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The Slut Sliding Scale

As our research progresses, so will our practice. It’s basically the point of the MA Design course, and for a while it felt very separate. For our next module component, we were asked to create an ‘artefact’ to start to bring our research threads to life. Obviously, my practice lies in fashion and millinery so, naturally, this is where my mind will always drift.

I must admit, I had a bit of a rocky start with this. I think sometimes its hard to put pencil to paper for fear of not doing your research justice. I also found that Feminism is a beast. A serious beast. My research is feeling a bit haphazard still because I need to understand something that touches every element of life and history….in a year…not an easy task. I decided to just pull out one single, simple, strand and follow it instead of trying to tackle everything at once. After a productive design discussion with the rest of the course mates, I felt I had grabbed an appropriate strand.

As women, across history and in today’s society, the way we dress is scrutinised and often linked back to our personalities and life choices. No matter what, we never seem to be able to ‘get it right’, there is always someone who will pop in with something negative to say. This is definitely getting more public as social media has taken over our lives! I decided to focus in on something as small as what length you wear your hem or neckline. Too short (or low), is linked with promiscuity, too long and we are covering up too much and acting like Nanas. Which is mental because we are in 2019 (about to be 2020!) and we are still judging women on their sex lives! Even though shorter hemlines have been on our high streets and catwalks for a very long time, you only need to go onto the comments of an image to realise it isn’t as accepted as we think it is. In the age of sex positivity and body positivity, there is still discussion happening. And I want to tap into this. I was very inspired by an image that has floated around my Instagram and Pinterest for a while. It is simple, but effective. No matter what we do, we are judged, and we can never get it right. Still.

After realising what I wanted to say, I had the fun task of how to actually say it. I like a clear message in my work, I have learnt over the years that it is more effective if you keep the main message nice and loud and obvious. I always like to add more subtle layers underneath to support, but I often have to remind myself to edit. I decided I wanted to play on the idea of a sliding scale, a hem that moves up and down. After sketching and playing around, I decided I preferred something more structured over a gathered look (as often used in bridal gowns to keep the hem up). I went back to the Paper Project to start my design development.

I started to look into designers and images that had used structure to create a similar illusion to what I had in mind. I began to research into accordions, bellows and squeeze boxes as a way to incorporate movement into the piece, which was very quickly becoming a skirt. (See, keeping it simple for now.)


I feel like this is a good starting point!

Chalayan and the UCLan GFW show (hello fellow alumni!) from a few years ago were immediate starting points!

After successfully creating paper templates, I realised I needed something sturdy fabric-wise to keep all those lovely folds and pleats in place. I wanted to avoid bringing colour and texture at this point to avoid distraction from the silhouette. Calico is always a cheap go-to for toiles so I chose a medium-weight and a medium-weight iron-on interfacing to stiffen the fabric.

After I had figured out these methods, I began to research silhouette and shape inspiration. I looked at my research as a whole and cherry picked historical influences and strong symbols which I began to play about with on Photoshop for quick design generation.

Collage is usually my go-to initial silhouette generator, then I traced over the outline and added in seams and places that could ‘bellow out’

I started to realise I had a very crinoline-esque shape starting to emerge which only supported my initial message. As I said earlier, I do like to layer subtle influences in as long as it supports and drives my overall conversation forward rather than confusing and making it muddy.

More initial designs

I decided to add in some of these labels from the initial inspiration image that would be revealed as the hemline moved up and down. This was my favourite design so I began to move this forward into sampling and testing.

I began to toile and sample sections, I knew this would be a big skirt so I couldn’t test it in its entirety until the final piece which was frustrating to say the least! I began to pattern develop and test ways to make the mechanism work. I basically became part pattern cutter part engineer for this one…

Pattern development, fabric calculations and general notes to myself

Ideas on how the mechanism would work. I created a section of the skirt to test different methods.

I then geared up to actually make the piece. I tested how many layers of fabric and interfacing worked best and added the idea of stitching along the fold lines to guide me and reinforce the pieces. I then tested spray paint to check it still ironed the creases in okay for adding my labels. I wanted it to feel like a protest sign, which is why I chose to stencil and spray paint the words on. I felt like it was more aggressive.

Images along the making process

I set the piece up in the exhibition space as an interactive piece. I set up a mirror and glass pen with instructions to release the toggles to your length and make your mark on the mirror. I wanted people to communicate with each other as well as looking at themselves in order for the conversation to start about self-presentation, appropriateness, slut-shaming, labelling and the connection between dress and judgement with regards to Feminist issues.

Upon reflection, I am pleased with the result. There were a few teething issues with things like the mechanism but considering I was unable to fully test everything until the end I think it went well! Feedback from peers confirmed the message and that it was clear, to the point and started the conversation I intended. I feel I succeeded in what I set out to do, it just means going back to the board to pick another thread of interest to follow.

#selfrepresentation #fashiondesign #Feminism #designdevelopment #slutshaming #Design

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