Are we going backwards…? (Reclaiming pattern-making!)

Making garments have never been easier and quicker. That’s what any salesperson within the digital 3D-rendering pattern-making trade will tell you. In just moments you can design full garments on a virtual mannequin they say. But is that true? And what kind of garment will it really be? Let’s quickly discuss that. But first, a little trip down history lane. Just to understand where it all came from. The technical skill of drafting garments, that is.

If we just start with going back to the early 1940’s only, roughly a lifetime ago, there were already size-changeable – or should we say interactive – pattern’s around. They were all firmly built on mathematical ideas of human (esthetical) proportions put forward during the late 19’th century. One would think these ideas were perused and invented by tailors, because they needed them. But no, they were published and discussed by mathematicians. One could say, to systemically ruel out all creative individuality. (Although that was not the aim.)

So what was mathematical about it? Well… to conclude any interactive cutting pattern, analog as well as digital, you will need a system of numbers to render the very main-frame which the pattern then is built around. These numbers we call measurements. It could basically be anything on the human body measured, but typically it starts with the chest girth, the widest circumference on the body, and then one gradually works one’s way down to other smaller circumferences, widths and lengths.

The idea is, the more you measure the more exact it will become. But…! At a certain point, with too many measurements, the esthetics will be thrown out of the window. Becase, you still want, according to the systems, save some areas where you should calculate them proportionally against your other main measurements instead.

So what was, and is, technically so new about all of this? The truth is – nothing much. You had cutting patterns with measurements included already circulating in the 17th century, roughly 400 hundred years ago! They were just fixed patterns. The tailor then corrected the garments directly on the customer by using all his skills and tricks. One could actually argue that back then, the tailor himself was his own interactive tool, and not the computer. He himself computed things with individual and esthetically pleasing results.

But what about the cutting process? Isn’t the computer perfect for stopping waste, by cutting all pieces extremely close to each other? Well, yes. But that’s really nothing new either. A good tailor has always cut with minimum waste – that’s a part of his skill! Just look at any old cutting diagram – absolutely no waste at all! Because the garments are designed to work that way.

If we then move up about 200 years to the 19th century, more digets start to appear on all the pattern cutting diagrams. Industrialism goes hand in hand with technology. The tailor now has to now “exactly” how to draw the garment since there’s a growing focus on preciseness. The fact that the tailor then, afterwards, still had to correct the pattern into the customer’s size – well, never mind that!

And as the years went by, more and more numbers were added, to draw every curve, dart and straight line “correct”. The added numbers is an indication of the tailor’s lesser and lesser importance in a fully creative way. What the tailor now is used for, is to correct all the “precise” pattern pieces when they strangely enough don’t match the customer’s body… “How can that be? Did you not draw the pattern exactly as it said on the chart?” Well… the patterns were still fixed, so the tailor was also still very useful in altering them, if you did care about a good fit.

But here’s what I’m thinking about. The more I study these old patterns, the more I feel that there’s something magical about their simplicity. It almost seems like building a furniture, or house, or something not wearable. “This is how it should look. Make this.” A template diagram. You’ll get what you see, and then you figure out the result by yourself, according to your skills and choise of fabric, style and size. It’s like a suggestion for a garment! Like, it could be this – but it could also be something compleatly else! It’s your choice!


So what I’m trying to question here, is, if we in reality really are going backwards with all this digital technology nowadays? To a less creative place? Yes, everything goes faster. But to what extent? You can digitally 3D render garments all day long if you want to, but the harch reality probably is, that you still know next to nothing about how the actual finished garment will function on a person in real life, when he moves around and does “his thing”. What you really are creating, is more of an empty shell. That actually fit’s nobody that well. And for all the 3Dscanning? Well, unlimited (more) measurements does not necessarily equal with a better fit. Because what each and every person believes is a good fit is a complex and often emotional, and almost always an individual, thing. And there’s no equation for that – yet. (I’m looking at you AI!)

What would be “forward” then? For creativity? Something that’s absolutely not sultifying, but nurturing? Something that suggests, rather than argues? I would say, go old-school!

Why not trying to simplify the whole cutting and designing process? Trying something extremely un-digital, like drawing a pattern as they did centurys ago – but with a contemporary cut, a denim jacket or something? It would be us reclaiming pattern-making! Let’s do it! Right?

– Sten Martin / DTTA


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Why is grading so darn difficult? (Or is it?) Part 1.

Grading. Making garments larger and smaller. The DNA of fashion retail. To fit and please a vast audience of eager consumers, that just can’t wait to get hold of your fantastic designs! But there’s just a problem – they want their size.

It’s purely technical. And mathematical. And therefore the very nightmare of most creative small design-business-owners and their start-ups. Unfortunately the majority of them just surrender before they even produced a single collection – with styles in different sizes that is.

What you usually are forced to do, is sending it all off to a factory somewhere, and hope they’ll get it right. Without your control, often sent back and forth with oddly shaped garments. Or, you simply order already designed and graded garments. And then add your own design flair with… well, a pocket or a color shade maybe. But is that original design? You tell me.

But imagine – just for a second… You have spent all this enormous amount of time designing just that dress. It’s fantastic! You’re very proud, and rightly so. And hey – here comes your first customer! You can’t believe your luck – it’s the very famous [insert your favorite artist’s or politician’s name here]…! Unfortunately he or she is not a model size – ‘coz most people just aren’t. And we’re in a hurry! What can you possibly do?

It’s in these situations, a bit of grading knowledge would go a long way! That is, when personal interaction occur. When exclusive or fashionable clientele starts to ring your doorbell. Or, when your bespoke customer’s friend, that just love the latest garment you made for your customer, also want to order that jacket. In other words, to being able to tweak a design into fitting another person without throwing all of your perfectly balanced detailing out of the window. To not start all over with your whole design process. And to absolutely not randomly just add width “here and there”.

But can’t that just be made with a laptop and some fancy software, you may ask? Well yes – but… we’re not quite there yet. First, if we want to go that way, your designs preferably have to be made within a software. That means no creative draping or shaping! Secondly, there’s the issue of printing the pattern. A4-sheets will not do since it’s such a hazard to assable. (It can be done – but hey! – there’re just so many things that can go wrong with complicated patterns. Or for that sake, just normal patterns! You will need an industrial printer.) And third – there’s the classic issue of cost, availability and knowledge. As we all know, new technology have an annoying tendency to not be cheap. And unfortunately, the hard- and software changes all the time.

So, what am I getting at? Well, let me tell you. Just that simplicity can go a very, very long way! And also be super-effective! With some basic knowledge of manual grading your pattern’s main parts could be graded in a day or so. All done! And then you can enjoy a well-shaped garment on your favorite customer! Just a pocket-calculator, a ruler, some paper, a pencil and you’re all set to go! To transform your award-winning designs into new personal sizes! That’s my point.

Let’s not surrender to badly shaped garments from huge companies! Let’s instead make and grade our own! Let’s learn about personal shaping! It’s not all that difficult. Just give it a try! You won’t regret it.

– Sten Martin / DTTA


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Why do clothing sizes never fit me? A realistic view on individual measurements.

“Which size are you?” That’s the standard question asked when we step – or log – into a store. Why is that? Because that’s the very specific way we label and sort all of those already-made clothes hanging (or stacked) there. We are supposed to fit into the clothes. Not the other way around. We have to be a size! Or… do we?

Think of the randomness. Some clothes made far-far away, by people you never met, should suddenly fit you – arm length, waist measurement, neck, chest, legs and all. Combined. And also fit your mood and moving needs. Plus look good on you. What’s the odds?

So here comes the idea of adding a “…it’s supposed to look that way…” into the equation. Or… “if you lost some weight…”

Seen from a historical perspective, cutting-templates and sizes has been around for a long time. But before this huge mass-production machine we have today started, clothes were actually made to fit you! Your measurements would be taken, and a garment made and adjusted to you and your specific body figure and needs. And to make sure that certain looks and styles were upheld, templates was passed around, to also in the process be adjusted.

Nowadays we just make a lot of clothes, and hope they will fit… someone. It’s quite random. It’s an illusion of “the perfect fit” that never will be. But the less people know about the other options – the easier a sell. And if you trick the customer to believe they are a specific admirable (manipulated) size – well, even better!

So why doesn’t it work – sizing? Or why do it work sometimes? The secret is actually to over-produce! The more clothes you make for the customer to choose between, the bigger a chance that you could find something, that would fit ok. And the clothes not sold, they are just thrown away. The other trick is to accept a bad fit. To make the clothes as stretchy or boxy as possible, and hope that people won’t notice. And the third idea is that we aren’t that different after all – although the catchphrase is individuality.

And the impossible? What was that about? Well… tell me what a “bigger” size should be. Just wider? Or wider and taller? Or wider and longer? Or wider and shorter? And how much wider? Should the sleeves be longer? Should skirts be longer? Or maybe more flaired? And what about the shoulder width? Can a larger person have the same design options as a smaller person? What about detail placement?

As you can see, it’s just random. People will tell you there are rules. Statistics. And yes there are! But those rules are just a construction – an idea of what the next customer possibly could look like and want. But no-one really knows. That’s why t-shirts sell so well – there’s really no advanced fit there. But then again – they could have! If it was made for you.

– Sten Martin / DTTA


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