The Shirt: Research Paper

S h i r t  P r o j e c t  R e s e a r c h  P a p e r

The earliest men’s shirts can trace back to before the Middle Ages as underwear or nightgowns for men, with a hem that could be tightened and buttoned and no collars or cuffs. Men had a choice between a fixed or detachable collar. By the19th century, the tailored shirt was very popular. Men wore shirts made by tailors, but it was also common for their wives to make their shirts. The shape of the shirt was tailored to the shape of the body, while the collar disappeared and the shirt came in colorful designs, especially sports shirts and labor shirts.[1] Until the end of the 19th century, the white shirt was a symbol of prosperity. The modern shirt became popular after World War 1, with buttons all the way down the front, and the fixed collar was revived in the 1930’s. The shirt now comes in endless varieties and designs, sensitive to fashion trends, and women could even wear it. The evolution of the shirts reflects the changing values of the time periods. For example, since there is more equality between men and women today, women could wear men’s’ shirts.

I love the work of conceptual designer Shingo Sato, who uses a design technique called transformational reconstruction. His designs are very sculptural and he plays with three dimensional elements and considers himself to be a patternmaker-designer, which is very special in today’s context since many fashion designers send their designs to a patternmaker rather than trying to come up with creative interpretations themselves. I also admire how he designs zero waste garments, which is especially important because the earth is getting destroyed every day by human production. Shingo Sato says, “Design occurs in many places but it does not occur as a sketch of the exterior of the garment, but in the development of the pattern[2],” emphasizing the importance of experimentation and patternmaking. I think that the designer’s involvement in patternmaking is especially important for generating new forms and silhouettes as opposed to sending it to another patternmaker, who may only find “textbook” solutions for making the design. The patternmaker’s role is also important because he or she can figure out ways for a more sustainable use of the fabric.

Another conceptual designer is Julian Roberts, who invented subtraction cutting, which involves designing the interior space of the garment, resulting in unpredictable forms. He slices and opens his materials with holes, and twists the fabric. He talks about designing in patterns rather than vague illustrations. Both Sato and Roberts openly share their techniques and are considered rebels against the secrecy of the fashion industry and “aesthetic norms.”[3] By looking at these designers, I now understand the importance if draping and experimentation with pattern as opposed to solely sketching a design.

Designers like Julian Roberts and Shingo Sato fight to create something new in a world of mass-production, which results in similar fashion styles around the world. In addition, Shingo Sato’s efforts to produce zero-waste are critical to the environment, which can do without non-biodegradable fabric wastes. Hopefully, the men’s shirt will continue to evolve though the same innovative mindsets of these designers rather than continue to be the product of mass-production.






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