and a blouse where lights shining behind you seem to shine right through you, thanks to a clever arrangement of light sensors and LEDs. They’re intelligent and thought-provoking, but not something you’d necessarily wear every day. (Her recent work is investigating wearable textile solar panels, which *does* seem to answer a practical “why?” question — it makes perfect sense that if your coat could charge your phone, a sunny day would be even better.)

The other two speakers’ answers to the “Why?” question were less satisfying to me — Switch Embassy being able to animate light-up messages on a t-shirt or handbag is cool, but just because something is cool is not really reason enough to do it. Tech as decoration is really just battery-powered embroidery, or a new kind of sequin.

Sensoree’s answer to the “Why?” of tech + fashion was more therapeutic: their GER “mood sweater” is essentially a mood ring. Only, you know, in sweater form. (It also comes with a new word, extimacy, ‘externalized intimacy’.) Given how much trouble some people go to in order to hide their moods, I’m not sure that the mood sweater is really ready for the office. (Boss: “Here’s your 3Q goals!” Employee’s Mood Sweater: RAGE.) Sensoree also makes self-calming garments for people with sensory integration disorders, which seemed very practical and helpful.

The separation of “fashion” and “technology” just seems weird to me. I mean, clothing IS technology. We’ve been making clothing for tens of thousands of years. And we improve our clothing with “technology” all the time — what else would you call Scotchguard, Lycra, or laser-cut leather? And we apply technology to the fashion industry as well — what else would you call rapid prototyping, the rise of online shopping, and Pinterest? But when people talk about bringing technology to fashion, what we often mean is making it so a pair of jeans now needs batteries, and I’m not sure that’s really either a pressing need or an appropriate goal.

If you say that, no, what people mean by technology + fashion is adding sensors to clothing — making your shoes part of the Internet of Things — then again we should answer the question of “Why?” Do you want to put sensors in clothing so that you can track them as they pass through the economy? Then you’d better be prepared to only license your designer handbag, and give up the right to resell it, like you do with ebooks. Do you want to use sensors to track your health? Okay, then who has access to that data, and what happens when your sister borrows your dress? Who gets notified when your waistband figures out you’ve put on five pounds? Your spouse? Your doctor? Do you want to track your kids’ whereabouts through their sneakers? What happens when the signals are hacked and everyone knows where your kids are? Or griefers decide to make it seem as if every high-school freshman is now at the local dive bar in the middle of the day? (Which will happen …) Should the sensors communicate something about you to the world around you, a new form of self-expression? Then be prepared to listen to half a dozen PSAs at the movies telling you to please switch off your scarf and enjoy the show (after visiting the concession stand, of course).

Just because you had to solder as well as sew doesn’t mean that your dress is all of a sudden more “techie” than it was when the highest-tech thing about it was the zipper. Technology isn’t a seasoning — it’s a solution. And if you’re not solving an explicit problem, then you’re leaving your solution open for other people to match their problems to. (And if there’s one thing nobody wants, it’s other people’s problems!)

But solutions wandering around in search of a problem to solve often cause more trouble than the problems they end up being applied to … and we haven’t even touched on the ecological and human-welfare problems involved in manufacturing clothes that integrate electronics.

That said, it’s perfectly okay if the problem you’re solving is “I’m bored and I want to make a dress that lights up!” I will totally admit that I’m a big fan of kerblinkety lights, and I do have half-a-dozen “LED Dress” tutorials bookmarked. They’re fun! (Watch this space!) But just because you can add a battery pack to something doesn’t mean you should.

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Today’s Pattern Story: McCalls 5136

August 20, 2014

  Frieda: That’s … interesting. Syncopation is not everyone’s friend. Melba: My goodness! Her frock is … only fringe. Entirely fringe! Over no combinations! Mother is certainly going to need some sal volatile. Evelyn: Too, too tedious, darlings. Do you know if Jimmy brought the cocaine? (See the Vintage Pattern Wikia entry for this pattern here.) Oh and […]

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A shirtdress MADE OF SHIRTS

August 15, 2014

So as you all already know, I love shirtdresses. Love ‘em. Buy tons of shirtdress patterns! Which then languish, mostly unmade, in my sewing lair. Because, as it turns out, I love shirtdresses, and I really really love shirting fabric, but I am not really enthused about: sewing buttonholes making plackets creating collar stands So […]

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Today’s Pattern Story: Butterick 3613

August 10, 2014

  ANNOUNCER: Today’s elbow-wrestling contestants are Katrina Williston and Melody Gunnersdottir, both of Pleasant Prairie, Minnesota. COLOR COMMENTATOR: So a real home-town grudge match, huh, Tom? ANNOUNCER: Well, Bob, Pleasant Prairie has been a hotbed of elbow-wrestling since a spate of unfortunate hand amputations from thresher malfunctions back in the Great Depression. But it’s only been in […]

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Hearts and Bones

July 28, 2014

I finished this dress up last weekend: This here is the part I like best. I was going to do plain red piping, but the reds didn’t match. (And neither did the maroons or blues. I have more piping than a Scottish funeral.) The striped piping is from Britex. Every time I go in I […]

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Today’s Pattern Story

July 24, 2014

  Claudine: Move it a little more … a little more to the left. Claudette: My left, or your left? Claudine: Um, his left? Oh wait, he’s left. Smoke break. Claudette: Goddamn illustrators. Bunch of nicotine fiends. Claudine: Might as well put it down before you get dizzy from the rubber cement fumes. [Pattern is here […]

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Book Review: Super Stitches Sewing

July 19, 2014

When you’ve been sewing for as long as I have (30 years!), it can be hard to discover the gaps in your own knowledge. You have your own routes to the places you need to go, and time doesn’t always (or even usually) permit the kind of aimless wandering that leads you to new discoveries. So when […]

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Piping Merrily Along

July 16, 2014

This dress is all about the piping: Okay, it’s also about being in one of my all-time favorite Liberty prints, Mark, but mostly it’s about this gathered-shoulder silhouette: And if you’re going to pipe the shoulder seams, you must pipe the pockets as well (it’s the law): The shoulder piece makes this really nicely satisfying […]

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Cinco de Mayo Simplicity 5238

July 13, 2014

Here’s a more true-to-life (or at least, true to the pattern illustration) version of Simplicity 5238: I actually bought this fabric yonks ago. I bought it in early autumn and thought it was too summery, and then it suffered from a lot of being “too” other stuff, as well. It was too heavy for a […]

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