Taking what I learned from the last two prompts (Designing the Dress and Aimlessness) I was intending to put them together to explore more intention with feeling, During one of our in person sessions Sahil said something that really touched me, ”The more you know how to feel the more you can make others feel” which made a lightbulb go off in my mind about my own feelings about clothing. I spend too much time focused on just getting things done, as running my own store has trained me to do, and not enough time really feeling into the process or the final product. I wanted to take some time to really dig into this question so I did a lot of journalling on it trying to explore my feelings and I quickly drew the quote in Procreate so I could add some feeling to the text.
Sahil is loaded with quotable lines. I am constantly writing verbatim what he is saying in class. He is a part time student who is voluntarily joining our Studio class and I am so grateful for it.
At the same time I was considering this quote and starting on my dress I decided it was time for me to run my own experiment with the students before the end of the semester. So many other students had already done so and I had seen their great results. Even a failure was a success. On the first Wednesday of this prompt I asked everyone to bring in a photo of a garment in their closet they don’t wear but also don’t get rid of. On Friday we talked about why.
My plan was to separate them into different groups. We would take an action on their garments and experiments with increasing their wear. I had 4 group headers worked out already but reduced it to 3 by taking out my control group. I did want a control group for the purpose of talking about these pieces but everyone had something we could work so well with I didn’t think anyone fit into this cateory,
The first issue that came up was how many people brought in garments that are too small for them. This is clearly a common problem. Whereas I would love to help make things fit it put me in a position that to make sure thing are done in a way that the user would be pleased with I was clearly going to be altering all this clothing which is a lot of work. I was still thinking about how I might be able to fit my own dress in with the smocked back and all so I was a little concerned about my commitment. But I am as fast and accurate as they come and I know ultimately I can do it.
Continuing with my interest in generating feelings with clothing I started looking into garment lables to see if there is anything creative people have done to inspire people to keep their clothing longer, to make it feel special or to develop a connection with them. It was a surprisingly hard search on Google so either there are a lot out there I just couldn’t find or maybe it isn’t as common as I thought. I am going to try to reach out to a few of these companies and ask them about their experiences but I would like to go through the REB process first incase I want to use any of the results. Here are a few I found:
I would like to design a sticker to put on our credit cards or Iphones that remind us to think twice about our purchases. I would also like to make some garment lables that generate more intimate relationships between the people and their clothing so I am looking into what has been done. I couldn’t find any photos of stickers for credit cards but I can’t imagine this hasn’t been done before.
The first garment I altered was for our instuctor Louise who brought a red sweater into class. It was double breasted, small and didn’t fit right. It also gets covered in dust all the time. I cut the buttons off and moved them over to make it single breasted. I also repaired a thread that had been pulled in the back but I don’t think anyone noticed the repair. During our next Wednesday class she mentioned she still doesn’t know what to do about the dust and just doesn’t feel like the fit is right for her in general. This may not be the result we were looking for but it is still progress and great to know.
During the next class Louise expressed that she hadn’t been wearing this sweater more. It is still collecting lint excessively and she felt maybe this style just isn’t for her. It was an easy alteration that didn’t take a lot of time and could be done by a beginner sewer so worth a try but we were unsuccessful at making the garment more wearable by the owner.
Alteration time 20 min.
Supplies: Needle/Thread <$1
Alteration fee $14
Melanie brought in a silk skirt she loves but never wears. It has a rooshed waistband and a balloon style body. I will come back to Melanies skirt at the bottom.
Fajar introduced me to a shirt she loves she never wears any more because it’s too small. The plan was to alter it for her but before I could get my hands on it she tried it on and found out it fits again. She was so happy and says she will wear it much more. So this one was a success without any work. The question is was this process necessary? Would she have discovered this on her own?
Alteration time 0 min
Alteration Fee: $0
Aamir brought in a long sleeve Jack and Jones shirt he loves but doesn’t wear because it is too small. When he bought it it was too large so it was taken in nearly two inches in the body. I let the alteration back out to see if this is all he needs to wear it again. This is an alteration anyone with confidence and a stitch ripper can do but it is specific to a pre-altered shirt so not entirely representative of many people’s clothing issues.
Once I opened it up again and pressed it he tried it on. He said it is better in the body but the shoulders are still tight. There isn’t much room to do an alteration on the shoulders that gives enough ease for this shirt to retain it’s look while giving him more space so, although it did increase wearability and he said he would wear it more I don’t know how much more.
Alteration time 20 min
Alteration Fee: $14
Leea has a shirt she doesn’t wear very much because it’s been cold and it is sleeveless. I challenged her to start making outfits with it and wear it at least once every two days to see if she could come up with new ways to wear it. We also looked at whether or not it fit her well. It has a rushed neckline so it has a little extra fabric right below the rushing. It is a cute shirt and does fit her right but this concern made me feel she is not entirely confident wearing this design.
I asked Leea a number of times for feedback but she didn’t respond by the blog post time. I am sure she is too busy wrapping up the semester. I am not sure if she will actually wear this more though based on our conversations. I don’t think she felt so comfortable committing to wear it. Perhaps if she had we would hav had a different outcome. She will likely wear this once the summer comes on her own anyway.
Isla has a lovely red skirt she rarely wears. She was excited to try to make new outfits with it. A few classes later she lamented that it is too dressy and can’t wear it out of the house for anything. I suggested she keep trying and see if she can just wear it to a place where no one she knows will see her just to try it out. I feel like Isla loves this skirt and might just need to keep it for special occasions. It is common across cultures for people to own special occasion clothing so I think this is ok as long as she wears it when special occasions come up. I don’t know if this is much of a measure of success for this test but I think we have to resolve that everyone needs to have something special in their closet as long as we use it and don’t have too much.
Isla looks stunning in this skirt but I think this is all about emotions. I am giving this experiment an A for emotional understanding given the expectations. This is also incredibly informative to me about what we wear. I hope Isla finds more reasons to wear it because I think her fantasy in buying it was in manifesting more appropriate times for it to appear.
Alteration time 0 min
Alteration fee: $0
Sheyda had a sweater that she didn’t bring with her when she moved to Canada because she doesn’t wear it much though she likes it. Her mom likes it so much she sent it in the mail so Sheyda brought it to me. She said the color is too pink perhaps but she likes the fit so I asked if she wouldn’t mind letting me risk overdying it with black. Dying is risky business because you’re never positive what you are going to get but I am so excited about the results.
Sheyda has not had enough time to wear the sweater since it dried but she loves the new color. All things considered, unless she has moved on from this sweater the dye job should definately increase wearablity.
The alteration time on this was long because I had to attend to it while it was in the dye bath continuously agitating it to make sure the color came out consistently, which it did. It’s just hard to see in the photos because it was still wet. It also took a long time to rinse.
Alteration time 3 hours
Supply cost: $2
Alteration Fee: $140
Mon has an adorable polyester floral dress that is slightly too tight and slightly too short. I offered to add a little room in the waist and lengthen the hem a bit with a little extra fabric to see if we could get it out of her closet and onto her body more.
I am really happy with the alteration the framing is very flattering and it can now be properly worn as a dress. Mon also expressed her happiness with it though I would like to test this over time because Mon is terribly kind and might have said that to me regardless. I am hoping to convince her to do another fitting down the road just to make sure. The fabric is also worn and pilling so I don’t know how much wear was left in this anyway.
This was a cheap, fast fashion dress to begin with. I think doing the kind of alteration I did on it is not accessible or realistic for average people. I had to go to the fabric store, find the appropriate fabric, take the dress apart up the sides and use a decent amount of skill to add the new fabric in a way that would be nice. The synthetic fabric doesn’t take kindly to heat but pressing is very important in the final look of a garment so ironing took a very long time. I highly doubt someone would be willing to spend the amount of money it would cost to do this alteration unless they were to do it themselves but I do think Mon will wear it more. Just another example of how doing alterations for a group of people is missing the point on this experament.
Alteration time 3 hours
Supply cost: $10
Alteration fee: $120
Giulia has a sweater that she loved but she is just tired of. She was about to give it up to the clothing swap but decided to keep it for this experiment. For the sake of trying different things I had her treat it like a friend. She repaired it’s holes, named it, journaled to it and developed a relationship with it. This asks a lot of participants but makes me especially interested in the results. What if we treated our clothing like it is alive? What if we welcomed it into our families like a close friend? How would this change our experience of it?
I reached out to Giulia a number of times to get her experience but she didn’t respond. I think she is too busy with the interim thesis presentation and I think that is fair. I would like to try having someone do this again but I will select participants who are more available and eager to do this kind of work.
Finally Yejin’s awesome vest. Yejin has a fantastically retro vest she feels doesn’t go with much. I tasked her to wear it with as many outfits as she could whether or not she felt like it goes together. she was immediately on this task and sent me some photos wearing it. It’s such a great vest and we all agreed it goes with everything she owns!
Yejin and I had a great conversation (with plenty of baby chicken interruptions) about her experience with her vest. She was primed to be a good candidate for this experience because, as colleagues, she would want the same from me for her work, but I believe her experience was authentic.
She bought this vest 7 years ago and hasn’t been able to really wear it. She thought it only went with one black top she had but she continued to love it. She usually wore it about 2 times per year but she loved it. When I requested that she intentionally increase the amount she wore it she began to discouver it went with a lot of outfits and that she loved it. Not only that but she began to get compliments on it. A librarian in particular commented on how great it looked and when she told them why she was wearing it the librarian got excited and proposed trying the same process herself.
Prior to talking to Yejin I assumed I did this experiment with too many people because I was struggling to keep consistent contact throughout the process and didn’t know if it would have an impact. Also I had ended up with a ton of free alteration projects taking much of my valuable time but after talking to Yejin I think this is a project I could scale up, be specific about and have go viral. My hypothesis is we buy a lot of aspirational clothing that intimidates us. It has a different emotional impact than clothing that is old and representative of a previous ’us’. This aspirational clothing lives mostly in our future and it is only once we start wearing it now we realize it is our best selves today, not tomorrow, ourselves tomorrow is a way more exciting potential than we could ever imagine from where we are. I conclude that we all have a few of these items in our closet, we locate them and love them now before it is too late!
Alteration time 0
Alteration fees $0
One more thought on Melanie’s skirt. I have now stitched ripped the whole skirt with the intention of making a new skirt for Melanie that she might wear more. The scope of this complete rebuild is so far outside of what I was anticipating doing for this project and really isn’t useful to me as research because I am not recommending this as a solution to unworn clothing in one’s closet simply because of time and expense. Especially if the garment might be useful as is to someone else.
Since this project was so big and the interim thesis was such an important deadline I put off the designing until after the presentation was done. I dwelled on it for Thursday (yesterday), started drafting the new skirt and trying to figure out how to make the material compatible with the new design. I sat with a serious no feeling in my body over this skirt. I went for a long walk and mulled over what my refusal to do it was all about and realized I feel like this is going to be a lot of work for nothing. I don’t feel like it is significant to the research and I feel like it is going to take me a lot of time and I don’t think Melanie is going to wear it. There is not enough fabric in the old skirt for the new skirt so it is also going to take a lot of good material that could be used for something else.
On my walk I did have a creative brainstorm and came up with a whole bunch of different things I could make her that she might consider wearing and got really excited to actually quilt the fabric to make it bigger than to make her a shirt out of it which she may not wear but she’d appreciate, would make me feel more excited to make it and would look great on my Instagram and then I got an email from my mom. My brother has mental health issues he has had for at least 20 years and, according to the email it has hit a new low. I spent the rest of last night researching resources and this morning I spent hours on the phone, when I was intending to be sewing talking to people I know who work in not for profits for mental health. This was followed by more phone time with my mom.
So I made a decision about this skirt. I am going to finish it for Melanie but I am not going to finish it for my homework. I would never make this decision in my professional life, to miss a deadline, but this experience is all about making different decisions and I am going to follow my no feeling, at least as far as the deadline on this one goes and I am going to get this done at a pace that satisfies my commitment to Melanie for being such a strong supporter of my work.
The most important finding in this experiment was to clarify which kinds of items will work for this and what I am willing to do though it did also reveal that there is still a very practical reason for people to have the skills to sew and alter their own garments. It is generally cost prohibitive for most people to pay for someone else to do it rather than just buy a new item but if we all took a little more time to upgrade our skills and maintain our wardrobe we would vastly increase the werability of our garments. Though this appears to be true it is highly doubtful people have a real interest in doing this if they are not already. But for the people who are interested and just don’t have those skills we need to figure out how to help them improve. One of the saddest thoughts here is how textile class is being taken out of high school curriculum which is most peoples first introduction to the practical skills of hands on repair.