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The development of clothing concepts in response to analysis of changing gendered social attitudes

Jackson, Philippa (2020) The development of clothing concepts in response to analysis of changing gendered social attitudes. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The relationship of gender and clothing were widely discussed by theorists, and fashion collections illustrated this thinking. This study aimed to address one area of this relationship, by conducting practice-based research to develop garments for women who wear men’s clothing. The study responds to real insights from the women themselves through qualitative interviews. This study aimed to understand why women choose to wear men’s clothing and to use this to question gender assignment in clothing, in order to develop design concepts for the development of clothing for this specific group of women. This interdisciplinary practice-based study combined phenomenological thinking and practice with theory to engage more deeply with why women choose to wear men’s clothing. The Victorian square cut shirt became pivotal to the process of design and accorded with preferences for large shapes and interesting proportion. The Pit brow study highlighted how historical gender roles can aid in the understanding of gendered clothing now. Surveys asking about the gendered perception of clothing on and off the body found significantly that clothing is perceived differently when not on a body. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 women answering a call for women who wear men’s clothing. Experimental design concepts were developed though combining, research inputs and an output culminating in a selection of garments was produced. The practice found that space between the body and clothing provides feelings of well-being, through comfort, space and coverage of the body. This study contributes to knowledge of garment design practice, by recording and analysing the complex thinking behind garment design for women who wear men’s clothing for fashion. Experimental responsive making, can create new and effective design methods through an intra-active relationship with fabric and an openness to the haphazard. The process of research and design combined with theory has defined preferences for the development of clothing for the group of women. The conceptual model, Women’s clothing preferences. Wellbeing in relation to gender and body image, records the final preferences and is a resource for future use for the design of clothing for all people. Gender assignment in clothing from the perspective of the viewer was found to be variable and influenced by personal and situational aspects, which were 4 | P a g e changeable. For the women participants, gendered clothing for the wearer, was found to be selected primarily by merit of wear properties. Women who wear men’s clothing do not wish to be defined by their gendered body, but by a sense of who they are.

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