One of the earliest shapes for cut and sewn garments was T-shape. This form resulted in a minimum waste of fabric and easy construction.The T-shape was independently discovered by people in many areas of the ancient world. It probably arose by necessity of economy, climate and functionality – the simplicity and looseness of the garment perfect in its uncomplicated production, comfort, and ease of wear. Here we are offering a number of interpretations of the T-shape by different cultures. They include a Japanese kimono, modern caftans, a Palestinian wedding dress, a Turkoman caftan, and Chinese robes. In the present, we see the shape reconstructed and deconstructed.
T resonates other associations with the past
Thayaht ( Ernesto Michaelles) was a designer and illustrator for Madeleine Vionnet in Paris (who is best remembered for the bias cut of her dresses that fell asymmetrically and were “literally activated by the body” (Clark: 2001). Thayaht designed Vionnet’s logo.
Thayaht is known for his invention of the Tuta (1919-1920), the first tracksuit that was not linked to workwear. And yet, it was strictly related to the idea of no waste of fabric, functionality, and simple elegance. Although similar garments echoing the tuta had already existed since the end of the nineteenth century, what Thayhat offered was a witty and innovative translation in cut, and modification in the uses of the same design with the addition of simple details, a belt, a collar, whose rendition was new, especially if compared to the stiff formality of menswear at that time.
Thayhat often had his shirts custom-made according to his specific taste with a soft collar, thus creating a completely different look for men’s shirts that, for bourgeois gentlemen, had always been characterized by a stiff collar. Traces of the kind of masculinity in dress elaborated by Thayaht can be seen in Antonio Marras, especially in his 2003-4 collection entitled “I hate the indifferent” (see Antonio Gramsci 1967), where workwear and outerwear intersect, and where the use of fabric helps to de-structure the suit and with it the perception of a rigid image of masculinity.
T in the present
and as Tabii Just (Tabitha St. Bernard)
Tabii Just is a womenswear clothing label that encourages conscious consumerism while providing chic clothing. Tabii Just’s design aesthetic is a seamless marriage of Brooklyn edge and an easy- going Trinidadian vibe. We’re proof that you can be sustainable without being…well…vanilla. We make easy-to-wear, effortlessly chic clothing with a distinct personality. Our clothes are for the fun bunch, the women who draw attention to their style simply by being. Tabii Just was also named one of 10 eco-friendly designers to know by Brooklyn Magazine. We encourage conscious shopping specifically through two facets: Local Production & Zero Fabric Waste.
Tabii Just is designed and manufactured in NYC. We take pride in supporting local labor and ensuring that Tabii Just clothing is not made in sweatshops. At Tabii Just, we also believe in personally maintaining quality control over our garments. Having a factory a train ride away gives us the opportunity to ensure things are done just the way you want it. Also, we kind of really love New York City.
T as in Taylorism
A system of management in early Twentieth century factories first introduced by Fred W. Taylor that aimed to break down each job into its individual motions and movements. This led to a standardization of work that also aimed at controlling the efficiency of the workers.
The triumph of the machine that had mechanized life also structured worker’s lives in the factories, as we can see in Fritz Lang Metropolis or Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. The factory workers carry out repetitive gestures and bodily performances; in Metropolis they walk, dressed identically; the numbers on their caps make of them a nameless mass and crowd.
The mechanization of life is also part of the spectacle of cinema, emerging in the beginning of the 20 th century and of fashion as a powerful culture industry. Full gallery as on website?
Natalie Chanin (Deconstructing)
Natalie Chanin from Project Alabama in her first book: Alabama Stitch Book: Projects and Stories Celebrating Hand-Sewing, Quilting and Embroidery for Contemporary Sustainable Style, (Abrams: 2008) shared her personal story of a designer and the evolution of her own company. It all started with a T-shirt. Natalie decided in the year 2000 to cut apart a T-shirt and hand-stitch it back together. This led her to go back home to Florence (Alabama) to work with the stitchers and quilters of her own community to produce a collection of one-of-a-kind T-shirts, as well as make a documentary film about old-time quilting circles, and then to found Alabama Chanin.
This first collection focused on the story of cotton in her own community and its early work using recycled T- shirts as a fabric source. Natalie’s stitching, stenciling, beading techniques and designs started with a simple T-shirt as well as the use of the fabric that still characterizes today Project Alabama, cotton jersey.
Mary Ping (Reconstructing)
One of Mary Ping’s coats was featured in The Fabric of Cultures 2006 exhibit in the T section.
After studying Fine Arts at Vassar, Mary Ping started designing for her own label Slow and Steady wins the race, an unconventional label that includes some more permanent capsule collections that did not follow the whims and fast changes of fashion. Ping’s designs aimed at reconstructing familiar tropes such as the white T-shirt, distilling from it its essential meanings and building on them to create her own fresh interpretations.
Her critique on how we consume, the materials and garments, the aura of brands such as Hermes and the Kelly bags that she transformed using white canvas and reconstructed in her own vision and use. Her work is to raise consciousness on fashion as an object, the making of it, the labor behind production.