'Three Coats' by Siv Støldal and Ruth Hogben, at SHOWstudio
AW 2008-09 / Three Wardrobes
SS 2008 / High Visibility
AW 2007-08 / Cover Up
SS 2007 / Camouflage
AW 2006-07 / Seasonal/Effective/Disorder
SS 2006 / Sportswear
AW 2005-06 / Dress Up/Down
SS 2005 / Outside/In
AW 2004-05 / Disguise
AW 2003-04 / Trace

Project / Cover Up
Project / Trace

Collaboration / Fred Perry

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DRESS/UP/DOWN
AUTUMN - WINTER 05/06

Siv Stoldal has long-since been fascinated by the ways in which people actively use clothing to dress for special occasions. This begs certain questions: Why do people plan to wear certain garments when attending a function or event? And why do they not similarly plan or contrive their typical ensembles, worn in everyday life?

Stoldal explored these musings when attending a wedding, taking place on a small island in Norway, last summer. Homing in on guests attending said event, she photographed their attire before, during and after the wedding. Those in attendance varied dramatically in terms of their backgrounds - for example, young London-based artists and designers mingled with older Norwegian fishermen. Yet despite the differences in their ages, attire, work and lifestyles, they all communicated certain recognisable traits in their clothing, particularly on the wedding day itself; all had made an effort to adhere to the notion of dressing ‘up’. This was especially evident among the men, whom tended to utilise specific symbols and references in order to look the part - a flower worn on a lapel, for instance.  It became apparent, therefore, that people need to follow certain rules as regards their appearance; how and why this happens is the theme which underpins the Autumn/Winter 05/06 collection.

The ceremony took place outdoors, and consequently this attracted much attention from local residents, whom arrived - complete with old-fashioned, striped deckchairs and flasks of coffee - to watch the ensuing shenanigans. Stoldal also photographically documented these onlookers - and her pictures, taken from a distance, rendered them into semi-abstract forms. Despite the blurring of detail in these shots, it was still possible to distinguish between guests and spectators; these pictures, later re-drawn by Stoldal, would eventually be utilised in print form within the resulting collection.

The wedding dinner was held in an antique army tent, borrowed for the day from a vintage army collector. Additionally, old army sleeping bags were used for those guests staying for the night; these have been used within the collection, making a deliberate feature of their various toggles, eyelets and functional detailing.

Key garments from Dress/Up/down include hand-made tailored suit jackets made from black T-shirt fabric. Jersey tennis-style T-shirts are overlaid with printed images of a black suit jacket with a rose on the lapel, . Others, in striped blue and white jersey, are over-printed with Stoldal’s aforementioned abstracted drawings of the guests and onlookers. Turtle neck jumpers also come complete with prints of ties upon them, while V neck jumpers feature prints of suits. Structured dress shirts are re-worked by the addition of two differently shaped, casual pockets on their fronts.

Asymetric, hand-knitted cable jumpers - which take huge amounts of time to create - boast cable patterns of varying thickness; these have been made from the type of wool normally used for making socks, and thereafter worn by Norwegian fishermen. Flying jackets, fashioned from the padded sleeping bag fabric, reveal second hand leather belts within their collars and on their sides. The very same fabric is also used once more, this time on tailored suit jackets. Outer layers of the sleeping bag are overhauled, and have been dyed navy, to create Goretex-type jackets, enhanced by wooden toggles, eyelets and myriad small pockets. Trousers combine salt and pepper suiting fabric at the front, with the reverse side in demin, or cotton upon the front and cord on the back, resulting in a surprisingly subtle transition from one form of material to the other.

Dress/Up/Down makes for an inspiring mix-up of recognisably casual and formal clothing, and a cheeky subversion of sartorial rules… rules that were just waiting to be broken, it seems.

James Anderson