"Knockoff" - Military Jacket
My first introduction to the complexities of the fashion industry was at a class I took at Ox-Bow School of Art and Design in 2011. I studied under Marianne Fairbanks and Carole Lung, who are both activists in their own way. Marianne worked to develop a solar powered bag to charge the many technologies we carry, and Carole has an ongoing alter ego named Frau Fiber. Frau Fiber is an activist targeting fast fashion and the injustices surrounding it.
During this class, we had in depth conversations regarding aspects of the fashion industry as well as political activism. There were also discussions about concepts of beauty and the grey area between art and craft. We had projects that were practical, like adding a zipper and practicing different seams. We sewed on a bicycle-powered sewing machine and learned how to “cast” a soft sculpture. The project that stood out to me most, however, was “Knockoff.”
For this project, I remade a thrift store jacket that had an awful print but fit well. I started with cutting the garment symmetrically in half, keeping the intact half as reference. Then I meticulously seam ripped the other half into every little part and piece that initially went into it. If you have never torn apart a garment, I suggest doing it as you can learn a lot. You will notice seam allowances, construction tips, and most importantly, it's enlightening to realize that every garment IS handmade, whether it is homemade or factory-made.
After the half is deconstructed (make sure you take notes during the deconstruction), I started to trace every piece on to paper in order to make a flat pattern. Be mindful of seam allowance, and remember that you can adjust measurements to be more exact for your body. For instance, I have had to adjust patterns to fit a bigger bust.
Next, I laid out my pattern and started to cut, paying attention to the original garment, making sure that I was following the same grain of the fabric. Be sure to choose a material that is similar to the original - don’t replace a knit with a woven, for example. Once I had all the pieces ironed and cut, I began to piece the garment together, remembering how I tore it apart and referring to my notes and the intact half. This is always the point where I feel like I am doing a logic puzzle, because I have to think about what I know and then with each piece put together the next step becomes clear. It also helps that I have done a lot of seam ripping, too, in case I make a mistake!
You may be thinking, “Why would I go to all this trouble when I can go out and buy something?” Well first, I think it is good to understand what goes into each and every garment that we simply wear and throw away. Second, I think that remaking my own garment is a way to challenge myself, be more empathetic towards garment workers, and live outside the norm while making a political statement." Lastly, I have also “knocked it off” because my favorite jacket was very worn or the measurements needed to be adjusted. Or I just wanted multiple of the same thing. It is also a good way to repurpose old pieces. Maybe a print feels dated but the fit is still great - remake it with a more timeless print or make it more basic with a neutral.