Made-to-measure

To call World Factory: The Shirt a steep learning curve is no exaggeration. Zoe and Simon had to learn what was in a ‘technical pack’, and have had to hone their negotiation skills to start to understand the cost of manufacturing the shirts (and the factors might surprise you). Most recently, whilst in residence in Ipswich, plans to gather measurements of men passing Tower Ramparts shopping centre took an unexpected direction.

Zoe and Simon quickly decided that the shirt would have to be one size, to keep the minimum run as low as possible, and in recognition of the fact that the shirt is more art object than fashion garment. But determining this single size is a complex matter: sizing is a closely guarded secret across the global textile industry. So they decided to create their own, and consulted Ipswich tailor Coes about what measurements to gather.

shirt measurements

All that was then needed was willing participants – a group of men happy to be sized up by METIS’ tailor-for-the-day. Surprisingly, though Ipswich residents have, over the last year, been very generous in sharing their opinions about their clothes, their buying habits, and their understanding of manufacturing conditions, there was a great deal of reticence about being measured.

Having a few weeks to reflect on this apparent reluctance has prompted some interesting speculations in the METIS camp. None of the team, we realised, are used to being measured – and we suspect that this unfamiliarity is common. We no longer expect our clothes to be fitted to us, but instead conform to the range of sizes that are available to us. Being out of the practise of being measured makes the act strangely intimate, to say nothing of the association that measuring has with self-improvement – the pursuit of a more shapely body – which is an industry that is intricately linked to that of the textile industry.

At the risk of romanticising the past, it’s interesting to wonder about the impact that a shift to mass manufacture has had on our attitude to clothing. Is fast fashion – an inclination toward disposal, and a regular renewal of the contents of a wardrobe – a symptom of owning garments that weren’t made especially for us? Would active involvement in the creation of our clothing, ensuring just the right combination of colour, fabric and fit, mean that we kept hold of things for longer? If our measurements were viewed as something to fit things to, rather than something to change, would we ultimately be happier?

We’d love to know your thoughts, about being measured and about your experience of made-to-measure clothing. Please leave a comment below, tweet using the hashtag #measureme or email us worldfactorymetis@gmail.com

Copyright © Metis Arts 2013