Towards a New Design Strategy:
A Visual and Cultural Analysis of Small-Scale Pattern on Clothing

Hilary Carlisle, 2002


The aim of this research has been to develop a new design strategy for printed textile design which holds resonance both socially and technologically within our increasingly pluralistic culture. This has been realised by offering a fusion of theoretical and practice-based work for investigation. In particular, the research is concerned with the role pattern on clothing plays in gender perception. The major achievements of the project are the production of a viable working model which demonstrates a method by which theoretical investigation can inform and inspire practice-based work, and the application of this method in the production of software and design examples which demonstrate innovative possibilities for contemporary textile design by examining and manipulating the gendered features identified through the historical and theoretical investigation of traditional patterns on clothing.
The theoretical research examines culturally hierarchical dualities such as mind-body, culture-nature and order-chaos. From this, a notional, and oppositional, set of gendered visual features of pattern was constructed. This set was then explored through the use of archival and contemporary data for the periods 1967 – 1973 and 1997 – 2002. The analysis of the data, which allows for discrepancy and contradiction in individual samples, provides suggestions for both continuity and change in contemporary gender identities and design.
The practice has been concerned with developing a strategy which considers inventive textile design through two parallel strands: the ongoing re-evaluation of gender roles and identities in contemporary culture, as explored in the theoretical work; and the re-evaluation of commercially printed textiles resulting, in part, from technological advances in ink-jet printing.
A unique software prototype has been developed which constructs non-repeating textile patterns that could be transferred directly from computer onto fabric. The parameters used by the software are a culmination of the theoretical, social and commercial considerations explored throughout this thesis. The resultant design examples illustrate the potential of the design strategy by revealing patterns which, through the exploration and reinterpretation of gendered polarities, offer innovation without alienation.



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