The Innovative Application of Existing Digitally Controlled Flat Bed Weft Knitting to Fashion Knitwear for the Individual Body Shape of Women, Particularly Those Above UK Standard Sizes
It is predicted that the end of the Multi-Fibre Agreement (2005) and consequent competition from the Far East will be detrimental to the European Textile and Fashion Industry.
Discussion about standardisation of garment sizes has led to debate over bespoke clothing. Research in the USA reveals that larger sized consumers seek better fitting, comfortable clothing; customisation’s underlying principle. It is possible that the declining European knitting industry can move into associated niche markets.
The ‘outsize’ clothing market is expanding; currently twentyfour million adult Britons are overweight, whereas in 1980 only 2.5 million were classed as such. The average British woman has a proportionally larger stomach and waist than her 1950s counterpart, and is a size 16. Paradoxically, women of size 16 and above find clothes shopping frustrating, humiliating and fruitless. This contiguity presents an interesting and novel area of investigation.
Delivery of 'Women's Knitwear for a 'growing' population. Digital Knit to Fit; challenges and solutions in fashion knitwear for larger sizes'. Presented at the Global Fashion: Creative and Innovative Contexts, Centre for Population, Economic and Social Studies on 11th - 13th November 2010.
Is the primary value of knitted fabric on larger bodies its inherent stretch? This research questions whether such a method of achieving fit is satisfactory. It also challenges the ‘norm’ of the size 12 woman, which has been disproved by Size UK findings and the horror of fat which is demonstrated from haute couture (see Caroline Evans, ‘Fashion at the Edge’, 2003) to the high street.
Historically, to cater for “outsize” women the clothing industry has “sized up” garments, taking the pattern for a UK size 14 and grading it to fit larger sizes using established increments. Although individual companies make variations in fit and have developed petite or extra tall ranges in tailored garments, non-standard body shape is generally accommodated in knitwear by its inherent stretch. This study will bypass convention and consider larger bodies as a separate issue; taking a fresh look at the individual needs of body shape and deliberating how knitting can transcend the traditional garment to accommodate a three dimensional form.
Outcomes are anticipated to include creating a vocabulary common to both designers and technicians, thereby enabling the production of bespoke knitwear for larger women.
Case study, qualitative methodologies allow multi-method, reflexive and evolving research within a selected participant group, whilst siting the question in its real-world setting. A pilot study has commenced, which will be concluding in summer 2006.
An electronic survey is gathering additional body shape information from a broader group. Website details can be found here.
With advice from the School of Health Professionals, a specific methodology for measuring has been devised involving adaptations of traditional methods. Body shape ‘clones’ of the participants facilitate testing, providing exact proportional and dimensiona lrepresentations. Drawings, photographs and video supply a visual record, data from which to develop and knit prototypes and images for presentation of the final thesis.
A 12gge Shima Seiki SES 102ff knitting machine and SDS1 programming system are the primary sampling machinery. Their versatility pursues a thread of the research; that of enabling bespoke knitwear through a dynamic, digital relationship with the consumer.
Consistency of yarn is established, which pre-supposes the price point of custom made knitwear will initially justify a quality fibre.
Tests of knitted shapes on the body will make particular note of the behaviour of fabric related to body shape.
Relationships between body shape and fabric are presenting interesting and sometimes unusual development paths. Continued adjustment of these will contribute to future findings.
Work aesthetically re-mastered from a thread of the research is one xhibition in ‘Blurring the Boundaries; Contemporary Knitwear and Fashion’, at the Fairfield Museum and Gallery, Sydney, Australia in the summer of 2006. Early stages of the research were presented at ‘Knitting 2005 - Global Challenges Innovative Solutions’ conference at The University of Manchester.