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Women’s knitwear for a ‘growing’ population.\ud Sub title: Digital Knit to Fit; challenges and solutions in fashion knitwear for larger sizes. \ud

By Victoria Haffenden


The following paper is centred upon practice based research, developing a capsule collection of custom fitted knitwear for the individual body shapes of a cohort of British women over UK size 16 (Eu 44), with parallels to other European female consumers. The intent of the research has been to develop a new knit system offering minimally extensible knitted garments for larger size women, producing tangible knitted results which exemplify a theory. \ud The 2003 SizeUK survey established that the average woman in the UK is a size 16 (Allen et al., n.pag); since then further body size surveys have been carried out in France, China, Mexico and Brazil. Recent studies show that 36% of the female population in the UK could be obese by 2020. (Press Association, n.pag) Thus a significant amount of the female population falls into the plus size clothing market. Despite this trend, research has concluded that larger women experience dissatisfaction with clothing fit. (Chowdhary and Beale, p1; Kind and Hathcote, p323; Shim and Kotsiopulos, p1038)\ud Fashion abhors fat and the ageing process (Evans, p94); thinness symbolises wealth, youth, beauty and power. (Nussbaum, p5) Average women can have up to 38% body fat by middle age (30% when younger) whereas models with as much as 22% less than average body fat are the ideal for whom clothing is designed. (Wolf, p192) As a woman’s socio-economic status rises she acquires the financial ability to achieve this ideal. (Arnold, p89) Through this social mechanism, larger size, which often correlates with low income, is relegated to ‘low fashion’. (Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults the Evidence Report) This research seeks to redress this by improving the fit of commercial knitwear.\ud Spanning three main areas: clothing fit, larger body shape and knitwear manufacture, this participatory, user centred research has adopted a case study method derived from Yin (Yin, p46), to enable working with real bodies of real women. Interviews plus an online survey have gathered contemporary socio/psychological data on larger size women’s clothing choices, shopping, body image and cathexis specific to this research.\ud Protocols have been established in body measurement and knitwear design for larger sizes by adapting traditional methods and embracing new technologies. Sophisticated digital knitting equipment has been core to the development of garments, which are based on manually acquired and 3D body scanned data. In order to achieve final garments, objective and subjective evaluation of prototypes have informed serial re-designing involving wearer participation. (Rasband and Liechty, p62-63; Watkins, p241)\ud This research concludes, as its contribution to new knowledge, that improving the fit of fashion knitwear for larger women by removing the fit-by-stretch factor (which up until now has been a major style and psychological drawback for these consumers), enhances their wearing experience, and enthuses the wearer towards the garment. There are some indications that this engagement potentially encourages longevity of use, which may absorb the increased cost of customisation. The template library derived from the research offers a direct route into future industrial developments of the process, which includes scope to consider communication of data straight from body scanner to knitting machine. Response from the mass production knitwear industry has so far been positive and further work in this direction will be pursued.\ud \u

Topics: W200 Design, W230 Clothing/Fashion Design, J500 Materials Technology not otherwise specified
Year: 2010
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