Tag Archives: patterns

The Evolution of the Suit

I noticed that there was a celebration or commiseration of the 150th anniversary of the suit recently. Well the suit did not spring full-formed from a designer’s brow a century and a half ago but was a slow evolution throughout time. In the very earliest ages of humankind people wore animal skins but learned how to weave fabric from plants and animal fur or hair.

Creative Commons--rectangular construction (Knol)

Patterning and stitching developed along the way. As you can imagine the stitch would have been pretty basic and every piece of fabric taken off the loom would have been stitched together to form a body piece and sleeves.

There were no factories and every piece had to be made from the ground up so nothing was wasted. The earliest form of sewing and patterning was called rectangular construction because it was taking all of the rectangle from the loom and using it. Men and women wore tunics. You might call them dresses today or giant T-shirts, as the T-shirt is an evolved form of rectangular construction because the sleeves are formed where they join (in some cases). Since humanity began in Africa and spread out from there the Middle East and Africa held the first developed civilizations.

By the time rectangular construction was perfected humans had been dressing themselves for thousands of years. It’s hard to say exactly when this actually started because fabric tends to rot away. Only the earliest images on stone give us an idea of what the Egyptians, Babylonians and Sumerians were wearing.

Thorsberg Tunic

For outer wear in the colder climes people wore mantles, a rectangle of wool or fur or other heavy warm fabric. This eventually evolved into the cape, a shaped half circle or full circle cloak. However, at the same time the cultures that spent a lot of time in snow or on the steppes did develop coats. The Norse had coats and pants such as the 4th  century Thorsberg coat depicted to the right. The button, as a fastening came along around the 13th century. Before that, lacing, and pins of elaborate construction were used for closings.

But these were all coats, whether Norse, Persian or Mongolian. Cutting and patterning techniques became very elaborate; weaves as well continued to become refined. There is debate that we’ve lost some of the techniques shown in paintings of the Middle Ages, such as veils so thin that they were nearly invisible. Out of the Elizabethan era of the 1600s men were wearing doublets. On colder days, capes were thrown over these. By the Baroque and Rococo periods (which refers to art more than fashion) of the late 1600s to early 1700s elaborate doublets and coats of brocade were common. Overcoats became common as the swords slimmed down to the rapier blade, and muskets came to the fore. This is probably the true beginning of the suit, a doublet with a matching coat that is longer over top.

Van Dyck--example of doublet and coat.

Slowly over the next hundred years this turned into the coat and tails with a vest beneath the coat. Although the era of Louis XIV brought the froofroo lace and brocade to a height, and ostentation was part of the game, warmth also played a part. The ostentation carried over so that class was always shown by the cut of the cloth, the expense of the material and the dyes, and the ornamentation. As the more staid Regency and Victorian eras came around men (who once had been brighter peacocks than women in fashion) still needed to show their status. The more layers to your suit, the more high up you were.

Thus was modern the suit born. So, in the essence of the modern suit consisting of jacket and matching pants, and perhaps a vest, this did begin in the 1800s but as you can see it was a long evolution from a garment worn for warmth to one of nearly pure status. Status to depict class or responsibility or competence. Lawyers rarely wear T-shirts and cowboy boots in the courtroom or to meet clients. This description here is a gloss of the history of the suit but it gives you an idea of how fashion changes. Other influences can be political, economic or geographic. But in the end, it is what humans consider fashionable that makes the trend.


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Sexy Cartoons: the Cutesifying of Society

In one of the many online apps that I check (Facebook, Google, Yahoo Groups, various independent websites, Wiki) there are ads. We’re all used to them and probably don’t notice most of them by now. They may be for dating or specific to what you’re looking at, or little gadget ads to lure you in so they can slap a cookie and spyware onto you. There are wallpaper and screensaver gadgets, little emoticons you can use and various avatars you can create.

There has been one, obviously geared toward girls and women where you can create an avatar/toon of yourself. Now I was pretty much like any other little girl and used to love paper dolls and plastic dolls and changing their clothes. What can I say? I still love clothes and maybe that was just the early interest manifesting. Women, generally, love color and pattern and whether it is clothing or decorating your home or painting a picture, this may come out in various ways. But over all humans are attracted to color and pattern; it’s just that men have been told they have to be more “manly.” Tell the men of the Baroque era, in their lace cravats and cuffs, brocades, powdered wigs, facial patches and high heeled shoes that they weren’t men. They were; they were just in fashion for their period.

So, back to these various ads. The one that caught my eye is this one:


Not that there aren’t other similar ads out there but this one isn’t just taking some generic avatar. You seem to be able to supply a photo of yourself and then form a little Barbie/manga doll image. Why you need a toon version of yourself, who knows? Probably just because it’s cute and different. Let’s compare the toon to the person. It’s a little hard to tell in this picture (and I didn’t want to be spammed so I didn’t click on the icon) but under the “Draw Me” tab you can see that toon girl’s waist is smaller than real girl’s. And I’m gonna just guess that toon girl will have a bigger bust too. And skinnier arms.

Now both images are of the same height but the proportions are different. Toon girl has a head longer and wider than real girl. This fits with certain styles of cartooning but not all. She also has a cupid bow mouth that is about one quarter of the size of real girl’s. But the eyes take up nearly a third of her face. And her brows are arched high. They’re very cartoony and done in a style known as manga, or Japanese comic art, where artists have given these cutesy wide open, innocent eyes on little-girl-proportioned bodies but with the breasts of women (and often in schoolgirl outfits–you figure it out).

So what we have is a cartoon of ourselves. Harmless over all. Cartoons are done for numerous reasons–political satire, caricatures, fantasy stories, etc. However, I see some of these cartoon avatars as an indication of what society fashionistas seem to want. I  admit to a certain prejudice but we have oversexed our society in the wrong ways and objectified women as well. (Booth babes, cheerleaders, pin-ups–some are fine for admiring the art of the human body but it’s gone overboard, and often that’s all people seem to want in women.)

The image of large eyes and a cute little mouth, big breasts and a tiny waist is what men hope they’ll get. What do the Barbie doll, cosmetically enhanced, botox crowd go for? Big breasts, tiny waists, large, overly full lips (one difference from this cartoon), big eyes, long necks, arched brows. It may not be everyone’s ideal of beauty but it’s what the fashion media push, to the extreme. Surgical manipulation of the body is a big business.

What we as human beings need to keep in mind is that we are human, of flesh that changes, with birthmarks and uneven coloring. We are not all built the same, and looking at too many altered stars, cartoon images, and airbrushed and anorexic models gives a false ideal of beauty.  What is truly beautiful is our diversity, the unique combination of eyes, nose, mouth, hair color, height, movement and personality. We shouldn’t be trying to iron ourselves into sameness, nor thinking that a caricature of human proportions is what we all want to be. If people, as individuals, don’t keep a good perspective, then’ we’re closer to being Stepford wives than we thought.


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Eating Quirks

I was talking yesterday with a couple of people and we were discussing our odd eating habits. One woman, when she was a child, started pushing her food into separate piles so that nothing would touch. She thinks that it began because she’d have salad and there would be a pile of dressing left over on which her mother would place the other food.

Makes sense. My brother was one of those. His meat could not touch his potatoes could not touch his other vegetables. Me, I was of the other end. I didn’t exactly swirl all of my food into one mosaic. But I was very big on getting the different combos of taste sensations. I’m still that way. If I have turkey (keeping it seasonal for the US Thanksgiving), potatoes, stuffing and carrots, I will eat each one separately but then I’ll combine the potatoes and stuffing, the potatoes and turkey, the potatoes and carrots, the potatoes and carrots and stuffing, etc. You get the picture: as many combos as possible.

When I was a kid and I ate those super nutritious sandwiches of two slabs of white bread, a smear of radioactive yellow mustard and a micro thin slice of a ham/luncheon meat product, I still had to make deviations from the food norm. You’reprobably thinking, well there’s three: ham, bread, and ham and bread. As far as taste went that was true but I also ate in design combos or patterns. First, bite off the top piece of bread, leaving the ham and the lower bread slice. Then eat that. Next bite: eat the meat out of the middle, then eat the bread together. Next bite: eat the bread on the top, then the one on the bottom, then the meat. Next bite: eat the bottom slice, then the meat, then the top slice. Order mattered. Not as many variations, but a way to make a pretty bland sandwich more interesting. Of course, if you added lettuce or tomato, it gave more permutations. Some food was just too messy to do this with though.

I don’t really eat sandwiches much anymore but I don’t tend to go through the patterned bitefest either. Though if I’m eating cake, it would be cake, icing, cake with icing, cake with ice cream, etc. Or lemon meringue pie: meringue, then meringue and crust, then meringue and lemon curd, then lemon curd and crust… I do in fact still do that. I guess when I look at it this way, I was always playing with my food.

I have to say though, those meals of baked potato, roast with frozen peas and carrots (cooked of course) did not meet with my patterning standards. Then it was a case of eating the marrow of the potato and hiding the disgusting mushy veggies in its shell. Or taking bread and butter, putting the veggies on the bread and covering it in gravy to disguise the taste. I actually got in trouble for that last one but frozen vegetables were so putrid to me that they made me gag.

I wonder if studies could be done to determine people’s careers by how they ate their food. Who is more analytical though, the person who separates their food or the person that mixes the flavors together? My brother, one of the food separators, was a politician and likes to work at solving the world’s ills. The woman mentioned above is studying to be a doctor. My other brother, I don’t know if he was a mixer or a separator but he would eat the same food (hot dogs or BLT or…) for weeks on end, ad nauseum. He’s a teacher.

The same food for a week would bore me. I’m a writer but I’m sure there are as many food separators who are writers as the patterners. Or are there? Food for thought on a rainy day in Vancouver. Happy Thanksgiving weekend to those in the US.

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