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Garment Stories by Morag Seaton
2017 | 2018
Garment Stories is a book that follows the stories of twenty-five individuals talking about their most valued clothes.

Each individual was asked about their clothes and the reasons for their attachments. Each conversation was based around a garment the person considered most valuable, whether that be because of the quality and price, or because the garment belonged to a loved one. Recorded in writing and illustration, every story is unique and often the attachments to clothes are personally significant. This research is a consideration of the ‘use’ stage of a garment and the life of a garment beyond the supply chain. The purpose of Garment Stories is to challenge the obsolete nature of fashion, to gather valuable insights that can change the way we design, produce and wear clothes for a more sustainable fashion future, and to celebrate the stories of our clothes. 

         There are similarities to each conversation, such as comfort. Comfort plays a significant role in the user’s experience, and was mentioned by every person, including those who looked for aesthetic quality first. Outerwear was also mentioned throughout, as though it was seen as a long-wearing and less disposable garment compared to others. Outerwear was also laundered much less, if at all, as the less contact clothing had with skin - the less the wearer felt it needed to be washed. In terms of fabrics, preferences for natural fibre became clear, where synthetics were viewed as disposable. Having said this, when asked about the materials they wore, few individuals knew the properties of their clothes. As well as this, the interviewees rarely thought about the impact of ‘wear’, with some discussing the changes to clothing after use, such as the sagging of denim jeans around the knees, and the way patterns on fabrics would distort when creased around the elbows. There was a preference for clothing that had multiple functions, or that could be worn day and night. Many of the most valued garments were associated with family or loved ones, whether that be in the experience of buying, or because the garment was worn on a significant day to the individual, or most commonly, because the garment was formerly owned by a loved one. The more emotional attachment an individual had to their garment, the more likely they would see ‘wear’ or ‘damage’ on the piece as endearing. Looking at the conversations of each garment story, a significant issue was the difficulty, in which each person found, when trying to describe the reasons to their attachments, and what they valued in their clothes. The reasons for this are unclear; however, perhaps the lack of understanding around garment ‘use’ and value contribute to the issues of contemporary consumer society and obsolescence. As more clothes are bought and disposed of, less are understood, valued and appreciated.

In light of the issues surrounding obsolete design, and the constant consumption and disposal of objects, the need to bring value to our things is as essential as ever. Talking to people about their clothes and communicating the ways in which we use garments, are just small ways in bringing value to our things. The more we understand about object-use, the less we are likely to consume things impulsively. To understand ‘use’ value means understanding the role that clothing plays in our identity, our sense of self, and our relationship with others. Finding this value potentially contributes to a change in the way we consume material things, and opens up conversations about our social and environmental responsibility.
         The relationship we have with our clothing is personal and ever-changing, yet the simplicity of a worn garment is something we all have in common. Each garment can provide an insight to identity, behaviour, gender differences, age, occupational roles, culture, religion, wealth and more. Collecting garment stories and learning about the relationships we have with our clothes can uncover myriads of valuable insights. As a designer, this can be used to inform practical design solutions for a more sustainable and inclusive fashion future, to engage individuals with their environmental and social responsibility on a personal level, and to inspire creative outcomes that reimagine the stories of our clothes.


Garment Stories inspired the collection Memories of Dress, which outlines alternative and more sustainable methods of construction and design informed by the insights from each conversation.






 
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