Gender, Bodies, and Garments

A note about gender: Garment designing, patterning, and construction are a part of an incredibly gendered system. Garments are usually divided into categories based upon gender as it is assigned at birth: women, misses or girls, men or boys. Almost all elements of patterning (measurements, styles, slopers, blocks, skirts, etc.) are gendered. I find this comes into conflict with my belief in actually how gender works and how gender is experienced. I do not presume to know anyone’s gender upon meeting them. A person’s gender is an entirely personal expression that I cannot know just by looking at a person, what they wear, how they behave, or how their body is shaped.

In this class, rather than referring to garments as made for Women or Men, I will be referring to garments as made for people with breasts or without breasts. This may feel awkward at first if you are not used to this kind of reference but will become much easier within a few weeks. At the moment, this is the most accurate and inclusive terminology I have found.

A note about bodies and shapes: This class is pro-body diversity and there is not an ideal body in this class. As you already know, bodies vary in shape, size, disability, age, and movement. One of the most empowering things about learning how to pattern garments to specific bodies is that we are not constrained by what is commercially made. We become capable of making clothing fit how we want on almost any body we want. This being said, I know we live within a dominant culture that teaches a narrow view of what a body should look like and be able to do. Unfortunately, many of the garment reference books available to us use examples that conform to dominant fashion industry body ideals. I encourage you to notice when pressure to conform or judge others based upon this dominant culture rises up with you and to allow room within yourself to question the beliefs embedded in those ideals. Additionally, any denigrating commentary about any body shapes, sizes, abilities, health, age, or looks will not be tolerated in this course.