Misfits Past & Global Bodies

How Have Past Creators Been Able to Cater to Changing Global Bodies?

Before standardized sizing, a variety of adjustable garment closures were commonly used to provide personalized fit. In addition to ensuring that clothing stayed in place, closures such as pins, buckles, and lacing – both visible and hidden within the structure of the garment –  were used for individual control and adjustment. These features allowed garments to be worn for longer periods and through different stages of a person’s life.

Draping is another way of achieving adaptable fit. When done directly on the body, it allows the fabric to be moulded to the dimensions and silhouette of an individual. This particular technique appears in many past and present global garments such as the Indian dhoti  and sari.[1] Even when made of uncut fabric, these garments can provide fit. As well, they can fulfill both spiritual and practical functions by remaining whole. When draped on the body, such garments respond to the wearer’s measurements and movements. Cut cloth and construction techniques can also provide adjustable fit. Garments draped or cut on the bias expand and contract to adapt to the contours of the body without restricting it. Using the fabric this way provides better fit while allowing more freedom of motion. These design techniques and approaches enable flexible, personalized fit.

Adjustable clothing can be found in garments from a variety of cultures. Combinations of methods may be used: ties are sometimes placed on the back of Indian cholis[2], which gives this article of dress a wider affordance for accommodating bodily changes. This alleviates the restrictions of its tailored structure and allows it to be worn throughout a person’s adult life.

[1] The dhoti is a men’s garment made of fabric draped around the waist and legs. The sari is a women’s dress made from draping a five-meter long piece of fabric on the whole body in a variety of styles.

[2] Choli is the Hindi term for a blouse worn with a sari or with a skirt.

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April 12 to September 13, 2017

Dr. Anne Bissonnette, Josée Chartrand, Meg Furler, Yara Sayegh and Patricia Siferd co-curators as part of the graduate course “Material Culture and Curatorship” (HECOL 668).

Cite this page (bibliography):

Bissonnette, Anne, and Josée Chartrand, Meg Furler, Yara Sayegh, Patricia Siferd. “Past & Global Bodies.” Misfits: Bodies, Dress and Sustainability, Exhibitions, Clothing and Textiles Collection Website, Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, April 12, 2017. [INSERT URL].