Patterns as Documents and Drawings: An artistic exploration of tailoring patterns as historical documents and drawings abstracting the human form.

An Analysis from the Perspective of a Creative Art Practitioner

Awarded Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Arts London (November 2013)

Supervisory team:

Professor Sandy Black
Professor Charlotte Hodes
Alan Cannon-Jones
Penelope Watkins

Abstract: In 2009 the University of the Arts, London awarded me the first International Rectors Scholarship to read on a PhD at London College of Fashion, successfully completed in 2013. My practice-led thesis places archival research within the framework of a contemporary art practice and proposes an interpretive reading of tailoring patterns as informative documents and inspiring drawings in their own right. Conventionally, patterns are treated only as a means to an end, aiding garment production. It is rare for patterns to be analysed by contemporary dress historians for their contribution to history. My thesis demonstrates how tailoring patterns are undervalued and neglected, and remains a hidden craft.

This qualitative research is conducted in the archive in order to gain a deep understanding of a group of patterns – here military patterns – that in turn inspired an artistic and curatorial output. An archive of uniforms worn by officers of the British Raj held at the National Army Museum was identified for this research; these uniforms were closely examined, handled and drawn in situ. The drawings were placed next to military patterns from different sources and scrutinized using a case-study method. The analysis revealed that information could be derived from the patterns making them relevant in respect to an understanding of dress history. The archival research is further interpreted in art and curatorial practice in the second half of the thesis by suggesting that patterns are unique abstracted drawings of the human form, carrying with them not only the outline of the garment but also impressions of the body. A reflective approach to the practice illustrates how the archival research became the primary source materials to create romantic Love Garden sculptures. The Crafts Council, England for Collect 2013 – The international art fair for contemporary objects, exhibited them at the Saatchi Gallery on invitation.

I also articulate how other artists, practitioners and designers have responded to the pattern as an object and a drawing, producing work in the context of art, fashion and design. The thesis demonstrates that military patterns and the tailoring knowledge they comprise represent rich and rewarding source materials for producing contemporary artworks, and also vital historical documents in the context of dress history.

uniform timeline

Download entire Uniform Timeline Drawings (10mb PDF)