The development of clothing concepts in response to analysis of changing gendered social attitudes.
It seems that in today’s culture, attitudes towards ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and our ‘readings of the body’ are undergoing change. The fashion world is awash at the moment with questions about constructions of gender or gender-free, and focus is on designers such as Astrid Anderson and Craig Green, who do not dictate which gender should wear their designs. This study aims to address one of these questions in the form of women who wear male gendered clothing for fashion. It is noted by Crane (2000) that women used to borrow from men in the nineteenth century and the point is made that ‘the borrowed items did not lose their masculine connotations’ Crane (2000:106). Entwistle (2000: 144) claims that these gender distinctions, ‘…often become fundamental to our ‘common sense’ readings of the body”. This study aims to investigate how these masculine connotations are physically manifested in clothing and how they may come to define gender. Although this idea is previously noted, currently no work exists that specifically investigates why women choose to wear male gendered clothing for fashion and this study proposes to address this knowledge gap. An output culminating in a selection of garments, aims to develop an experimental design approach informed by an observational analysis of sartorial characteristics that are perceived to assign gender and qualitative analysis of women’s attitudes to gendered clothing.
Practice – Clothing research for this PhD is firmly routed in archival studies in historical men’s shirts and trousers. The practice is subject to the rigour of the requirements of any design process. It demands a relevant visual starting point which is provided through the purposeful selection of the Victorian era, a period in menswear which has been seen to cement what we consider still, to be the bones of men’s attire. This is narrowed down to shirts and trousers which are identified as being intrinsically linked to current menswear standards and are also a theme of my previous explorative design work using proportion. Links to previous work are considered to be essential due to the way in which a designers thought process is the lead of any empirical practice. Images of pit brow women, which have become essential to the way in which I am understanding women who wear men’s clothing, are also taken from the Victorian period; study of the two can become intertwined and comparable.
Specifically, archival visits at Manchester Art Gallery, have highlighted the Victorian men’s square cut shirt as possessing recurring sartorial characteristics commonly considered to be masculine. The square cut shirt is interesting for this PhD due to its perceived masculinity, the importance of historical dress in establishing masculinities in clothing, and the proportion based construction.
The practice incorporates an explorative method which focuses on the sequential proportional alteration of sartorial characteristics in garments. The technique is designed around the way in which the zero waste lay plan of the square cut shirt is formed proportionally from piece to piece.
The practice method aims to explore how altering the proportions of clothing may alter gendered perception and it provokes discourse in its questioning of gender assignment in clothing.
Research Degree: PhD (practice-based), Full-time
Department: Manchester Fashion Institute
Funded: Manchester Metropolitan University