Drape and movement

Notes from Creative Arts Today, page 213-4
  • DRAPE is the way a fabric or garment hangs.
  • It is influenced by the structure and weight of the fabric. Excess fabric can be used to build folds, gathers and pleats.
  • The quality of drape is determined by its softness, rigidity and weight.
  • A fabric is said to drape well when it is fluid, soft and with a rounded handle.
  • Through draping a textile can be manipulated in a sculptural way.
  • The drape creates the movement of a garment, a kinetic energy, that comes to its full expression when a garment is actually worn on the body, like wonderfully exemplified by Avedon’s photograph of the ‘Veruschka’ dress by Bill Blass (1967).

The French designer Madame Grès is a superb example of a master of draping:


Notes from Creative Arts Today, page 212
  • If the silhouette is the overall shape of a garment, VOLUME addresses the space around the body.
  • Volume is created and greatly affected by the weight and thickness of the textile: heavy fabrics need room to fold and drape and can easily produce bulky volumes, light fabrics can produce subtle volumes or be layered to build greater volumes around certain parts of the body.


Example of volume created by a heavy foam: 

Memory foam pullover by Nadine Goepfert, photo credit: Sanna Helena Berger. From: http://nadinegoepfert.com/index.php?/work/the-garments-may-vary-/

In the example above by Nadine Goepfert, a Berlin based textile designer, volume is used to great effect.

In a recent online interview of 24/04/2017 from http://www.freundevonfreunden.com/interviews/nadine-goepfert-textile-designer-music-berlin/ (Accessed 14/08/2017) Nadine says: ‘I’m interested in body language, gestures and how clothing influences them’. Most of her designs can be considered works of art, but they can also be worn. The foam pullover above belongs to her collection ‘Garments May Vary’ and has been worn by Solange Knowles in the music video for her single ‘Cranes in the Sky’.



Example of volume created by a tulle net:

Balenciaga 1957 – Cocktail Dress 2013, possibly inspired by Balenciaga

From: https://dutchfashiondollworld.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/

(Accessed 14/08/2014)


Notes from Creative Arts Today, page 211

  • The SILHOUETTE is the overall shape of a garment and determines the outline of the form. It’s influenced by how a garment is cut and by the softness and fluidity of the textile.
  • The SILHOUETTE is related to the proportion, scale, balance, flow and composition of the shape in relation to the body.

Sewguide offers a practical introduction to the basic silhouette types for what concerns especially women dresses and/or skirts, but of course the same concept can be applied to all types of garments or accessories like for example collars, hats and so on. The web has an almost infinite number of drawings and plates which organize these silhouettes according to categories, places and historic times.

I had a look at Maiko Takeda’s millinery pieces that I did not know:




(all accessed 13/08/2017)

Maiko Takeda working at one of her head pieces, from: https://www.ignant.com/2013/09/27/maiko-takeda/

This designer creates ethereal adornments for the body that are difficult to define as accessories – maybe hats, maybe jewels or something in between. They are surreal and delicate, bold and subtle, like magical creatures growing on the body and transforming it, generating an aura around it.

Dream-like silhouettes are created by hundreds of coloured plastic bristles that ondulate softly around the wearer. She explains that she obtained the visual effect she was after by layering printed clear film, sandwiched with acrylic discs and linked together with silver jump rings – she learnt jewellery before millinery.

Introduction to Project 4: Enveloping the body

Key concepts (Creative Arts Today, pages 210-211)
  • This final Project of Part 5 deals with yet another function/use/context for textiles: textiles in connection with the human body, either as FASHION (DESIGN) or ART or midway, for instance as craft.
  • All textiles have TACTILE, VISUAL, DRAPE,  HANDLE, PROTECTIVE and DURABLE QUALITIES that can be put to use in WEARING like in fashion or as EXPRESSION like in art.
Textiles as garments in fashion
  • Main qualities/issues/concerns to consider: AESTHETIC – FUNCTIONAL – COST – PRODUCTION CHOICES  – ETHICAL  –  SUSTAINABILITY
  • AESTHETIC CONSIDERATIONS: visual and tactile qualities, manipulations needed for wearability/functionality in different contexts of use, for instance evening wear, sportswear, knitwear. Subject to individual judgement.
  • FUNCTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: comfort, durability, protection especially in sportswear, protective clothing, workwear. Less subject to individual judgement.
  • These textile qualities are obviously important also in contexts other than fashion such as interior and exterior applications examined in Project 3.

Research Point: Christian Boltanski – Personnes installation (2010)



From HLGfilms, at: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SXND1GZdBzM (Accessed 11/08/2017)

Not having visited the installation in Paris in 2010 I found really useful to look at videos on YouTube to get at least an idea of how it was.

1. I shall first try a schematic analysis using the terms set out at the start of Project 3.

Personnes is an ART installation set up at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2010, conceived as a TEMPORARY  grandiose anonymous memorial by Christian Boltanski (1944), a French artist, photographer and film maker (At: https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Boltanski, accessed 11/08/2017).

It was a LARGE SCALE visual and sound installation, which took up the enormous space of the Nave at the Grand Palais, the largest glass roof in Europe (At: http://www.grandpalais.fr/fr/evenement/monumenta-christian-boltanski-personnes, accessed 11/08/2017).

At the time of the installation the empty grandiose space of the Nave was TRANSFORMED into an imaginary regular array of encampments and/or collective cemetery of crowds of anonymous people symbolically represented by layers of discarded clothes and objects laid out on the floor. The installation was conceived as a deeply moving IMMERSIVE experience for visitors who were able to move along the areas which REPEATED themselves monotously throughout the space in a square PATTERN.

Laura Cumming in The Guardian has a review of the installation at the Grand Palais (At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/jan/17/christian-boltanski-personnnes-paris-review, accessed 11/08/2017)

Also Adrian Searle wrote a review of the exhibition (Accessed 12/08/2017).
2. Some thoughts about the installation

  • The echoing sound of human heartbeats, with its rhythmic and continuous thuds, never leaves the visitors during their moving across the vast space of the Nave. Boltanski even invites all who come in to record their own heart rhythms in dedicated booths, adding to an archive he is compiling of all the world’s heartbeats. I think that this is a very powerful idea that creates a strong emotional bond between the living and the dead, implying that we all share the same destiny: those who are dead were once living, those that are living shall be dead. We all belong together. This gives the work a universal value across places and across times.
  • All those discarded clothes, thousands of them lying down on the floor in grids, orderly so, face down, as if in anonymous graves of a cemetery or in some other somber disposition like corpses after a terrorist attack or another tragic event, are terribly unsettling in the absence of all those who wore them. As visitors we can walk around, looking at an old coat here, a  children’s sweater there, pick up a garishly coloured dress, or a skirt and tenderly wonder who wore it, imagining a person and a life behind it. So these forlorn clothes in all their emptiness stand for people, are those people, those clothes have more than a symbolic value, are more than symbols, and we look at them as if they were people, they are so to say a metaphor of people.
  • The installation title makes sense only in French, because ‘personne’ means a ‘person’ but also ‘no person’, ‘nobody’. So it indicates at the same time the presence of people and their absence. The absence is given by the anonymity that death confers to people. The mechanical grabber is a second powerful metaphor, that strengthens and confirms this vision of human absence: Boltanski has said that he equates the grabber  to the ‘indifferent hand of God’ which randomly picks up somebody like an old cloth and then lets it drop again, just as casually.
  • I associate this grandiose installation to the memento mori and vanitas paintings dealt with in Part 1 of this course. The scale is evidently very different and Personnes offers the visitors a multi-sensorial immersive experience involving them in several ways, but the inspiration has some elements in common. However, in Boltanski’s work there is also a human pietas, a compassion for our common destiny that seems to be absent from vanitas paintings. On a more emotional personal level, my thought goes to the crowds of migrants which cross seas and lands in search of rescue and survival, letting behind families, houses, belongings and often finding an anonymous death along the way.

Exercise 1: Marianne Straub’s moquette textile considered from a Visual Communications point of view

Exercise 1 invites to think back at work done on Visual Communications in Part Three and consider what communicative function Straub’s textile is serving in this context.

I think that, beyond providing something durable to sit on while using public transportation, in this specific case the upholstery primarily served the purpose of creating a strong visual brand identity for the London transportation system, and consequently to generate in passengers an emotional response and association with it.

This was not always so: from a very interesting document of 2011 that I found online, ‘Reports of Society Meetings: Seat Moquette – Past, Present and Future’ by Harriet Wallace Jones and Emma Sewell of Wallace Sewell with Mike Ashworth of London Underground (At: http://www.lurs.org.uk/articles11_htm_files/03%20oct%2011%20REPORTS%20OF%20SOCIETY%20METTINGS.pdf, accessed 10/08/2017) I learnt that originally on public transport seats were often made of wood or of woven cane, being these materials hard-wearing, light and hygienic. It was mainly because of increased competition from other bus and tram services with more comfortable seats that a textile upholstery was considered.

But for a long time the seats were covered with all sorts of patterned fabrics, with no preoccupation for consistency. It was only in the 60s that the concept of a uniform design fir the whole fleet emerged and contributed to establish a brand identity for London Transport, and I think that the use of the same visually appealing moquette with pleasant tactile qualities brought with it also other messages to passengers: London Transport is dependable and trustworthy in its service and takes care that passengers stay comfortable and warm and have an enjoyable travelling experience. The choice of a moquette textile seems also particularly suited to a relatively cold city such as London, whereas it would be odd in a hot town like Rome where I live.

The analogous blue/green colour scheme is lively and fresh, dynamic and energetic but not disquietingly or excessively so: being next to each other on the colour wheel, blue and green are harmonious and pleasing to the eye and can evoke serene natural images of water and foliage. The abstract geometric pattern has a certain Bauhaus flair – understandably so since Marianne Straub had studied art at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich where she had as tutor Heinz Otto Hürlimann (At: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianne_Straub, accessed 11/08/2017) – and is neat and crisp without being busy or distracting. With its straight lines the pattern may perhaps be connected also with the grid-like plan of transportation but maybe this is unintentional or far-fetched.

So I think that all in all Straub’s moquette textile may bring with it connotations such as an emotional identification with the brand, feelings of warmness, cosiness, care and comfort, and a serene general pleasingness to the eye and the touch.

Research Point: Marianne Straub, Moquette textile (1970)


From: https://vads.ac.uk/x-large.php?uid=31850&sos=0 (Accessed 10/08/2017)

This is an original sample of the moquette textile designed by Marianne Straub in 1967 and made by Firth Furnishings in Yorkshire which was in use as seat upholstery during the 70s on London buses/Underground trains/British Rail carriages .

Key evaluating criteria as according to Creative Arts Today terminology on pages 199-200:

DESIGN: functional machine-produced textile from Straub’s original design first developed on a handloom (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianne_Straub, accessed 10/08/2017).

Although she became a leading name in industrial design – creating upholstery for everything from London Underground to BEA aircraft – she almost always developed her ideas on a handloom before applying her technical knowhow to their manufacture. She believed that if more designers tried out their ideas first, there would be fewer bad results.[4]

PERMANENT: it was meant to be very durable, with anti-stain and stain-hiding qualities

SMALL/LARGE SCALE: according to the intended use

DEFINING: defines the bus/carriage/train as belonging to the public transport system

IMMERSIVE/DISTANT: passengers are in close contact, at the same time the patterning can be observed from a distance

PATTERN/COLOUR/REPETITION: the blue/green colour scheme repeats itself throughout as a pattern