Friday, February 20, 2015

The Architecture of Movement

    Pierre Balmain is quoted as having said that fashion is "the architecture of movement" as I mentioned in yesterday's post.  He is precisely correct.  Both my own Dad, and my sweet fella, Jim, are architects, and I've discussed the parallels with them both more than once.
    In architecture, myriad materials are brought together, each with their own unique characteristics of density, structural strength, tensile strength, potential usage, and appearance.  The combination of those materials is used to create a structure that performs a function, and that does so with ease of use, clarity of purpose, and hopefully, beauty.
    Exactly the same set of things are involved in the creation of a garment. A garment uses various materials, each with specific characteristics, to do exactly the same thing; make something with a purpose, that does that with ease and attractiveness.  The only salient difference, is that the materials are mostly flexible, where in architecture they tend to be rigid.
    When we look at clothes, or watch them in motion, we rarely consider that what we are in fact seeing is a complex example of physics in action. Load bearing, structural stress, and tensile strength are all concepts that are a part of the assembly of a garment, though for most designers, its a far more intuitive process than in architecture.
    When choosing fabrics for a costume, for example, I will check the "hand" of a textile.  Hand refers to the way a fabric feels, and more importantly how it moves.  What are its draping characteristics? Does it stretch?  How does it hang on the bias?  All these relate to hand.  And so, it takes years of time to learn by touch, and handling, which sort of hand is the right thing for what you are trying to accomplish.  In Architecture, there are vast texts filled to bursting with specific building materials, that list all their important characteristics, and what they should be used for.  And though such texts do exist for fabrics, it is mostly done by eye. and touch.
    Also, The inner parts must be carefully considered.  Which interfacing? What elastic? Should there be horsehair braid used in the hemline, or dress chain?  Each adds its own individual gift to the whole, and the success, or failure, of a garment largely rests on the correct choice of all these things, just like in any designed structure.
    A garment must also suit the person, by being the correctly fitted size, so that ease, and range of motion are not impaired.  Just so with a building.  It must be large enough to encompass the task its designed for, or its a failure. If the pants don't fit, no matter how meticulously constructed, they fail in their task.
    And lastly, for both architecture, an apparel design, one of the chief goals is harmony of appearance, and beauty.  In the case of a building, it must be beautiful of it self, and gains considerably when its use is so easy and natural, that it is effortless to use. A garment may be lovely on its own, but it gains everything of real value in its grace, and lightness of use.  So again, these two disciplines are much much closer than we would routinely suppose.
So, when next you are looking at someone walking on the street and you're struck either by the attractiveness of their clothes, or their clumsiness, consider all these factors coming into play, that have nothing whatever to do with the person in them, and everything to do with the architecture of movement.

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