Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Material Considerations

    By passing a thread over and under a series of threads laid 90 degrees away from it, and doing so repeatedly, we make cloth.  Its one of the major inventions of humankind, and one of the earliest.  To say that the language of attire would not exist without it is erroneous, but that language would surely have far fewer words to work with.
    And the variation that becomes possible with textiles goes right off the chart rather quickly. So, in order to get a better understanding of this varied symbolic tongue, we can't just look at the finished products.  We also have to look at the very stuffs that made the garment up in the first place.
    There are thousands of textiles in production, with the definition for each being based both on the weave structure, and the type of fiber used. Once you add color and print on top of this number, the range of separate fabrics climbs quite likely into the millions.  This is not even considering such textiles as are no longer in production for one reason and another.

     There are a simple easy to grasp set of factors to look at when talking textile.  Weight, hand, color, texture, and pattern or print are the determiners for defining fabrics as different from each other.  Of these only hand bears a bit of further definition itself.  For those unfamiliar with fabric terms, Hand refers to how the fabric moves and feels. Is it rigid, supple, stretchy, firmly or loosely woven?
    But apart from these factors are the inescapable emotional and psychological reactions we have the instant we see and even more importantly, touch a fabric.  The sleek sheen of silk satin evokes feelings both of luxe and of sex.
  Woolens seem practical and hearty to us.
Polyester, especially these days, makes a lot of people shudder.
Rayons, because of their mobility and fluid drape can make people feel relaxed and easy.
Linens say summer months and warmth to us;
and cottons are likely to inspire feelings of comfort.
    Take a single design for a garment and make it up in differing weights, textures, patterns and colors of fabrics and you will see an enormous range of results from sublime to tragically bad.  As well, the tone, and expression of that self same design will alter each time, sometimes radically.  Imagine for example a design for a simple loose fitting coat in a kimono-like style.  Render that coat in a nubbly  wool, and you get one statement, render it again in silk chiffon, and the statement changes utterly, though the design has remained identical.
    So, the next time you shop for clothing, or go to a fabric store, take some time to just feel the fabrics in your hand. Close your eyes and let yourself go inward a moment.  You might be surprised at the depth of feeling you experience, or the things you remember. All of that adds to the complexity of the language of Attire.

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