axÉ „ WtÇwç Dean Brough, Master of Arts (Research)

axÉ „ WtÇwç
Dean Brough, Master of Arts (Research)
Queensland University of Technology
Creative Industries, 2008
Principle Supervisor - Dr Luke Jaaniste
Associate Supervisor - Professor Suzi Vaughan
Fashion, design, menswear, dress shirt, white shirt, blouse, wearability, practiceled research, innovation, Neo-Dandy, dandy, gendered object.
This practice-led research creates innovative menswear designs for formal white
dress shirts, within boundaries of contemporary mainstream wearability.
As a result of an historical analysis, a conceptual spectrum is developed to scope
the possibilities of the contemporary white dress shirt, from the orthodox menswear
shirt to the many variations of the women’s blouse. Within this spectrum for the
white shirt, the possibilities for innovation are discussed in terms of a threshold
position between the shirt and the blouse - a position that parallels that of the dandy
figure who subversively confronts dress norms of the day. This position is then
explored in relation to an acceptable/ ‘wearable’ aesthetic which I have labelled
‘Neo-Dandy’. White shirts from contemporary menswear designers are then
examined relative to this aesthetic. In doing so, this examination highlights the
white dress shirt as a garment that is ripe for experimentation.
My own creative design process is then described as taking up the challenge of
Neo-Dandy design innovation for the contemporary white dress shirt. On this
archetypal garment, different styles and varying degrees of detailing were tested. A
range of ‘concept shirts’ were produced, tested and documented, with each shirt
succeeding to various degrees in achieving a Neo-Dandy aesthetic. Based on this
range, a list of design principles for achieving this aesthetic are identified.
The weighting is 60% for the design objects (a collection of men’s white dress
shirts that explore wearability and design innovation within a Neo-Dandy aesthetic)
and 40% for the design discussion (exegesis and supporting appendices).
Key Terms – Glossary
Formal wear – a broad, contemporary notion of formal wear and formal occasions
(not simply the high formality of white and black tie dress codes) is being applied
in this research; it includes evening wear, the formal end of social wear and
cosmopolitan professional dress (where the suit and tie may not be dominant).
Modern white shirts (generic to both men and women) – upper body garment that
is made from white fabric and has a collar, front opening and some form of
sleeving. Encompasses a broad diversity of style, fit, silhouette and fabric type and
worn from around the 1890s to the present.
Note: the British English usage of the term ‘shirt’ is being followed in this
research. American English usage of the term ‘shirt’ includes tee-shirts and other
tops. These fall outside the definition applied in this research as they do not include
collar treatments and front openings.
Formal white dress shirts (for men) – shirts that are made from white fabric and
are designed to be worn as formal wear for men. Like all shirts, white formal shirts
are an upper-body garment with a collar treatment, front opening with buttons, set
in sleeving and cuffs. The shirts are usually almost entirely white, but may have
some colour in minor trimmings (such as buttons). Fabric type is either 100%
cotton or cotton synthetic blend.
Note: although men’s formal white shirts are often worn with a tie, this research is
focused upon formal white shirts that can be worn without extra accessories such
as ties and vests.
White blouses (for women) – upper body garment worn by women that is made
from white fabric and has a collar, front opening and some form of sleeving. A
broad array of styles exist, ranging from decorative to plain in appearance, and
loose to fitted in silhouette. A large diversity of fabric types and densities are used.
Note: like the term ‘shirt’, ‘blouse’ can sometimes be used as a generic description
that may include tops which have no collar or sleeves. However, such tops fall
outside of the definition applied in this research.
Blousy – used in this research to refer to aspects of a shirt’s design which belong to
the blouse, even if incorporated into a men’s dress shirt. Specific blousy attributes
are: looseness of fit or a female silhouette that curves to fit bust and waist; detailing
that exists in areas and excesses beyond those found in the tuxedo shirt; and fabric
that is highly sheer.
Mainstream wearability – used to describe the degree to which a garment can be
worn in a particular setting whilst falling within conventions of dress that are
shared by mainstream communities for that particular time and place. Furthermore,
wearability is relative to the identity of those who are wearing it (in terms of age,
social status, occupation and, most relevant for this research, gender). A garment is
highly ‘wearable’ if it strongly adheres to such conventions. Issues of garment
comfort, fit, marketability or saleability relate, but do not equate, to this definition
of wearability.
In reference to menswear and womenswear in cosmopolitan settings, mainstream
wearability differs along gender lines. In the main, for women, both menswear
(what is sold as the domain of men) and womenswear (what is sold as the domain
of women) are wearable, while for men, only menswear is wearable. If men wear
clothes with significant characteristics aligned to womenswear, it is not considered
within mainstream norms for dress styles. Such dressing is deemed to reside in the
extremes of either cross-dressing or eccentric dress.
‘Neo-Dandy’ aesthetic – an aesthetic for men’s clothing that appears refined,
formal, and leans towards characteristics of womenswear. The aesthetic attempts to
be experimental and innovative with menswear and to confront, or at least nudge,
gender conventions, whilst still operating within mainstream wearability for men. It
could be viewed as operating on the cusp-of-wearability for men and it can be
argued that this represents part of a growing trend in cosmopolitan menswear in the
last decade or so which is heading towards a less gender restrictive aesthetic.
Design Innovation – effecting a change from an established custom of design
practice and form.
Concept shirt – prototype garment to test innovative possibilities without being
limited by marketplace pragmatics; not a final sample ready for commercial
Table of Contents
Key Terms – Glossary
Table of Contents
Statement of Authorship
Introduction – Design Approach
Aims, research question and outputs
Chapter 1 – Design Context
1.1 Defining Mainstream Wearability
1.2 Mainstream Wearability and Gender Norms in the Modern Era
1.3 Shifting Dress Norms and the Dandy Figure
1.4 Recent Trends and the Neo-Dandy Aesthetic
Chapter 2 – Design Evolution
2.1 Evolution of the Modern Men’s White Shirt
2.2 Evolution of the Modern Women’s White Blouse
2.3 Contemporary White Dress Shirt Designers and the Neo-Dandy
Chapter 3 – Design Journey
3.1 Machinery, Studio and Pattern Block
3.2 Designing and Assembling the Concept Shirts
3.3 Wearing, Exhibiting and Documenting the Concept Shirts
3.4 Conceptualising the Collection of Concept Shirts
3.5 Bringing Together the Research – the Final Exhibition
Summary – Design Contributions
Central Contribution – the concept shirts and key design principles
Broader Contributions
Further Research
Appendices – Design Notebook
A.1 Characteristic differences between men’s dress shirts and women’s
A.2 Complete thumbnails of white shirts by other designers
A.3 Images and studio design notes on all sixty concept shirts
…...Safe (Conservative)
…...Mildly-Dandy (Approaching)
…...Neo-Dandy (Aligning)
…...Blousy (Beyond)
…...Shirts not displayed in the exhibition (no matrix position)
A.4 Specific elements of experimentation on the concept shirts
Texts cited
Figures – General (Chapter 1 and 2)
Figures – Contemporary White Dress Shirt Designers (Chapter 2)
Statement of Authorship
The written and creative work contained in this exegesis has not been previously
submitted to meet the requirements of an award or degree at this or any other
higher education institution. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the exegesis
contains no material previously published or written by another person except
where due references are made.
Date: 17.11.08
I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude to my partner, Judith Brough,
for her understanding and encouragement during this journey. Her foresight and
emotional strength has been of great value for me. To my two beautiful young
children, Remington and Avalon, I apologise for the considerable loss of family
time as a result of trying to juggle part-time study and full-time work commitments
and I hope you understand.
To my long term work colleague, Wendy Armstrong, I thank you for being a
shoulder to confide in and greatly appreciate your friendship. You were always
prepared to listen to me and I have enormous gratitude for your time and advice.
To my principle supervisor, Dr Luke Jaaniste, I wish to express my sincere thanks
for your time and vision for this research project. I would also like to warmly
convey my appreciation to Professor Suzi Vaughan for her input and assistance.
Finally, I would like to mention my gratitude for the use of QUT’s excellent
gallery facilities and the assistance of all precinct staff involved, in particular Nigel
Oram and Jason Zadkovich.
(Intentionally left blank)
Introduction – Design Approach
This section introduces the reader to my background as well as the aims,
methodology, outputs and significance of this research project.
Arriving at the white dress shirt as the site of design innovation
This research project commenced with a desire to explore time-honoured craft
skills, particularly those that were used in decorating garments. Traditionally, these
decorative techniques have been primarily used on women’s clothing and the
challenge I set myself in the early part of this research project was to not only learn
these skills but to find out if they could be transferred to, or re-interpreted for,
men’s clothing. That is, I began with a desire to experiment with detailing used for
womenswear and see if it could be successfully interpreted in men’s clothing.
Very early in the research I experimented with detailing applied to trousers.
However, it quickly became clear that upper-body clothing was the preferred
medium for the research. In particular, I decided to experiment with men’s shirting.
My decision to work with shirts, as opposed to hotter garments such as jackets or
vests, was influenced by wearability requirements associated with a very hot
summer. I then realised that white was the fabric colour most appropriate to show
off detailing; white cloth functions as a neutral background, whereas patterned or
coloured fabric would exert its own presence and compete for attention with the
detailing. Hence, the white shirt entered the fray and, because I favoured formal
clothing, the men’s white dress shirt became the site for my design innovation.
Connecting to my background as a fashion designer/maker
The preoccupation with menswear, especially formal wear, is connected to my
background as a fashion designer/maker and teacher. Over a twenty-five year
period I have been especially interested in fashionable and formal menswear – in
particular, bespoke (‘be spoken for’, made for an individual or hand crafted)
techniques used in menswear. My first fashion foray was designing and producing
neck ties in the late 1970s that were sold to David Jones (COU label, 1978-1979). I
then designed ranges of fashionable shirts, along with trousers, for the youth
market in the 1980s, with a diversity of styles shifting according to the fashion
season. They too were sold to David Jones and boutique retailers (Dean Brough
label, 1980-1985). By the 1990s I had shifted to shirts, trousers and vests that were
more casual with late 1960s influences, and sold at the bustling Riverside craft
markets in Brisbane (Eskimo label, 1990-1995). Throughout all these periods I also
designed and produced a significant number of bespoke clothes for individual
clients, spanning the gamut of styles from tailored suits to leather apparel and
sportswear, such as cycling outfits. However, my passion for menswear is
fundamentally slanted towards the more fashionable, formal end of the spectrum of
clothing styles. This interest in formal menswear is also connected to my fashion
teaching, at both TAFE (1985-2006) and University (2004-2008), as I particularly
enjoy imparting knowledge and skills in regards to formal men’s clothing.
The design innovation carried out in the research also connects to my larger
creative practice as an artisan-designer. These areas of practice include watchmaking, furniture design, house and restaurant interiors, home renovation and
building and, of course, fashion. Within these diverse areas of practice, a
commonality exists – a desire to make ‘beautiful’ objects. The pleasure from this
desire is derived not only in viewing the final form, but also in the process of
making. For me, beauty involves balancing conflicting attractions and desires.
Such dichotomies include: old world charm and contemporary design, hand-crafted
and mass-produced appearance, and ascetic men’s clothing and innovative
women’s clothing.
Tempering innovation with wearability – the Neo-Dandy aesthetic
This desire for a balance of dichotomies was played out in a very specific way in
this research project. I required design innovation to be tempered by notions of
mainstream wearability. That is, a design limit applied to a garment so that it
functioned within conventions and norms of mainstream dress, rather than as an
outlandish extreme. During my research I discovered that this desire can be read
into the fashion figure of the dandy, who operates on the border of dress norms
and, at the same time, confronts conventions of dress. I realised then that my
position was wrapped up in subverting the white dress shirt for men with elements
– particularly detailing – that are normally thought to be reserved for womenswear
garments such as the blouse.
As the white dress shirt for men is an iconic item of apparel which has been
relatively rigid or fixed in design for over a century, the inclusion of blouse
characteristics attempts to create a subversive position. However, as a result of my
background and personal experiences, I have a need to place a limit on this
subversion, relative to the boundaries of mainstream wearability for men. This cusp
position between austerity and innovation which is mirrored in the dandy figure –
and particularly the one that leans towards womenswear for design innovation –
creates an aesthetic that I call Neo-Dandy. Specifically, this look can be described
as being refined, formal and having womenswear characteristics.
Aims, research questions and outputs
Given my particular interest in the modern men’s white dress shirt which is
innovative yet tempered by issues of mainstream wearability, a cusp position is
created that requires the bringing together of three critical elements. The first of
these elements is a design product, the modern white men’s dress shirt. The second
is a design look, referred to as Neo-Dandy, and the last, a design limit of
mainstream wearability. This could be put more formally as the principle guiding
aim of this research:
The aim of this research is to apply design innovation with a NeoDandy aesthetic to the modern men’s white dress shirt, by
incorporating characteristics associated with womenswear, whilst
remaining quintessentially a contemporary mainstream menswear
To achieve this aim, a principle research question was developed and explored:
What are the specific design principles that are required to create
design innovation in the modern men’s white dress shirt, achieving a
Neo-Dandy aesthetic (refined, formal and with womenswear
characteristics) within boundaries of mainstream wearability for
Several supporting questions arose which needed to be addressed as part of
tackling the principle research question:
How does mainstream wearability differ between genders?
What are the recent trends in menswear that are pertinent to the NeoDandy aesthetic?
What defines a modern white shirt for men and women?
How does the Neo-Dandy aesthetic compare and contrast with
contemporary menswear designs that tamper with the modern white
In order to achieve this research aim and answer the principle research question, a
practice-led approach was pursued, resulting in the presentation of several outputs
involving creative works (design objects) and accompanying written exegesis
(design discussion). The outputs consist of:
Design objects (60% weighting) – a collection of men’s white dress
shirts that explore wearability and design innovation within a NeoDandy aesthetic.
The shirts were displayed in a final exhibition, as well as in
photographic documentation included in the supporting Design Notes
(Appendices). Around sixty concept shirts were produced and they
are numbered 1 to 60 for archival purposes, matching the order of
assembly. Fifty five concept shirts were exhibited in the exhibition as
five of the shirts remain as preliminary or incomplete experiments.
Design discussion (40% weighting) – the exegesis and appendices.
In the exegesis, Chapter 1 explores the key concepts around
mainstream wearability and Neo-Dandy aesthetic. Chapter 2 surveys
the historical evolution of the modern white shirt and uses this
garment as a case study to highlight wearability differences between
men and women. The chapter ends with a discussion of relevant work
by contemporary menswear designers. Chapter 3 outlines the journey
from early experiments to the final exhibition. The conclusion
summarises the key design principles arising from the research
project, as well as the broader research contributions and areas for
further research.
There is a growing body of literature around practice-led research across art and
design disciplines (see Gray and Malins 1996 and Haseman 2006 for an early and
recent overview). However, practice-led approaches to fashion research remains
largely uncharted. As Griffiths (2000, p.89-90) notes, fashion has a disintegrated
approach to theory and practice and does not figure largely in academic text. To
date, the study of fashion, including authors such as Breward, Hollander and
Steele, has primarily concentrated on sociological relationships, whilst the theory
of fashion practice has negligible discourse, in comparison to other design
disciplines such as architecture, industrial design and interior design. Griffiths
(2000, p.70) concurs by stating “amongst the entire body of academic work relating
to fashion, there is scarcely a word written by a practicing designer, or articulated
from a designer’s perspective”. In contradiction, fashion has been compared to
architecture, with Hollander (1994, p.2) recognising both as having established sets
of formal rules and impressive design visuals. Nonetheless, literature on fashion
practice is still considered embryonic and, even more so by actual fashion
practitioners. Some fashion practice-led research projects are currently in
development in various academies, most notably from the London College of
Fashion (see Jan 2008 and Steinmetz 2008).
The strategies used in this research (which was undertaken as a part-time
candidate) can be grouped into two main interwoven phases. Firstly, the creative
practice phase – mid 2004 to mid 2006 – consisted of designing and producing
around sixty concept shirts. In this period the concept shirts were exhibited and
displayed in a variety of settings (discussed in Chapter 3) including exhibitions,
fashion shows, seminars, as well as being worn in social settings by myself and
others. The concept shirts have also been documented in photographic form (see
Design Notebook – Appendices). In this studio-based phase, the benefit of working
with concept shirts, as opposed to shirts ready for production or retail sale, was that
it allowed for a greater freedom of practice. Issues relating to saleability – such as
price constraints, product branding, target market and market size – were not an
elevated priority. The concept shirts served solely as a test bed for innovation.
The second phase – mid 2006 to late 2007 – consisted of synthesising this creative
practice by testing and reflecting on wearability and success factors of the concept
shirts and then developing a matrix that mapped their respective levels of design
innovation. To underpin this work, two concurrent studies were undertaken: an
historical study which linked the history of the men’s white shirt with dandyism
and wearability; and an analysis of the white dress shirt in the hands of
contemporary menswear designers. Late 2007 to early 2008 saw the production of
the final exhibition and the exegesis.
This research makes original contributions to a range of emerging or niche areas:
Firstly, mainstream contemporary men’s clothing has, in the main, been
traditionally conservative in design, with customary notions of menswear aligned
to utility, functionality and conformity. Indeed, in comparison to womenswear,
menswear has taken a back seat in regards to design innovation. This research
assists in challenging notions that womenswear is the principal domain for a
‘fashionable’ display and illustrating that contemporary menswear can also reside
in this domain.
Secondly, not only has design innovation been somewhat limited in mainstream
menswear, so too has the amount of discourse surrounding the field of menswear.
As Breward (quoted in Cicolini 2005, p.7) states: “[f]or while the literature on men
and fashion is growing, it is in many ways a neglected subject with many social,
aesthetic and cultural implications that deserve deeper scrutiny”. Breward is highly
respected as a fashion historian and writer; however, an area that he does not
mention is the limited voice of the fashion practitioner within the literature. Thus,
this research allows an avenue for a fashion studio practitioner to discuss their
practice and thereby contribute to the wider field of fashion discourse.
Thirdly, it has become evident in this research that men’s designers may to some
degree tamper with the design of the archetypical men’s white dress shirt, but only
as part of a wider collection. Namely, they may include one or two ‘innovative’
white dress shirts in a season’s range, but have not embraced the iconic
significance of a large collection that innovatively experiments with the garment –
with the notable exception of Topman (an English men’s clothing chain) which
undertook a ‘white shirt project’ in September 2007, with five designers creating
five distinct interpretations of this consummate item of clothing. This research
attempts to address the dearth of innovative practice in the design of such an iconic
item of men’s apparel.
Finally, the relationship between a men’s white shirt and a women’s white blouse
is undocumented in the literature. By researching and then documenting the history
of the modern white shirt for both men and women, and the relationship between
the two, this research adds an original contribution to the field of fashion dialogue.
(Intentionally left blank)
Chapter 1 – Design Context
Chapter overview and purpose
This chapter explores the variance between mainstream wearability for menswear
and womenswear in the modern era. This period spans from the last decade of the
nineteenth century through to contemporary times, and is indicative of the shifts
that have occurred in wearability in Western cosmopolitan attire. It is proposed that
the limits of mainstream wearability are different for each gender. The field of
dress for women in the modern era is very broad and includes both womenswear
and most menswear. On the other hand, this field is much narrower for men and
almost exclusively consists of menswear. However, it is argued that shifts in norms
for mainstream wearability are occurring for men and, for a segment of the
menswear market, the scope is broadening to include some characteristics
traditionally associated with womenswear. This segment has been slowly evolving
– its limits tested and then stretched during the modern era, prompted by the dandy
figure which has, in various guises, been at the cusp of these changes. Finally, an
aesthetic relative to these changes – that I have called Neo-Dandy – is discussed,
and highlights a shifting periphery for gender based dress conventions.
1.1 Defining Mainstream Wearability
In this research I use the term ‘wearability’ to refer to what is wearable or correct
and appropriate attire for any particular social setting, era and culture. Before
defining wearability, it is useful to state what wearability does not constitute and
for this purpose I will use the coined terms of ‘fit-ability’, ‘comfort-ability’ and
‘sale-ability’. Firstly, fit-ability involves the degree to which the garment fits the
body, such as correct sleeve length and collar size. Secondly, comfort-ability is
aligned to the amount of ease within the garment or the degree to which the body
can sufficiently move in the garment without restriction. It also involves the fabric
type and level of comfort relative to fibre type. Finally, the term sale-ability
equates to whether the garment is merchandisable. In other words, sale-ability is a
question of whether or not people will buy a garment and the reasons for this. All
three factors (fit-ability, comfort-ability and sale-ability) are highly pertinent to
commercial fashion practitioners. However, for this research, sale-ability is not
relevant to my definition of wearability as the shirts are at a concept stage only (see
Blaszczyk 2008 and Sheman and Perlman 2007 for information on fashion and
commerce). Similarly, while the shirts meet my criteria for fit-ability (for a
medium size), as well as comfort-ability as a result of sufficient body ease and the
use of natural fibres (see Aldrich 2006 and Knowles 2005 for more information on
menswear garment fit and body ease), these criteria are not relevant to my
definition of wearability.
Having defined what wearability is not, what is it? Wearability consists of being
able to be worn within mainstream (Western) society while respecting
characteristics associated with gender and societal norms. To be wearable, the
garment must adhere to customary visual conventions for clothing and exist in the
‘ball park’ for a particular setting or circumstance, and for particular markers of
identity (age, class, occupation, religion and – most pertinent to this research –
gender). In other words, wearability constitutes working within a design boundary
that is not considered too extreme, whilst adhering to the contextual rules of dress.
As Damhorst (2005, p. 70-71) states:
The rules we use to put all of these components (of dress) together on
the body are loosely held guidelines for what is appropriate,
fashionable, and attractive. The rules are a sort of grammar of dress.
We learn the grammar of dress through the media and through groups
and families to which we belong… For the most of what we wear,
however, rules are not seriously enforced but are shaped by personal
tastes, fashion trends, and group habits and conventions.
As will be discussed in the next section, one norm that is still upheld in mainstream
contemporary society is that menswear strongly adheres to appropriate societal
ideals and associated characteristics of dress.
1.2 Mainstream Wearability and Gender Norms in the Modern Era
Perceptions of what defines a masculine or feminine body image can be attributed
to aspects such as body hair (particularly on the face), facial structure, body shape,
tone of voice, gesture, hairstyle and mannerisms. Michelman (1999, p. 169) states,
“secondary sex characteristics distinguish one sex from another. Frequently,
differences between males and females are attributed to biology rather than the fact
that they may be socially created”. However, even though biology assists in
ascertaining a perceived gender of male or female, dress acts as one of the key
visual factors for gender alignment. Conventions of dress, in relation to gender,
have deep-seated societal norms. These gendered norms form conventions or rules
of dress with culturally generated boundaries which are contextually specific for
male and female attire. As Entwistle (2000, p.143) states “There is no natural link
between an item of clothing and ‘femininity’ or ‘masculinity’; instead there is an
arbitrary set of associations which are culturally specific”. Likewise, renowned
fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier is said to believe “that there is no clothing,
with the exception of the bra, that is intrinsically male or female” (V&A c2007).
Whilst clothing may not be inherently male or female, the connection between
gender and dress is incredibly strong.
Please note: It is acknowledged that gender studies is an extensive discourse and,
for the purpose of this research, gender is used only in relation to its association
with an object. Everyday objects are aligned or made socially acceptable to a
particular gender and considered appropriate for usage in mainstream society. The
function of gender in this research is not to answer why this is the case or to
question the validity of gender coding for objects (see Griggs (1998), Kirkham
(1996) and Martinez and Ames (1997) for information about gender coding). The
role of gender within this research project is to use it as a source for design
innovation and as a reference point to scope the polarity of the field within
mainstream Western society, for an item of clothing that covers the upper body of
both sexes – most notably, the shirt.
Wearability and women in the modern era
It will be demonstrated in detail in Chapter 2 that, during the early part of the
twentieth century, women in cosmopolitan society were able to wear styles that
encompassed both the characteristics of menswear and womenswear. In this period
a multitude of factors assisted this shift, including economic, cultural and political
changes. In particular, World War One had a significant impact on dress
conventions as women were undertaking roles that were once considered male-only
activities. Expanding job opportunities, combined with economic freedom and
independence (relative to this period), acted as a catalyst for clothing styles to shift
to a less gender restrictive field. Hegland (1999, p.194) states:
for a number of reasons, including the emancipation of women,
practicality in the workplace, personal safety, physical comfort, and
trends in fashions, women in cosmopolitan societies have adopted
and adapted almost every characteristic of “masculine” dress.
Or as Hollander (1994, p.181) states, “all parts of male dress have long since lost
their outrageousness for women”.
However, some limits still apply for mainstream wearability for women. In
particular, Hegland (1999, p.194) notes that conventions of dress still exist in the
modern era, as it is still considered inappropriate for women to completely conceal
their biological sex through clothing; in other words, it is appropriate for women to
wear characteristics of men’s clothing, as long as they still look female.
Nevertheless, it is proposed that women have a wide scope in relation to
wearability, where they can now wear both the characteristics of menswear and
womenswear. However, for men, different norms apply and these are discussed in
the following section.
Wearability and men in the modern era
Whilst wearability for women is broad in scope, for men this is not the case. As
Hegland (1999, p.194) states “Men who adopt any feminine forms of dress are
viewed─at best─as humorous or peculiar, and─at worst─as abomination that
should be locked up.” While Hegland may have stated the matter extremely, the
sentiment holds.
These conventions of dress have historical origins. The late nineteenth and early
twentieth century was a critical time for determining subsequent rigid and austere
conventions of dress for men. See Flügel (1930) The Psychology of Clothes;
Veblen (1994; first published 1899) The Theory of the Leisure Class; and Carter
(2003) Fashion Classics: From Carlyle to Barthes for information on theories of
dress. During this period moral respectability became aligned to austerity and
rigidity of dress and, in particular, to the white shirt. In the 1920s, as Turbin (2000,
p.525) states:
Critics criticized soft collars and loose clothes as ‘easeful garb’ and
‘flaccid fashions’ associated with postures and gestures, specifically
slouchiness, which equalled lack of ‘backbone’.
Strict etiquette dictated standards for men’s attire, with an abundant number of
etiquette books defining these standards. These etiquette manuals provided
knowledge in regard to what was wearable and what was not, and when and where
particular garments should be worn. In other words, these conventions served to
outline society’s definition of wearability relative to time, place and social
standing. However, these books progressively faded from society, particularly after
the Second World War as the modern ethos slowly developed.
Even so, on the whole, men’s fashion still adhered to the ‘old’, sober appearance
until the middle of the twentieth century. As McCracken (quoted in Michelman,
1999, p.173) states:
During the 20th century up through to the 1950’s, men followed a
restricted code for appearance, limited to angular design lines, neutral
and subdued colour palettes, bifurcated garments (i.e., pants) for the
lower body, natural but not tight silhouettes, sturdy fabrics and shoes,
and simple face grooming.
In this period even the use of particular colours, which would be considered very
conservative today, were considered confronting. As Cole (2000, p. 142) indicates,
in the late 1940s, the colour of a man’s clothing indicated his sexual preference; in
particular, pale blue was a “queer’s trade colour”.
By and large, modern mainstream men’s clothing has a narrow wearability field
when it comes to what is considered appropriate for silhouette, type of garment and
detailing. In summary, this comprises: a silhouette that is relatively close fitting; a
small array of garment types, including trousers, shirts, vests, and coats; and
judicious use of detailing, including topstitching, embroidery and discreet
trimmings. Hollander (1994, p.112), for example, proposes that the field of
wearability for menswear includes: not mixing ‘programs’ (styles of wear);
aesthetic propriety; no drapery, gowns, shawls and veils (nor, generally-speaking,
These boundaries are evolving and, for some, they form a place for innovation in
men’s dress styles, thereby allowing a slippage of norms. As Entwistle (2000,
p.180) notes: “[t]he boundaries of gender are tangibly still in place, though not
totally unbridgeable for a few ‘creative’ individuals”. Nevertheless, for mainstream
menswear, conventions of dress still apply and as Edwards (1997, p.16) states, “the
rules of the right suit, knot in the tie and design of the collar are more rigid than the
tightest corset”. Furthermore, O’Bryne (2000, p.164) supports this premise by
claiming that “men are notoriously more conservative dressers than women, and
men’s designers have to venture carefully when it comes to new ideas”.
The minutiae of wearability for menswear
As established, a narrow band of wearability exists for menswear in comparison to
womenswear. However, within this narrow band, an even smaller field exists. In
mainstream menswear, minute design details are highly pertinent and levels of
concern about the minutiae of garment details – such as trimmings, button size and
even stitch length – are highly significant. As Kirkham (1996, p.6) states:
The unease experienced by the disruption of apparently minor details
of gender differentiation, such as the location of buttons on the
‘wrong’ side of a shirt or jacket, appears to be far greater in men than
in women who, in general, are more used to ‘appropriating’ aspects
of male dress than men are aspects of female dress.
Anecdotally, my experience as a practitioner has ascertained that men who state
they are not interested in fashion, on the whole, still display a great concern for
small details. The finer points of menswear detailing such as the subtle shaping of a
collar, belt loops, pockets and button sizes become important. The minute details
are noteworthy on menswear and form an important element within notions of
In conclusion, in the modern era, the gender variations within mainstream
wearability are considerable. In womenswear, a broad diversity of clothing styles –
and equally broad tolerance and acceptability of this diversity – exists. In contrast,
menswear has a narrower scope of clothing choices and a smaller field of
wearability, as indicated in Chart 1a (below). This chart highlights the spectrum of
wearability for men and women in the modern era and it will be further expanded
in subsequent sections of this chapter. It will then culminate at the end of Chapter 2
in a complete Spectrum of the Modern White Shirt.
Chart 1a: Indicating different limits of mainstream wearability in the modern era for
menswear and womenswear.
1.3 Shifting Dress Norms and the Dandy Figure
As previously established, in the first half of the twentieth century menswear was,
for the most part, austere and adhered to sober conventions. However, not all men
adhered to these dress norms and some challenged the conventions of the day
through dress innovation. This confrontational stance, at times, assisted in
prompting shifts in wearability to occur for the broader population. There were
many pioneers of dress innovation that were ahead of their time. Organisations
such as the Men’s Dress Reform Party in the 1930s, attempted to change the sober
and restrictive attire of the period by espousing a controversial style of dress. Their
aim was to replace the tie and rigid collar with a soft, loose style collar; exchange
the dress shirt for a loose bloused style garment; substitute trousers for comfortable
shorts and replace shoes with sandals. This loose, practical style of dress is more
commonplace in today’s fashion; however, at the time, it was considered at the
vanguard of dress styles. In other words, they were working on the cusp of
wearability by being at the forefront or the periphery of what was considered
appropriate or inappropriate, depending on individual perspectives, for dress
conventions of the time.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 1.3-1: c1930 Men’s Dress Reform Party. Note the diversity of menswear styles.
(Chenoune, 1993, p.170).
This confrontational stance, in all its guises, can be deemed as dandyism: a practice
of dressing that is provocative or oppositional. Breward (2003, p.161) explains that
the dandy is “an iconic figure whose actions have anticipated and mirrored the reformation of style, as an active component of cultural change”. Namely, the dandy
is positioned at the forefront of dress change, relative to his or her individual
cultural landscape. However, as Fletcher (2004, p.136) argues, one of the key
elements in dandyism is the ability to destabilise the rules of dress, whilst at the
same time still abiding by the broader social and dress conventions of the time.
This position, between upholding societal dress codes whilst challenging the norms
of the day, is on the cusp of mainstream wearability. As a result, the practice of
dandyism assists, at times, to nudge or stretch the boundaries for mainstream
wearability for the wider field.
Even though the practice of dandyism has the general characteristic of confronting
notions of mainstream wearability, its individual manifestations can be quite
dissimilar. Dandyism is neither time, nor place specific and differs according to
culture, ethnicity, age and social backgrounds. As a consequence, there are a range
of ideological bases for dandyism, including the English socially constructed dandy
and the French intellectual dandy. Examples of this diversity are numerous,
ranging from distinction achieved through restraint of dress by the iconic dandy
figure of Beau Brummel (1778-1840); the homosexual links with dandyism and
Oscar Wilde as a result of his trial for sodomy in 1895; the associations of
decadence and the Harlem's black dandy of the 1920s and 30s; the alliance with
youth sub-culture and gangs in the 1950s with the Edwardian style dress of the
Teddy Boy; through to the heterosexual representation of the Playboy. For
information on this diversity see Fillin-Yeh (2001) and Moers (1960).
However, in this research the style of dandyism that is pertinent is the style of dress
that works on the cusp of gender norms for wearability. This was particularly the
case with male fashion in the 1960s with the ‘Peacock Revolution’ which was less
gender constrained and more extravagant in nature than previous periods. The
1960s witnessed a revolution in conventions of male dress, with an explosion of
colour and flamboyance for fashionable men’s clothing. Precincts such as
London’s Carnaby Street, fuelled the shift to challenge previous ‘rules’ of
masculine dress, which had remained relatively constant for over half a century.
Chenoune (1993, p.258), when writing about the era, describes it as follows:
[A] polemic broke out over the new codes of handsomeness forged by
adolescents who abandoned conventional clichés of virility by
adopting “effeminate” colours and long hair…What shocked people
more than anything, perhaps, was the ambiguous image projected by
“electric adolescents.” The question on everyone’s lips was, “Is that a
boy or is it a girl?”
English menswear designers, such as Michael Fish (Mr Fish label, in Clifford
Street London), created vividly printed shirts and the use of frills and cravats came
back in vogue. Parisienne designers such as Pierre Cardin, meanwhile, challenged
conventions of the time with ‘space age’ unisex designs. New synthetic fabrics
were widely used and previous advances in dyeing technology enabled a vibrant
range of fabric prints and colours, which only a few years earlier were considered
audacious for menswear. Men’s fashion became increasingly androgynous (relative
to the time) and fashionable unisex clothing confronted previous strict notions of
conventions for dress.
In the 1970s and 1980s one of the influencing factors for gender representation and
shifts in conventions of dress for men, was popular music performers, particularly
David Bowie and Boy George. As Entwistle (2000, p.175) states: “Boy George
wore obvious make-up, nail varnish, hair ribbons and skirts, provocatively playing
with conventions, not just of gender, but sexuality too”. In this period, as a result of
increased exposure to popular media, a gradual relaxation of conventions was
occurring. The early 1980s witnessed a shift to a style of fashion, although briefly,
that was influenced by the dandified Regency designs from the English Romantic
period. Popular music performers, such as Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet and
Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran, heightened a look that was less gender defined.
However, this was in stark contrast to the ‘power dressing’ fashion that occurred in
the late 1980s. This style of dress aligned with very ‘masculine’ conventions of
dress and iconic labels such as Hugo Boss epitomising the tailored suit and tie as a
mark of business success.
By the late 1980s, another form of dandyism surfaced with the media driven
English term, ‘New Man’. This fresh figure captured the new imagery of the
caring, sensitive and new age man who was strongly aware of his feminine side.
Peitsch (2004, p.46) proposes that the ‘New Man’ was a potent symbol for men
seeking a break from the notions of a ‘macho’, rigid version of masculinity and a
breadwinner ethos. Also, Edwards (1997, p.39) suggests that the ‘New Man’ was a
result of a second wave of feminism, with the 1980s Calvin Klein Eternity
advertisement depicting a handsome masculine man cradling an infant, as an iconic
profile for this new form of manhood. The birth of the ‘New Man’ was nourished
by men’s magazines such as Arena, a transformed version of the American
publication GQ. Although, the ‘New Man’ tag slowly waned in the early 1990s and
fell from grace in the media, the shift in conventions for masculine representation
were significant. Also in this period, designers were challenging accepted norms of
dress for men, particularly Jean-Paul Gaultier in 1985 with his ‘skirts for men’
In conclusion, even though the field of dress for mainstream menswear is narrow, a
cusp exists where a style of dress or representation challenges the norms of the day.
This position is occupied by the dandy figure. The particular panache of the dandy
will vary significantly, according to time and place. However, the area of interest
for this research is the region between menswear and womenswear for design
innovation, albeit within limits. This self imposed restriction assists in retaining the
garment within the menswear field, as illustrated with dotted line in Chart 1b.
Chart 1b: Dotted line indicating the cusp position of menswear characteristics,
that leans towards womenswear characteristics, within mainstream wearability in the
modern era.
1.4 Recent Trends and the Neo-Dandy Aesthetic
Through a combination of historical factors, as previously discussed, the stage had
been set for a gradual relaxation in gender conventions for dress for men in the
contemporary era. This has been particularly the case in recent times as a result of
the influence of contemporary role models, such as the football celebrity David
Beckham. Alongside this influence, increased media exposure and changes in
consumption patterns have resulted in a reallocation of norms for men’s dress for a
segment of the contemporary menswear market. Hollander (1994, p.181) states:
It’s clear that modernizing clothes for women has meant copying
men’s clothes, directly or indirectly, one way or another. To even the
balance, however we can see that many men in the last third of the
century have already taken up the formerly female game of finding
pleasure in expressive multiple guises… The new male freedom has
produced a pleasing richness of variety similar to the modern female
one, though not entirely the same and still not quite so broad… For
the first time in centuries men are learning clothing habits from
women, instead of the other way around.
McDowell (1997, p.196) proposes that male attitudes in contemporary society
mirror the changes that occurred in female ideals at the turn of the previous century
(1890s-1900s). As part of this trend, menswear designers are now increasingly
looking towards female fashion for inspiration – “Burly men are pinning brooches
to the tuxedos and toting knitted satchels as menswear designers flirt with
femininity on the cat walks”. (Ruehl, 2005, p.2) Also, as a consequence of the
boundaries and codes for gender classification blurring, heterosexual and
homosexuality constructs are becoming fluid. Men are more likely to experiment
with less rigid codes of masculine dress, as it is increasingly difficult to define
male sexual preference by clothing styles. However, as Cicolini (2005, p.13)
argues, this new form of dandyism is fuelled by self-actualised consumerism and a
society at ease with industrial modernity. All in all, there is evidence that an
element of men’s fashion is adjusting to an aesthetic that is not as fixed in its
gender boundaries.
It is also noteworthy that authors, including Hegland, discuss a point where this
shift of gender based dress conventions is classified as ‘cross-dressing’. However,
little discussion is evident about the zone prior to this; a zone which for men is
classed as ‘effeminate’, as opposed to feminine (cross-dressing). This effeminate
position is ambiguous in nature and the point at which a style of dress or aspects of
a particular garment are deemed effeminate is contextually relative.
The new English dandy
As previously outlined, men’s fashion in recent times has become, in the main, less
beholden to previous rigid conventions for male dress. In particular, this relaxing of
norms for men’s dress has accelerated, to a certain extent, during the latter part of
the 1990s through to the present. In this period of dress change, diverse arrays of
sartorial styles have manifested, with a range of aesthetics, including military
inspired dress, pared down and minimal clothing as well as a highly casualised
‘worn and torn’ look. However, one particular aesthetic that is gaining a
fashionable foothold for 2008 is, as WGSN (Worth Global Style Network, an
English based fashion forecasting company) states, “cocktailwear and formal
occasion dressing [that] crosses the boundary from day to night”. In other words
formal clothing, that was once principally for evening wear, now is being worn
across a broader array of occasions, including daywear and more casual social
This shift to more formal clothing, that is not as contextually specific, is enabling a
segment of menswear to be more refined and formal in appearance. As Cicolini
(2005, p.9) states “the new millennium has brought a slow but steady emergence of
a new dapper man, converging with other, similarly strict and measured masculine
trends across London and in other urban centres”. Paradoxically, the loosening up
of conventions for male dress has also contrastingly witnessed a resurgence of
bespoke ‘traditional’ menswear, as evidenced by the rise of English (celebrity)
tailors, such as Richard James, Ozwald Boateng and Mark Powell.
Within this formal tailored aesthetic, the relaxation of dress conventions has
allowed individual sartorial display to flourish. As Breward states (quoted in
Cicolini, 2005, p.7) “my sense is that a loosening up of things has had many
positive effects, not least the ways in which a playful experimentation with issues
of image and style can contribute to the breaking down of entrenched and divisive
assumptions about identity”. This blend of formal and at times ‘frivolous’ aesthetic
is evident in Cicolini’s, The New English Dandy, a major touring exhibition and
book with essays, photographs and interviews with contemporary British designers.
A parallel is made between the dandy ‘movement’ of the early nineteenth century
and modern male fashionable display in London. Cicolini (2005, p.9-10) states:
There are shared traits underpinning the deliberate choices these men
are making, consideration, neatness, awareness of the importance of
detail, appreciation of line, investment in quality and an enjoyment of
a certain distinction that an understanding of these elements combine
to afford.
Hence, the modern male peacock, in Cicolini’s discussion, embraces an aesthetic
that experiments with a self-actualised style, realised through levels of formality
and meticulousness. I wish now to articulate my own design aesthetic – the NeoDandy aesthetic – that forms part of this trend.
The Neo-Dandy aesthetic
For the purpose of this research, I am defining the Neo-Dandy aesthetic as a look
that mirrors aspects of the new English dandy, as previously discussed. In essence
this aesthetic, as stated in the key terms, appears refined, formal, and with
womenswear characteristics. At the same time, the aesthetic endeavours to be
experimental and innovative with menswear and confront, or at least nudge, gender
conventions for men’s dress, whilst still operating within mainstream wearability
for men. It could be viewed as operating on the cusp-of-wearability for men and it
can be argued that this represents part of a growing trend in cosmopolitan
menswear in the last decade or so which heads towards a less gender restrictive
More specifically, the Neo-Dandy aesthetic is formal in appearance; casual
clothing is incongruous with the look. Within this over-arching formality resides a
fine balance of conflicting forms. On one side of this continuum are rigidity,
austerity and soberness of detailing (archetypical norms for menswear) and on the
other side are softness, adornment and detailing (‘generalised’ norms for some
styles of womenswear). In other words, the Neo-Dandy aesthetic attempts to
balance notions of male and female characteristics of dress.
The recent trends within the field that are pertinent to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic
consist of a shift from previous rigid gender based notions of ‘correct’ attire for
menswear to a new, less gender defined aesthetic. This is part of a growing
segment of the menswear market and opens up the field for design innovations that
look to womenswear characteristics for inspiration. Hence, the third part of the
diagrammatic Chart 1c indicates the position for the Neo-Dandy aesthetic.
Chart 1c: Indicating the Neo-Dandy position that leans towards womenswear
characteristic for aesthetics, whilst retaining enough quintessential menswear
characteristics relative to notions of mainstream wearability.
(Intentionally left blank)
Chapter 2 – Design Evolution
Chapter overview and purpose
In this chapter the modern white shirt is framed as a classic case of the differences
between mainstream wearability for each gender. To aid in this demonstration, a
Spectrum of the Modern White Shirt that builds upon the Spectrum of Mainstream
Wearability (as outlined in Chapter 1) is developed. First discussed are the two
ends of the spectrum – the archetypal men’s dress shirt on the one end (with a
subtle Tuxedo variant), and the women’s blouse (austere or decorated, loose or
fitted) at the other. As I will show through historical commentary, these garment
types emerged by the end of the nineteenth century (at which time they were
already aligned to different genders) and have stayed relatively fixed in European
culture into the twenty-first century. The intent of this spectrum is to examine the
characteristic differences between men’s shirts and women’s blouses and then
position the Neo-Dandy aesthetic within this spectrum.
While I have taken up a Western notion of dress and associated conventions of
norms of dress for men and women, it is acknowledged that even under this general
cultural banner a wide multiplicity of positions may exist. I have predominantly
focused on an Anglo-historical account. Thus the literature sourced is
predominantly English language text and most of the information is about what
occurred in Britain and the United States, as Australian historical documentation is
This chapter then discusses selected examples of innovative white dress shirts by
leading contemporary menswear designers, the intent being to scope the field of
design innovation for the modern white dress shirt and, in so doing, compare and
contrast its inherent aesthetic with the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. This discussion will
then culminate in an exploration of four examples of innovation to the modern
white dress shirt that align to the Neo- Dandy aesthetic.
2.1 Evolution of the Modern Men’s White Shirt
The archetypal men’s white dress shirt
The archetypal men’s white dress shirt has a natural fit for the upper-body and has
a centre front button opening with tab, rigid collar and cuffs, yoke customarily cut
double, long set-in-sleeves and a curved hem line. The fabric used is generally
either 100% cotton or, more recently, a cotton-polyester blend. This icon of men’s
fashion exists across the range of menswear outlets – from elite designer stores to
low-cost clothing outlets.
The anatomical elements of a classic undecorated men’s dress shirt consist of
several major pattern or block shapes: two sides of the front, the back, the sleeve
and the yoke. These key components determine the form and fit of the garment.
The main sub-elements consist of: the collar, which is normally cut in two pieces
with a stand and a fall, and the cuff. The purpose of these elements is to formalise
the garment through rigidity, as well as to provide the main scope for stylistic
variations. Other functional elements include: a front tab for buttons and
buttonholes, and a small band (called a placket) on the sleeve to allow for access to
the arm. These major pattern pieces combine to produce a basic dress shirt,
although there are a range of extra pieces that play key supporting roles. Additional
interfacing components provide rigidity to the front tab, the cuffs, the collar fall
and collar stand. Interfacing can also be applied to the placket according to fabric
density. Depending on construction methods, the collar fall and the cuff may also
have an under pattern that is cut smaller than the top pattern. The placket can also
have a small bind to facilitate a precise closure. Therefore, even though a basic
shirt appears relatively simple in form, it can have, in entirety, up to approximately
a dozen fabric pattern pieces, half-a-dozen interfacing pattern pieces and, once the
fabric is cut, over two dozen shapes.
Listed below are the specific elements and fabric cutting instructions for a men’s
dress shirt:
Front – fabric cut as a pair to provide a left and right side
Back – fabric cut on the fold of the fabric
Yoke – fabric cut double
Sleeve – fabric cut as a pair for left and right sides
Outer cuff – fabric cut as a pair
Under cuff – fabric cut as a pair
Collar stand – fabric cut as a pair
Outer collar – fabric cut single
Under collar – fabric cut single
Tab front – fabric cut as a pair
Placket (sleeve vent) – fabric cut as a pair
Placket bind – fabric cut as a pair
Upper collar – interfacing cut single
Under collar – interfacing cut double for support
Front tab (centre front panel for buttons) – interfacing cut as a pair
Cuff interfacing – interfacing cut as a pair
Placket – interfacing cut as a pair (optional)
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-1: Basic pattern draft of major shirt pattern shapes. This pattern acted as a
foundational pattern for the research project (Aldrich, 1984, p.30).
The white dress shirt is designed to be tucked in (hence the curved hem) and may
or may not be worn with a tie. It is referred to as a dress shirt, because it is
typically worn within the formal end of social wear and within cosmopolitan,
professional settings. It also can be worn for formal evening wear where the suit
and tie may or may not be dominant.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-2: The archetypal modern dress shirt.
Left (Louis Vuitton, 2006), and right (Dior Homme, 2007a).
The early evolution of modern men’s white dress shirt
For the scope of this research the early period of men’s shirt history is succinctly
discussed. It is acknowledged that, prior to the modern era, successive changes
occurred to the shirt as a result of fashion shifts and basic technical advancements
in construction (see Cunnington and Willett (1992) for more information on the
early evolution of the white dress shirt).
The shirt (period term, ‘sherte’) is an enduring item in both name and in its
principal design. Its provenance can be traced back to the Norman period, around
the turn of the first millennium, with a loose, utilitarian garment referred to as a
chemise or a smock. This unstructured form, which was considered as an
undergarment, essentially remained consistent in silhouette up until the mid to late
part of the nineteenth century.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-3: (left) Wedding shirt, c 1795-1800; (right) man’s shirt, dated 1813
(Cunnington and Willett, 1992, p.100).
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-4: Men’s shirt pattern 1700 to 1810. Note the rectangular pattern shape
(Waugh, 1964, p.53).
In the middle part of the nineteenth century the origins of the modern shirt,
including the dress shirt, begin to emerge. During the period 1840s to 1870s the
shirt shifted from a loose garment to a fitted garment which essentially resembled
current notions of fit and style. The catalysts for change were threefold. Firstly,
during the mid to late nineteenth century tailors adopted a scientific approach to
drafting shirt patterns and this mathematical system enabled a better fitting
garment. Shep and Cariou (1999, p.7) notes that many shirt drafting systems from
that period were patented and enterprising inventors created highly novel and
intricate systems to enhance the fit of the shirt. Shirtmakers could now draft
patterns to fit a multitude of sizes and the quality of individual fit significantly
improved. Secondly, this transformation of cut was necessary as the vest and jacket
were becoming more fitted and a bulky undershirt was uncomfortable to wear.
Through waist shaping, a shoulder yoke and a curved armhole and sleeve head, the
shirt was able to reduce its bulk, whilst still allowing for movement. Also, as the
vest and coat opening became higher it necessitated more formal and rigid collar
and cuff shapes. Finally, due to improvements in sewing manufacture and the
industrial revolution, the domestic sewing of men’s shirts was rapidly in decline.
Ready made, affordable shirts were gaining popularity and this enabled a more
refined style and cut to permeate the market.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-5: (left) man’s evening dress shirt, 1850-1860; (right) man’s evening dress shirt
c 1860-1870. Both shirts use a curved hem (Cunnington & Willett, 1992, p.158).
By 1890, the basic fitted shirt had evolved. It consisted of a fitted silhouette with
coat style (full length button opening) front, yoke, firm cuffs and collar and a
curved hemline. The distinction between a dress shirt and a casual shirt was also
becoming evident. Dress shirts had either pleated or plain bib fronts (on occasion,
detachable bib fronts) or small frills on the front tab, depending on the fashion of
the time. Collars, and sometimes cuffs, were also detachable on formal shirts,
whereas casual shirts had attached, soft collars.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-6: 1868 men’s shirt pattern. Note the use of armhole and sleeve shaping
(Shep, 1999, p.27).
In conclusion, by the close of the 1890s, the bedrock had been laid for what we
know today as the white dress shirt. The basic form is consistent with current
notions of fit and silhouette and the construction, apart from the detached collar is,
on the whole, allied to contemporary practices. Hence, it can be argued that
between 1870 and 1890, the white dress shirt was in a form that paralleled modern
variants, notwithstanding inconsequential styling, decoration and construction
differences. At this point in history, the white dress shirt as we know it today, was
clearly in existence. I now turn to the century-long design shifts associated with
that archetypical form in the era of the modern white dress shirt.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-7: 1891 men’ shirts. Note the use of a centre front opening, collar, cuffs and
silhouette that resemble current era shirts (Shep, 1999, p.73).
The modern era of the men’s white dress shirt
In the last decade of the nineteenth century shirt styles were relatively fixed by
societal codes of dress, heightened through the popularity of men’s journals. In this
period, uniformity of shirt styles was widespread, except for discreet style and
manufacturing innovations.
At this time, the white dress shirt was plain; however, some detailing around the
neck and front chest area, known as the bib, was in use. Chenoune (1993, p.95)
states that
whether such shirts were figured, braided, pleated, or adorned with
embroidery or open-work, they all obeyed one basic principle: the
wider the pleats, the easier they were to make and maintain, and
therefore the more common they were. In contrast, the narrower the
pleats, the more elegant they were.
Unlike prior periods the shirt’s role as a display medium was diminishing, except
for very formal evening wear, as the waistcoat now formed the avenue for
decorative display. Consequently, the collar was the principal visible element of
the shirt. The button-on collar was standard dress and the shirt was now becoming
a fixed item to connect varying neckline and cuff variations. The collar was also
used as a symbol of social rank, with high standing collars preventing a downward
gaze, as Turbin (2002, p.482) states, “to look downward, high-status men had to
literally look down their noses”. Consequently, high rigid collars distinguished the
elite from clerks who necessitated low collars for ease of movement. The
detachable collar could also be readily starched, thereby allowing a rigidity and
armour like appearance for the wearer. This rigidity was considered a crucial
aspect for correct and sober dress during this period. In fact, these areas of upper
chest and neck region, match the armoury of old with its rigid torso plates.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-8: 1889 men’s detachable collars (Shep, 1999, p.149).
Even though the white dress shirt was comparatively unchanging in form, and for
the most part hidden by outer garments, it still formed one of the keystone elements
for understanding classical male dress until the first decade of the twentieth
century. The white shirt, until the end of the nineteenth century, was a significant
historical symbol of wealth and class distinction, as only a person of substantial
wealth could afford to have their shirts washed frequently and to own enough of
them to wear. The link between social distinction and the whiteness of the shirting
cloth was, as Roetzel (1999, p.20) proposes, used as a marker for affluence, as an
unclean white shirt was connected with ‘dirty’, poorly paid labouring work. Even
an unclean collar implied that not only was the garment unclean, but the inner body
– including the mind – was as well.
The white dress shirt was also a powerful emblem of sobriety and uniformity in the
Victorian era. Flugel (1930, p.75) believed that the white shirt, with its ‘virgin’ and
pristine appearance sent a message of being authoritative, steadfast and
trustworthy. The relationship between responsibility, sobriety and uniformity
allowed the white shirt to become a customary vehicle for masculine dress. The
pure white colour fulfilled masculine ideals of unwavering sombreness and the
shirt, through its embodied consistency and rigid appearance with high collars and
stiff bibs and cuffs, epitomised conformity and dependability. As Hollander (1994,
p.69) suggests, by the nineteenth century, men who concerned themselves with
decorative versus utilitarian needs were reviled for being non-masculine. The
unadorned white dress shirt was intrinsically correlated to appropriate moral
masculine behaviour and it was believed that any deviation from that norm would
result in a collapse of society’s established conservative values. Honeyman (2002,
p.428) states that this austerity of dress “indicated that a man could be trusted, that
he was serious and that he meant business. It also meant that he was unlike a
woman”. Hence, in the Victorian era, the white shirt underpinned attitudes to
manliness and it formed a foundation stone for visual and moral assumptions about
masculine ideals.
Furthermore, when patterned shirts were worn in that period, suspicions were
raised as the patterned fabric was perceived to mask a lack of personal cleanliness.
The potent historical message a white shirt can convey is noted by Mark Twain
(1981, p.415) in his autobiographical account of his life, “if a man wanted a fight
on his hands without any annoying delay, all he had to do was to appear in public
in a white shirt and he would be accommodated. For those people hated
aristocrats”. In essence, the white shirt was used as an emblem of business success
and power and as a distinguishing marker for social rank.
This association with formality is evident in the 1880s and onwards with the
adoption of the terms ‘white collar’ and ‘blue collar’ workers – white collar
denoting a clerical or managerial level, and blue collar denoting manual work.
Traditionally, shirts for manual workers were dyed a shade of indigo to conceal
labouring stains and, as Turbin (2002, p.483) proposes, many working class men
resented clerical workers for wearing white shirts, referring to them as ‘white collar
stiffs’ as they dressed above their station, as an employer not an employee. Hence,
the white shirt was essentially viewed as a symbolic icon inferring social status.
By the close of the nineteenth century the use of the white dress shirt as an insignia
to define status had diminished and it had become ubiquitous male apparel. The
reasons are threefold. Firstly, with the rise of the industrial revolution,
manufacturing costs for shirts decreased and availability increased. As a result,
men were able to afford to own at least one white shirt and they were readily
available. Secondly, the rise of the middle class enabled an increased affluence
brought about by a new ethos, which combined consumption, cleanliness and
European gentility. This penchant for cleanliness acted as fuel for a public desire
for immaculate white shirts, thereby escalating their popularity. Craik (1994,
p.184) suggests that the rise of consumption patterns allowed a new, restrained
style of dress to thrive and the correct external appearance of a man became fused
to his social mobility and possible business success. Finally, the average man could
now afford to launder at least one white shirt with multiple detachable collars, cuffs
and bibs. This shirt was then able to equip a man for church, the ‘high street’ and
for employment within clerical roles. Willet and Cunnigton (1992, p.189) also
suggest that detachable collars and cuffs, which could be reversed when one edge
was soiled, allowed the shirt to circumvent laundry amenities. The white shirt was
now able to bridge societal divides and the defining factor for class separation was
no longer the colour but the fit, quality of the cloth and very discreet style
By the beginning of the twentieth century, with the rise of commercial laundries
and inside plumbing, the whiteness of a dress shirt could easily be maintained. It
was now common place to own a number of white shirts and the increased quality
of manufacture ensured robustness during the laundering process and improved
garment longevity. In this period the wearing of coloured shirts for business wear
was gaining popularity; however, white shirts were still regarded as appropriate for
eveningwear and ‘Sunday best’ attire. This period continued with detailing that was
relatively plain. At times, bib fronts were pleated but, generally, detailing was
discreet or non-existent. As Burtis (quoted in Shep and Cariou, 1999, p.220) stated
in a 1911 ladies’ journal, Making a Shirt for a Man, “many men believe that it is
unbecoming for any one, save perhaps a college boy, to affect anything bordering
on decoration or fad stunts as they call them”.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-9: 1919 men’s suits worn with white shirts (Olian, 1995, p.113).
In the early twentieth century, the white dress shirt continued to have an
undergarment association and, if a man was wearing only trousers and a shirt, he
was considered to be ‘undressed’. Cunnington and Willett (1992, p.15) propose
that a shirt was considered as an undergarment up until the First World War and
the notion of an outer garment touching the skin was simply abhorrent. Even in
contemporary times, this customary hangover can be evidenced where it can still
be considered poor taste, in certain social contexts, for a man to take off his jacket
in public and expose his shirt.
After the end of the First World War, a societal shift was occurring with a
consequent rejection of Victorian rigid and ‘starched’ ideals and a desire to adopt
new, post war conventions. The white dress shirt was still commonly worn;
however rigid collars, cuffs and bibs became fundamentally aligned to formal
wear. A new, softer and more fluid look was developing for less formal clothing.
One of the key influences was the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII for only one
year in 1936), who was a popular leader of fashion at the time. His rejection of the
white shirt, with its severe lines, in favour of soft, floppy, coloured shirts created a
major shift in menswear. Alongside this shift to a ‘softer’ style of dress, casual
shirts were becoming popular, including tennis and sports shirts. This period also
aligned to the start of the demise of the detachable collar on the dress shirt, due to
reduced laundering and manufacturing costs.
In the first part of the 1920s, the white dress shirt was still associated with moral
respectability. Hence, in 1924 the founding father of IBM, Thomas J. Watson, was
insistent on a dress code and demanded all his office employees wear a classic
white shirt as part of their mandatory attire. As Olofsson (2004, p.42) claims, a
white shirt possesses sterling qualities of reliability, respectability and
responsibility. The starkness of a white shirt juxtaposed against a darkly coloured
suit coat or trousers, has been an enduring code of dress for decorum and propriety
and this visual expectation is still manifested within many professional roles in the
modern era.
By the start of the Second World War detachable collars were used for only the
most formal of occasions, the white tie dress code. The white dress shirt was plain,
except for minor frontal bib treatment and, in essence, had not changed in form
apart from construction details. In this period the shirt was no longer considered as
an undergarment, as the white tee-shirt now fulfilled that role. The next major
change for the white dress shirt was the introduction of synthetic fabrics in the late
1950s and early 1960s. Even though the adoption of synthetic fibres did not alter
the garments appearance, it transformed the wearability and serviceability of the
shirt. With the introduction of nylon blends, and subsequently polyester, shirts
were drip dry and required minimal ironing. However, synthetic fibres had
questionable ability for comfort, particularly in hot, humid climates.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-10: (left) 1946 -1947 men’s shirts (Smith, 1999, p.43).
Another significant shift for the white dress shirt was in the late 1960s and early
1970s. This period witnessed an escalation in detailing, in particular frontal
flounces and ruffles, as well as increased collar widths. Also, for some, the necktie
was being rejected in favour of open neck shirts. The white dress shirt was still
seen as a formal garment as a vast array of highly coloured and printed shirts
popularised the market place for casual clothing. In the early 1980s, for a brief
period, an innovative, romantic style of dressing with loosely styled foppish and
frilled white shirts was the height of fashion.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-11: (right) late 1970s men’s shirts (Skinner and McCord, 2004, p.81).
Through the 1980s ‘power dressing’ was adopted and the white dress shirt, once
again, regained its hold on social status. The formal shirt styles were austere and
rigid and the tie regained a strong foothold. By the 1990s, however, the
casualisation of clothing was occurring and the tie, which was the principle place
for floridity, was being rejected in many formal settings. It is also noteworthy, that
similar to prior periods, shirts significantly varied in quality during this period and
a segment of the market did not follow fashionable changes.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-12: late 1980s Hugo Boss ‘power dressing’ (Chenoune, 1993, p.312).
The tuxedo shirt
In the modern era, the men’s dress shirt is most characteristically associated, in its
most formal state, with the rigid bib front and is customarily referred to as the
tuxedo shirt. The bib covers the upper chest area and can be either plain, pleated, or
adorned with small frills. Bibs are normally highly interfaced to provide firmness
and are sewn as part of the garment, so as not to be detachable from the shirt. The
term ‘tuxedo’ refers to a style of dress that is highly formal, which may also be
referred to as ‘black tie’ or ‘dinner jacket’. The tuxedo shirt forms part of this code
of dress and is designed to be worn under a jacket. The bib provides visual rigidity,
and at times decoration, to the lapel area of the jacket. This style of shirt is
customarily worn with a bow tie and has historically been white in appearance. The
tuxedo shirt generally has either Barrel style (lapped over) or French cuffs. The
French cuff has traditionally been the more formal variant and is seen as a symbol
of a more reserved, well dressed appearance.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.1-13: range of tuxedo shirts: (left) pleated (Dior Homme 2007b); (middle) bib
front (Giorgio Armani 2006); (right) ruffled (Gucci 2007).
Boxed vs. Bespoke
The white dress shirt has come to be available in two distinct presentation methods:
folded and boxed, or, on a hanger. The boxed version is significant for the
following reasons. Firstly, this approach to presentation is emblematic of the shirt’s
level of historical garment engineering. As a result of scientific approaches,
particularly through pattern drafting systems, the relationship to body fit has been
exceedingly honed and the wearer can ‘trust’ size and fit designations. Through
standardised measurements, exacting tolerances, industrialised fabrication and a
comparatively universal appearance, the boxed shirt highlights the historical ‘finetuning’ that has occurred. Secondly, the boxing is symbolic of the archetypal status
aligned to the white dress shirt. Boxed shirts appear void of human contact and, in
this form, they are escalated to an eminent position in comparison to racked shirts.
Furthermore, in an odd contradiction to this position of status, the boxing of shirts
also contrasts with the ubiquitous nature of the garment. The boxed shirt
materializes as a generic item that dilutes its associations with the high status that
may be attributed to fashion. Finally, this method of packaging also parallels issues
relating to consumption practices for men, particularly the fact that, in this form,
the garment can not be tried on and the consumer can not experience the comfort,
fit and feel of the shirt prior to purchase. Male consumers (generally speaking) are
reluctant to try on clothing at retail outlets and the boxed shirt, with its intricate
presentation, epitomises this consumption practice. Hence, even though the boxing
of the shirt is, in essence, a means of merchandising a product, it is still highly
symbolic of aspects relating to men’s clothing. Many companies merchandise their
shirts boxed and these range in quality and price, from designer labels such as Dior
Homme to shirts bought in low-priced clothing stores.
Dress shirts are also produced in bespoke form, crafted to fit individual body
measurements. This approach to producing white dress shirts is in sharp contrast to
the mass produced nature of many boxed variants. Henry Poole & Co, a bespoke
tailor in Savile Row in London, is exemplary of this practice. The company crafts
the classic conservative white dress shirt and, in the main, does not deviate from
time honoured assembly practices. Clients can request the traditional practice of
handmade buttonholes and the company has a reputation for fine classic hand
tailoring. They are acknowledged as the founders of Savile Row, a street in central
London famous for its traditional men's bespoke tailoring. The shirt designs
produced by this company align to classic conventions, including the use of
archetypal collar styles such as the Ascot, the British Spread, the Prince of Wales,
the Windsor, and the button-down collar.
The archetypal white dress and formality
The formality of a dress shirt is ensured through a range of very specific ‘markers’
that are evident on areas of the shirt. All these markers work together, making the
shirt rigid (not loose or floppy), non-utilitarian (avoiding the look and function of
work and physical activity), high-quality (expensive, rather than low-cost and lowquality); and providing a full covering of the male torso and arms, from wrist to
neck (avoidance of the display of skin and body hair). Conversely, the less a shirt
displays these markers, the more casual it becomes.
The markers of formality include:
Bib front – a bib front is considered the most formal of markers for a dress
shirt, associated with the tuxedo shirt. The layering of fabric gives it rigidity.
French cuffs – these consist of a large, rectangle cuff that doubles back on to
itself and, in so doing, creates a thick, crisp silhouette around the wrist
region. They are normally worn with cuff links and, more generally, the
wider the cuff, the more formal the shirt.
Rigidity and design of the collar – the amount of crispness and firmness of a
collar acts as a marker of formality. The use of a two-piece collar (collar and
collar stand) assists to increase formality as this collar type is principally
designed to be worn with a tie, as well as making a crisper, more rigid collar
shape. The most formal of collar types is the wing or butterfly collar as it is
designed to be worn with a bow tie (associated with black tie formal wear).
Depth of back yoke – on casual shirts the back yoke is generally deep and on
formal shirts, such as the dress shirt, the yoke is shallow in depth. Casual
shirts have by nature a lower yoke and, in the main, larger back pleats/tucks
– so as to provide extra comfort in the across back region.
Hem type – a curved hem indicates the shirt is designed to be tucked in,
thereby indicating formality. A straight hem implies the shirt can be left out
and is more likely to be a casual garment. A long, back tail length on a shirt
may also suggest a more formal and higher quality garment, and this long
tail ensures that the shirt stays tucked in, even when the wearer is hunched
Button type and position – generally the closer the buttons the more formal
the shirt. That is, a dress shirt normally has a minimum of seven buttons on
the front tab, whilst a casual shirt may have fewer buttons. The numbers of
buttons also relates to garment quality. The same correlation applies to
buttons that have a four-hole method of attachment. Two-hole buttons are
more likely to be used on casual, ‘low-cost’ shirts. The first button position
from the top of the tab also indicates formality. If the button location is
higher, the shirt appears to be more closed and, as a result, more formal in
Sleeve length and creases – long sleeves are normally indicative of more
formal garments, whereas short sleeves appear casual. When a shirt is
pressed, particularly with creases in the sleeve, it suggests a more considered
approach and may well, depending on the shirt type, imply that it is being
worn for a more formal occasion.
Pockets – generally the use of pockets signifies a utilitarian function (even
though pockets could well be for decorative purposes) and, particularly on
dress shirts, the elimination of pockets assists to increase formality.
Fabric type – in the main knit fabric appears less formal and this particularly
applies to methods of construction used for knit fabrics, such as ribbings and
stitch types.
Stitch length – a small stitch length is also indicative of formal shirts and of a
higher quality garment.
General symmetry – formal shirts, in the main, are symmetrical around the
vertical axis of the button tab.
And finally, the colour of the fabric – the more formal the shirt, the more
likely it will be white; black tie and white tie dictate a white dress shirt,
although for semi-formal and lounge suits, other colours may be used.
In conclusion, the modern white shirt for men has remained fairly consistent in
form and detailing since the 1890s. The major construction change in the modern
era has been the shift from a detachable collar to an attached collar. Even though
manufacturing methods have improved significantly since the end of the nineteenth
century, the fundamental technique of assembly has not changed. The principal
elements of the shirt have remained constant: areas for rigidity have not been
altered and the style of detailing for a dress shirt has not radically shifted in form.
Cotton has remained the preferred fabric alongside cotton polyester blends. Thus, it
is concluded that from 1890 onwards the dress shirt has had only minor ‘flirtations’
with innovation and its principal form has remained comparatively static from that
Furthermore, there are different levels of formality linked to the men’s white shirt.
The least formal type is the casual short sleeve shirt, whereas the tuxedo shirt is
considered the most formal. In the middle of the field for formality is the classic or
traditional shirt (archetypal long sleeve shirt with collar) This shirt is able to span a
diversity of levels of formality depending upon accompanying accessories, such as
neck ties, and supporting garment styles such as coats, vests and trousers. The
white dress shirt is considered more formal than the classic shirt as it has increased
markers of formality, such as French cuffs or extra rigidity.
It is also seen that the white dress shirt spans a diversity of practitioners. These
include ‘elite’ designer labels, bespoke tailors, ‘mid-market’ companies and ‘lowend’ labels. Within this range of practitioners, the white dress shirt remains
relatively consistent in design, apart from minor styling differences, although
garment and fabric quality may vary.
The Spectrum of the Modern White Shirt (Chart 2a) can now be illustrated in a
diagrammatic form. This chart shows the field of formality, spanning from the
casual shirt to the Tuxedo shirt, the variances in wearability for men and women
and the Neo-Dandy position, as discussed in Chapter 1.
Chart 2a: Indicating the field for men’s shirts placed within the spectrum of wearability.
This chart highlights a continuum of formality, from the casual shirt, the classic shirt, to the
most formal, the Tuxedo shirt.
2.2 Evolution of the Modern Women’s White Blouse
The women’s blouse has many variations and is not as fixed in form as the
archetypical men’s dress shirt. The blouse can be either plain or adorned, loose or
fitted, and it is acknowledged that the term refers to a woman’s garment. Generally,
blouses have a button front opening, set in sleeves, shoulder seam and some variant
of a collar. Copious differences exist within the general form, including garment
length, sleeve fullness and body ease. A diversity of fabric types and densities are
used, including cloth that is sheer.
The blouse as we know it today has evolved from two distinct lineages, one being
the fitted form (referred to as a shirt-waist) and the other being a loose form
(referred to as a middy-blouse).
The shirt-waist
By the 1890s a major shift was occurring in women’s dress styles and a new
fashion was developing that resulted in changes to the silhouette. The waist became
a central visual component and an S-bend silhouette was favoured. In particular,
the wearing of a shirt-waist (or waist, as it was sometimes abbreviated to) enabled
a ‘new look’ to surface and was seen as a significant departure from previous rigid
Victorian silhouettes. An 1889 fashion publication by Butterrick, The Delineator,
proclaimed “Shirt-waists are such an important part of a woman’s (wardrobe) that
they cannot afford to be neglected”. (Harris, 2002, p.4) The shirt-waist became the
principal part of a woman’s upper body dress in the late nineteenth century. The
reasons for its popularity were numerous.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-1: 1890s shirtwaist (State University of New York c2007).
As part of these developments, a two piece outfit, consisting of a tailored skirt and
a fitted blouse were highly fashionable, although versions were being worn as early
as the 1860s. This outfit was then sometimes teamed with a matching jacket which,
in effect, created a tailored suit. This mode of dress aligned to an increased uptake
of paid work, such as office (mainly secretarial roles) and retail positions. Foner
and Garraty (1991, p.384) state:
By the 1860s women on New York streets were wearing jacketed
dresses modelled after male suits. Thirty years later these styles had
evolved into the shirtwaist, the man-tailored blouse that became
emblematic of the clerical working woman. The shirt-waist’s
popularity quickly spread upward to higher social classes. (As well,
designers’ influence on fashion, particularly Gabrielle ‘Coco’
Channel, heightened the blouse’s popularity through the tailored suit,
in the first part of the twentieth century)
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-2: 1893 Tailored outfit (Bryde, 1992, p.168).
The early shirt-waist had a tailored collar or a classic round neckline, fitted waist,
some detailing such as pleating and some versions buttoned at the rear. From the
late nineteenth century, the most prevalent style buttoned down the front and the
garment appeared to be fashioned after a man’s shirt. The use of the term shirtwaist remained a popular convention until the 1920s (Calasibetta and Tortora,
2003, p.33 -37).
In the late Victorian era, similar to the man’s shirt, white cloth for the shirt-waist
was linked to ideals of cleanliness and purity. Hence, in the 1890s the white shirtwaist became a highly fashionable garment, as it fulfilled those ideals. This period
witnessed the advent of the new woman and the white shirt-waist was an iconic
symbol of the new independent working class woman (see Anderson’s The White
Blouse Revolution (1988) and Adams’ White-Blouse and White-Collar for
information on period work practices). The white shirt-waist was a powerful
representation of a new ethos and as a result it became, like the men’s white shirt,
an archetypical and ubiquitous garment to be worn in the early part of the twentieth
century. Paradoxically, the shirt-waist also became a symbol of poor labour
conditions, with many women sewing these garments in factories with deplorable
work practices. In particular, the tragic fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in
New York City in 1911, with the death of 148 workers, acted as a catalyst to
highlight poor labour practices. See McEvoy (1995) and Drehle (2004) for
information about labour reform as a result of this tragedy.
At the close of the nineteenth century, a new icon – the Gibson Girl – emerged and
ideals of female beauty came to represent the new woman. The Gibson Girl
embodied changes in lifestyle and gender depiction and personified a break from
Victorian social repression. The Gibson Girl image was popularised by the
drawings of the American artist Charles Dana Gibson (Foner & Garraty, 1991,
p.384). As Breward (1995, p.186) argues, the Gibson Girl encapsulated the new
economic power within American society and her caricature embodied freshness
and independence. Even though the Gibson Girl image was initially popular in
America, it soon expanded abroad where it became a significant influence on
fashion styles. The most conspicuous element of her attire was the shirt-waist,
which pouched at the front and created a puffed pigeon breast appearance. The
style of dress consisted of a tightly corseted waist, a high-collared neckline, long
sleeves and a decorated fitted blouse with copious amounts of lace and pintucking
on the front. Matched to this was a tailored bell-shaped skirt and hair rolled up to
give a full appearance (Darnell, 2000, p.9). Through the popularity of the Gibson
Girl’s perceived graceful image, new conventions for the ideal silhouette (the Sbend or Gibson bend) were forged. The Gibson Girl was a major influence on the
blouse’s heightened popularity and its subsequent associations with femininity and
Another reason for the increased appeal of the fitted blouse was the adoption of
cycling for women in the 1890s. During this period, cycling became enormously
popular and it represented a move to a more independent lifestyle that contrasted
with Victorian concepts of femininity. Cycling necessitated clothes that were not
only practical on a bicycle but also symbolic of the freedom that was encapsulated
in this new leisure activity. Consequently, the fitted blouse enabled relative ease of
movement, in comparison to the fitted bodice, when women were cycling.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-3: 1897 advertisement with woman cycling (Bryde, 1992, p.173).
Other factors aided the shirt-waist’s popularity. One was the prevalence of fashion
journals and the other, which supplemented these publications, was the availability
of paper garment patterns. As Craik (1994, p.48-49) argues, the readership for
women’s magazines escalated enormously in the late Victorian period and this
helped to define and spread the influence of the confident new woman. As a result,
the wearing of a white shirt-waist was readily taken up through the fashions that
were espoused in these magazines. Alongside this, companies such as Butterrick
produced both affordable paper patterns for blouses and supporting fashion
publications, such as the Delineator. This enabled some women to readily produce
fashioned garments at a more affordable price. Finally, the rise of the department
store, with mass produced items, allowed the blouse to become a common place
garment in the early part of the twentieth century. An additional contributing
influence was the popularity of mail order companies, such as Sears, as this
allowed an ease of access for new fashion styles outside the major urban centres.
The middy-blouse
While exact origins of the word are unclear, the term ‘blouse’ may have been
introduced in the early 19th century in France and is likely to have developed from
the French word "bliaut" or old French "blialt" – a long loose blue workman’s
shirt-smock – or from the word ‘blouson’ meaning ‘to blouse’. Use of the word
blouse can also be evidenced in the mid 1800s, with the naval middy-blouse. It was
a loose fitting midshipman’s garment that consisted of a long white skirted shirt
that tucked into trousers, with blue decorative banding on the pocket and chest area
(Miller, 1997, p.121). Civilian adoption of the term ‘blouse’ was initially for boyswear through the wearing of sailor style suits (the middy-blouse) in the mid 1800s
and, subsequently, for womenswear in the late nineteen hundreds.
In the 1880s significant social upheavals were occurring and, as a result of these
reforms, women were now undertaking activities that were once previously
considered male in domain. Sporting activities were starting to become popular for
leisure time. Alongside this, the growing trend for seaside vacations (England)
required garments that reflected a more comfortable form. As well, in some schools
and colleges, young girls undertook regular gymnasium based exercise. More
‘rational’ clothes were evolving to match the changing lifestyle for women.
Organisations such as the Rational Dress Reform Society were established (1881)
to espouse a new aesthetic for dress with alternative and more comfortable
garments, such as the bloomer. As part of this shift to a more relaxed form, the
middy-blouse was gaining popularity for leisure and physical activities.
This rapid shift in lifestyle enabled sports such as croquet, skating, golf and
gymnasium- based activity to develop costumes that had blouse variants. One of
these 1880s costumes was the gym suit. The gym suit was based on the middyblouse and, as Warner (2006, p. 203-206) indicates, early variants had sailor collars
and were generally matched with baggy bloomers or a divided skirt. This garment
was loose around the waist and generally worn tucked in. However, tennis was the
principal sport that influenced the blouse. In the early Victorian period tennis
costumes were, in the main, restrictive and allowed little concession for playing
sport. They consisted of high necked bodices and heavy skirts, although jersey
fabrics allowed some degree of movement (Bryde, 1992, p.165-166). By the early
1890s a more comfortable garment, the tennis blouse, had evolved. The tennis
blouse consisted of a loose baggy waist, full sleeves and high gathered neckline.
This garment was unusual for the time as it was loose and bloused at the waist,
hence the term ‘blouse’ (Warner, 2006, p.49). Once again, it was based on the
naval middy-blouse and this outfit became highly popular in the 1890s for tennis
and other leisure sports. At this time the tennis blouse had varying degrees of
decoration. However, by the first decade of the twentieth century, it had become
unadorned and a plain white shirt styled garment was the preferred choice
(Horwood 2002, p. 47-48).
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-4: Pre-1914 tennis players. Note the menswear style shirts (Horwood, 2002,
In summary, the loose blouse form had its origins in the mid 1800s with the naval
middy-blouse. This garment shifted to civilian use as a result of shifts in dress
norms for women in the late Victorian period. Increased physical activity
demanded completely new styles of garments. These garments mirrored a relaxing
of ‘corseted’ Victorian ideals and allowed forms of ‘rational’ clothing (relative to
that time) to emerge.
The blouse from 1910-1920s
In the early twentieth-century, the shirt-waist and the (middy-) blouse appear to
have cross-influenced two major styles of white shirts for women. By 1914 the
blouse / shirt-waist was, in the main, left untucked and the garment was becoming
less adorned, straighter in form and sometimes worn with a tie. To all intents and
purposes, the shirt-waist was evolving to become part of a silhouette that was
aligned to the ‘flapper’ of the 1920s. As Pendergast and Pendergast (2004, p.686687) suggest, the blouse / shirt-waist was, in effect, a dropped waist silhouette and
it formed the foundation for this subsequent new look. Entwistle (2000, p.171)
states: “[t]he 1920s ‘flapper’ represents the first expression of something
approximating to an androgynous look”. (The design influence from Paul Pioret is
considered to have acted as a precursor for this look). Therefore, by the end of
World War One it was fashionable to wear a style of dress for the upper body that
was decidedly menswear in style, as evidenced in the 1918 Sears Catalogue, below.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-5: 1918 blouse and skirt. Note the diversity of blouse styles; from left to right –
loose and adorned, menswear-style shirt and a loose middy blouse (Olian, 1995, p.103).
In conclusion, both forms of the blouse, the fitted and the relaxed, have a complex
and interwoven history. They are aligned to labour reforms, female emancipation
and changes to dress norms. The 1890s were a critical period for the blouse as the
shift from a fitted bodice to a more ‘rational’ form was evolving. Increased leisure
activities for women, such as cycling and sport, influenced the need to move from
Victorian rigidity to a softer silhouette, such as the blouse. The blouse, even though
it was highly decorated in the Gibson Girl era, acted as a foundational catalyst for
women adopting men’s shirt characteristics as part of their spectrum of dress in the
twentieth century.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-6: 1916 middy blouses. Note the looseness of form (Olian, 1995, p. 79).
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-7: 1918 decorated silk georgette blouses (Olian, 1995, p.94).
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-8: c1920 postcard advertisement. Note the menswear style shirt and tie
(Pendergast & Pendergast, 2004, p.681).
Contemporary blouses
In the contemporary era, notions of what constitutes a blouse have been founded
from garment styles that were worn in the early part of the twentieth century.
Associations with a relaxed form, particularly around the waist, have evolved from
‘rational’ garments worn by the ‘new’ emancipated woman in the late nineteenth
century and early twentieth century. Elaborate decoration, inspired by the Gibson
girl, as well as sheer and soft fabrics associated with the ‘lingerie’ blouse combine
to fabricate broad ideas of adornment and aspects of fluidity aligned to a blouse.
Blouses that are white in colour, which were worn by brigades of female office
workers from the 1890s onwards, may align to notions of un-adornment, and
uniformity. For others, the blouse may be viewed as a highly stylish garment that
changes according to the fashion season. Hence, the blouse as we know it today
can encompass a wide diversity of forms (images on next page).
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.2-9: A range of blouses available on Yahoo Shopping (2007) showing the
diversity of fit, fabric, detailing and styling available for women’s white blouses.
In conclusion, the modern white blouse for women consists of a loose or fitted
form that can be either plain or decorated. Formality within that gamut of styles is
not as defined as is the case for the men’s shirt. For example, a short sleeve blouse,
that is decorated or plain, may be worn for formal occasions. The defining factors
in determining formality for womenswear are the accessories, such as shoes, bags
and make-up, the fabric quality, accompanying garment types and construction
I can now illustrate in a diagrammatic form the Spectrum of the Modern White
Blouse, for women. The field for a woman’s blouse spans loose to fitted, plain to
decorated, for both casual and formal wear. This chart also highlights the polarity
of the field for men and woman for the modern white shirt.
Chart 2b: Indicating the field for the women’s blouse, ranging from loose to fitted, plain or
decorated, with varying levels of formality.
2.3 Contemporary White Dress Shirt Designers and the NeoDandy aesthetic
In this section I will examine innovative white shirts produced by a range of
leading menswear designers that have tampered, to some degree, with the
archetypical white dress shirt. The research analysed thousands of archive catwalk
images from major fashion sites including WGSN (Worth Global Style Network)
and of these only a small number tampered appreciably with the men’s white dress
shirt. These shirts will be examined relative to my own framework for levels of
innovation that either head towards, go beyond, or align to the Neo-dandy
aesthetic. The images are primarily sourced from European catwalk shows,
particularly Milan and Paris. The shirts range in period from 2003 to 2007 as this
timeframe is indicative of recent trends in men’s fashion.
Note: In the discussion that follows, selected images of innovative white shirts
from contemporary menswear designers have been included in the discussion. For
the full list of images, see the complete thumbnails (figures 2.3-1 to 2.3-34) of
white shirts by other designers in the Design Notebook (Appendices).
Directions of innovation
My discussion below of innovative white shirts is framed around what I call
‘directions of innovation’. In regards to men’s shirts, possible directions of
innovation that designers may head towards include different eras, such as
historically inspired pirate shirts, or different domains including military clothing,
work wear or sporting adaptations. However, for this research the direction of
innovation that I am concerned with heads towards the female counterpart of the
man’s shirt, most notably the blouse. However, when heading within this design
direction, the innovation must not mask the origin of the garment – it must still
give the impression of resembling the original design form – in this case, a man’s
dress shirt. That is, white in colour and upholding customary notions of form, fit
and lineage to formality.
In addition, it is worth noting that – because I am interested in innovation in
fashion design, and in wearability in particular – I am not concerned here with
what could be called the ‘art-shirt’: experimental sculptural forms that have their
basis in the white shirt, are created by artists and displayed in galleries (such as the
artworks based on white shirts curated by Calvin Klein womenswear designer
Franciso Costa in 2006, see Marsh, L 2006 and Wilson, E 2006). These ‘art-shirts’
form part of the contemporary interest that surrounds the white dress shirt, but they
do not purport to be wearable fashion garments and so do not resonate with my
design direction.
Directions towards a Neo-Dandy aesthetic
The first design direction that approaches the desired wearability aesthetic is the
tuxedo shirt. It has a pleated, frilled or plain bib front (sometimes referred to as a
‘dickey front’) and adheres to the classic notion of a formal dress shirt. However,
the designs with bib fronts from the following contemporary menswear designers
have a level of innovation that approaches the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. For example,
the designs from Antonio Marras 2006 (figure 2.3-1), and Patrick Ervell 2007
(figure 2.3-2) tamper mildly with the archetypical bib front and the outcomes head
towards, though do not align to, the Neo-Dandy look. As an example, Marras
extends the bib shape beyond the traditional upper torso area while Ervell uses
contrasting fabric and large pleats to accentuate the bib silhouette. However, even
though these shirts experiment with bib changes, the use of colour detracts from the
formal appearance that is important for the Neo-Dandy aesthetic.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-2: Patrick Ervell, 2007 a.
Other examples of bib experimentation are the designs from Burberry Prorsum
2006 (Figure 2.3-3) and Paul Smith 2006 (Figure 2.3-4). Burberry uses very full
frontal flounces to create a bib silhouette. This effect leans towards the Neo-Dandy
aesthetic as it effectively balances the softness created by the extra frills with the
rigidity of the collar and front tab. Smith’s interpretation of a bib front is also of
interest. In this design he references detachable bibs that were used on dress shirts
in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His use of small button detailing
to restrain the bib edges creates a discreet level of innovation. This design captures
characteristics of the Neo-Dandy aesthetic, as it has markers of formality such as
the rigid bib, and the innovative button detailing gives it a refined (not overly
detailed) appearance.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-4: Paul Smith, 2006.
The three shirts from Gucci 2006 (Figures 2.3-5 to 2.3-7) use alterations to the
neckline for design innovation. These neckline treatments appear atypical for
men’s shirts, with the use of frills and neck bows and this look is harmonious with
the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. Nonetheless, Gucci’s shirt (Figure 2.3-7) appears overly
decorated with bib and neck, chest and cuff treatments. The sheerness of fabric on
all three shirts, however, provides the right level of appearance, as the translucency
accentuates the design details.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-7: Gucci, 2006 c.
Another aspect of the aesthetic is the use of frontal detailing. As an example,
Barrett’s 2005 and 2006 shirts (Figures 2.3-8 and 2.3-9) use imitation printed frills
and suspenders. This design innovation is noteworthy as it is a refined take on a
classical look, though the colour detracts from the formality of the shirt. The design
from D Squared 2006 (Figure 2.3-10) also has an interesting and novel frontal
treatment. This innovation is in line with the Neo-Dandy look as it plays with or
subverts traditional notions of formality, with the replication of a tie on the front
band, even if the use of colour does not align to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic.
However, the frontal detailing from Paul Smith’s 2005 (Figure 2.3-11) shirt is
highly effective, as it is not only void of colour, but also accentuates the chest
region and appears soft in form due to the floral embellishment.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-11: Paul Smith, 2005 a.
On the other hand, both shirts from Dries Van Noten 2005 (Figures 2.3-12 and 2.313) use detailing applied to the upper shoulder region. The treatment is identical on
each shirt except for the use of the colour black on Figure 2.3-12. Both shirts are
effective as they appear masculine due to the placement and style of detailing.
However, the black embellishment hinders the appearance, as it creates both a less
formal look as well as an overly ‘masculine’ nuance with visual association of a
tattoo. In contrast, the white embellishment on Figure 2.3-13 is more compatible to
the desired aesthetic.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-13: Dries Van Noten, 2005 a.
Finally, in regards to fit and amount of garment ease, the shirt from Neil Barrett
2005 (Figure 2.3-14) illustrates the differences in garment volume. Barrett’s shirt
is very lean in fit and even though it may have the required body movement, due to
the ease of movement created by knit fabric, the silhouette is deemed too tight for
the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. The shirt from Raf Simmons (Figure 2.3-15), on the
other hand, illustrates the desired level of garment fit. The shirt is still lean in
appearance, while not excessively tight, and would provide sufficient garment ease
for a comfortable shirt.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-15: Raf Simmons 2006.
In summary, the areas for design innovation that lean towards the Neo-Dandy
aesthetic include the bib, the neckline, the front and the upper torso regions. The
preferred innovation is one that balances womenswear and menswear
characteristics, such as soft frills or lace juxtaposed with rigid cuffs, collars and
tab. As mentioned above, formality is important to the look and the use of colour
detracts from this. Finally, the desired fit should be lean whilst still providing
sufficient body ease.
Heading beyond the Neo-Dandy aesthetic into a blousy aesthetic
Note: the term ‘blousy’ is used in this research to refer to aspects of a shirt’s design
which belong to the blouse, even if incorporated into a men’s dress shirt. Specific
blousy attributes are: looseness of fit or a silhouette that curves to fit bust and
waist; detailing that exists in areas and excesses beyond those found in the tuxedo
shirt; and fabric that is very sheer.
The Neo-Dandy aesthetic leans towards womenswear characteristics for design
innovation. However, the line between what is perceived as menswear and
womenswear is hazy to determine and relative to individual as well as broader
societal notions of wearability. Be that as it may, when the line has been crossed
for a man’s garment it appears, to all intents and purposes, as a womenswear
garment. The characteristics that determine this may be subtle, such as the detailing
slightly soft in style, or they may be obvious such as a silhouette that aligns to the
female form, particularly bust fitting. I will now discuss a range of innovative shirt
designs that display blousy characteristics, relative to notions of mainstream
wearability for men.
To begin with, Alexander McQueen’s 2006 shirt (Figure 2.3-16) is a good example
of blousy characteristics. The garment finishes below the chest cavity and the
hemline then curves down towards the back of the shirt. The upper body is also
gathered into this hemline by the use of a band and thus takes on the form of an
empire line. This silhouette is associated with design lines used for under bust
fitting and is characteristic of some blouse attributes. The silhouette also has a very
relaxed fit and this contributes to this association.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-16: Alexander McQueen, 2006.
Another example of a silhouette that is not aligned to the archetypal men’s shirt is
Dior Homme’s 2007 loose sleeve shirt (Figure 2.3-17). The sleeve is not
suppressed at the wrist by a cuff. Thereby, in this form, the sleeve silhouette is too
relaxed and deviates from conventional norms of men’s dress shirts. As a result,
the silhouette appears blousy.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-18: Gucci, 2005 a.
Furthermore, the silhouette on Gucci’s 2005 shirt (Figure 2.3-18) has
characteristics contributing to a blousy aesthetic, such as the sleeve being gathered
into a cuff band. In this form, the sleeve looks overly soft with the use of gathers in
preference to the customary practice on men’s shirts of having pleats tucked into
the cuff band. This blousy appearance is even more accentuated when the sleeve is
gathered at the head. This style is referred to as a puff or leg-of-mutton sleeve and
is commonly found on the blouse. However, no such sleeve style could be
evidenced in the thousands of contemporary menswear images viewed for this
research. In regards to other sleeve styles, Jill Saunder’s 2007 shirt (Figure 2.3-19)
finishes at the elbow with a large band and this appears atypical to the convention
for a men’s shirt and assists in providing blouse like characteristics.
A further example is John Galliano’s 2005 shirt (Figure 2.3-20) as it has mild
characteristics that contribute to a blousy silhouette, such as the dropped shoulder
line. It is noteworthy, however, that depending on the fashion cycle or style of
garment, this silhouette may not apply. In this case, however, blouse characteristics
are accentuated on this shirt by the use of closely spaced fabric covered buttons – a
detail routinely used on the blouse as well as other female garments.
Another instance of a blousy silhouette is Kris Van Assche’s 2006 shirt (Figure
2.3-21). The volume of the sleeve appears very full as a result of the omission of
the traditional set-in-sleeve routinely used on men’s shirts. The sleeve is gathered
into a small elastic band and this accentuates blouse like characteristics. The
removal of a cuff also decreases visual rigidity that is characteristically evident in
men’s dress shirts.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-21: Kris Van Assche, 2006 b.
Costume National Homme’s 2006 shirt (Figure 2.3-22) uses highly transparent and
soft fabric. In the main, sheer fabric is not considered customary for men’s shirts,
particularly as a result of possible exposure of body hair, whereas the blouse has a
very broad range of cloth types, including sheer. Thus, sheer cloth heads beyond
the required aesthetic for this research project.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-22: Costume National Homme, 2006.
Another aspect that contributes to blouse like characteristics is a very low frontal
opening, such as on Gucci’s 2005 (Figure 2.3-23) shirt. An excessively low front
may appear to reference cleavage exposure on a women’s blouse and is
uncharacteristic for formal men’s shirts. This also applies to Gucci’s 2007 (Figure
2.3-24) shirt. However, it is acknowledged that, depending on the style of shirt, a
low frontal opening may be viewed as a casual man’s shirt, not as a women’s
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-23: Gucci, 2005 b.
One more area of blouse like characteristics is the divergence from time-honoured
dimensions used on men’s shirt design. An example of this is the use of oversize
buttons. Men’s shirts customarily have small buttons, around twelve millimetres in
size. As for the front tab width, this is traditionally about thirty to thirty five
millimetres in width. Back yoke depths range from approximately seventy
millimetres to one hundred and fifty millimetres. Cuff widths vary according to
formality and style, although the range of measurements is in the region of forty
millimetres for very narrow cuffs, to one hundred millimetres for wide French
An example of a deviation from the traditional dimensions used for men’s shirt
design is Pablo Ramirez’s 2007 shirt (Figure 2.3-25). The excessive collar and cuff
sizes are beyond forms associated with mainstream men’s shirting and appear
blousy. Another instance is Dior Homme’s 2006 shirt (Figure 2.3-26). The bow is
extreme in size and diverges from customary visual characteristics used on men’s
shirts, such as the classic bow tie. In this form, the neck bow appears out of
character for men’s shirts and is more allied to a women’s blouse.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-26: Dior Homme, 2006.
Excessive texture and levels and types of detailing can also contribute to a blousy
aesthetic. An example of this is Emanual Ungaro’s 2006 shirt (Figure 2.3-27), with
raised and asymmetrical soft floral decoration. Another example is Dries Van
Noten’s 2005 shirt (Figure 2.3-28) with frontal decoration. On this shirt the frills
and texture extend down to the front waist area and, in doing so, disengage the
lineage to the customary positions for detailing on men’s formal shirting, such as
the bib region. This concern also applies to Kris Van Assche’s 2007 shirt (Figure
2.3-29) with waist detailing and Paul Smith’s 2005 shirt (Figure 2.3-30) with back
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-27: Emanual Ungaro, 2006.
Lastly, men’s dress shirts conventionally button down a centre front tab. If this
buttoning position is significantly altered, for example to a centre back opening, the
shirt diverges towards the blouse. One further key aspect is that men’s shirts
habitually button from left front over to right front. If this direction is reversed, the
shirt adopts a characteristic associated with a women’s blouse which buttons right
over left.
In conclusion, the above examples have highlighted contributing factors that
constitute blouse like characteristics that head away from the Neo-Dandy aesthetic.
These attributes include silhouettes that align to the blouse, such as the empire line;
detailing that is overly excessive or in a location that is atypical in conventional
men’s shirts; design features such as extreme collar heights and widths; or small
wrist bands instead of cuffs. Finally, the use of excessively transparent fabrics also
contributes to blouse like features.
So far, I have highlighted innovative white dress shirts that head towards and head
beyond the desired Neo-Dandy aesthetic. Now, I will examine four designs that
align with or have come significantly close to the desired Neo-Dandy aesthetic.
Aligning to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic
Gucci – Autumn Winter 2006/2007
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-31: Gucci, 2006 d.
I propose that Gucci’s autumn winter 2006/2007 (Figure 2.3-31) white dress shirt
aligns to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. The level of innovation through detailing is
entirely harmonious with this aesthetic. The degree of detailing is relatively
restrained and appears refined and not overly excessive. The shirt has elements
such as the neck cloth and frontal flounce, which provide both formality and, at the
same time, a soft nuance. The detail is applied only to the upper frontal region and
the focal point of the shirt is the neck, which thereby draws attention to the face.
However, Gucci’s shirt is leaner in form than the preferred fit and, due to the fabric
density, some men may consider this shirt ‘unwearable’ as body hair would be
highly evident. Also, in this case, the shirt sleeves appear too short in length for the
male model and this detracts from the aesthetic. It would be alluring to reinterpret a
version of this shirt in a denser fabric and in a slightly looser cut.
Missoni – Autumn Winter 2005/2006
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-32: Missoni, 2005.
Missoni’s 2005/2006 shirt (Figure 2.3-32) is close to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. On
this design, lace detailing is applied to the frontal region and the shirt thus exudes
blouse characteristics. The bib shape alongside the archetypal stand collar and tab
front successfully counteract the use of lace detailing. The amount and type of
detailing appears to be refined as it is not excessive in appearance. This shirt is
most noteworthy as it effectively balances visual characteristics associated with the
blouse and the men’s shirt; that is, menswear silhouette with the use of the bib front
and blouse style detailing with the use of lace. However, the limpness of fabric
type and the lack of rigidity for the cuffs and collars slightly hinder the shirt’s
alignment to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. The lace could also benefit from a tighter
weave as body hair may protrude and the use of a tab front is not the preferred style
for a centre front opening.
Neil Barrett – Autumn Winter 2007/2008
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-33: Neil Barrett, 2006 c.
English designer Neil Barrett’s autumn winter 2007/2008 shirt (Figure 2.3-33) has
elements that align to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. Firstly, a dichotomy is created by
combining both formal and casual attire on the same garment. The frontal bib
treatment, combined with the rigid collar, clearly references the formality of a dress
shirt, whilst the sleeveless design is essentially associated with casual or even
sports clothing. This alliance with casual clothing seems contradictory to the
previously stated adherence to formality for the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. Nonetheless,
the play on purpose adds a capricious nature to the aesthetic. Barrett’s shirt
attempts to educe a reaction due to its bilateral position of formality and
informality. This ‘playful’, subversive position resonates with the Neo-Dandy
Emanuel Ungaro Homme – 2006
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-34: Emanuel Ungaro Homme, 2006.
Emanuel Ungaro Homme, 2006 (Figure 2.3-34) is another example of a level of
innovation that aligns to this research project. On this shirt a dichotomy is evident,
as the shirt borders both domains of menswear and womenswear. That is, the
silhouette is aligned with a menswear style vest and the transparent soft frills are
allied to the women’s blouse. However, the end result essentially remains in the
domain of menswear, as the shirt appears essentially menswear in form. The
reservation in regards to this shirt is the possible exposure of skin, as a result of the
open frontal area.
In conclusion, through a comparative process, I have brought to light the NeoDandy aesthetic by comparing and contrasting the designs of contemporary
menswear designers who tamper with the modern white shirt. Through a discussion
of four exemplary white shirts by the designers Gucci, Missoni, Barrett and
Ungaro, I have established a look that parallels or closely aligns to the desired NeoDandy aesthetic. This aesthetic is formal in appearance and scopes towards the
women’s blouse, in particular, the fitted and decorated form.
I can now illustrate (Chart 2c), the final diagrammatic part of the Spectrum of the
Modern White Shirt. This chart highlights the design directions for the Neo-Dandy
aesthetic; that is, the formal end of the field of men’s shirts and an aesthetic that
heads towards the decorated, fitted blouse.
Chart 2c: Indicating the design directions for the Neo-Dandy aesthetic – the formal end of
the field of men’s shirts and heading towards the decorated, fitted blouse for innovation.
Chapter 3 – Design Journey
Chapter overview and purpose
This chapter provides a snapshot of the design journey for the research project.
Initially discussed is the studio based component of the research, including the
studio environment, the machinery and the pattern block used to create the concept
shirts. Next, the methodology used for the research is explored, particularly the
process of design-by-finding and design-by-making. Finally, the phase that created
a framework for the research – including the clustering of the concept shirts
according to a Matrix of Innovation – is discussed.
This matrix is explained and it is recognised that two opposing directions exist
within this spectrum for the modern white dress shirt for men. That is, innovation
flows in one direction and mainstream wearability in the other. The two sides of
the spectrum conflict with each other as a highly innovative shirt is more likely to
have a narrower field of wearability. The opposite applies to innovation as the less
innovative a shirt is, the broader its wearability field will be.
The last section in this chapter discusses the final exhibition of the concept shirts,
particularly the display methods used in the Loft gallery space at QUT Creative
Industries in June 2008. Images of this exhibition are included in the discussion.
3.1 Machinery, Studio and Pattern Block
Machinery and Home Studio
The studio based component of the research project was situated in my home rather
than within a professional studio environment. Even though I have access to
excellent studio space within my University work environment, I elected to base
the studio aspect of the research within a more informal confine. The compensation
for a less professional work space was the ability to frequently search through my
collection of notions and fabrics and, to some extent, mask my chaotic making
process from my professional life.
The concept shirts were sewn on a very old Singer industrial machine, model
291U3 circa 1960. I have owned this machine for over thirty years and I have sewn
thousands of garments within that time. The machine is relatively outdated;
nevertheless, it has been extremely reliable and produces a quality stitch. The
machine is very much cherished as it is one of my principal tools for garment
fabrication. The other machine used is a domestic Bernina overlocker. This
compact machine finishes the seams and allows for fine edge treatments, such as
those used on frills. Unlike my old Singer, I have a disconnected relationship with
this machine, as it was recently purchased.
Figure 3.1-1: Home studio space – a shared (crowded) environment with other family
The Block – the pattern used for the concept shirts
A block is a basic un-styled pattern used by clothing practitioners that acts as a
starting point for garment fit and form. It provides a general shell for the garment
and is initially constructed from a mathematical calculation using major body
reference points such as waist, chest and neck. For many fashion practitioners, this
approach is customary and they guard their basic blocks, as they are one of the
keystones ensuring quality of fit.
The block used to create the concept shirts was drafted from a menswear drafting
textbook, titled Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear by Winifred Aldrich (Aldrich,
1980, p.16). I constructed this block in 1985 and I have used it in many derivations
ever since. At the time of drafting the block, I selected several other textbooks and
created numerous basic shirt blocks. Upon sampling the different blocks in fabric,
the Aldrich pattern provided the best fit. The initial block was drafted using
medium body measurements of: neck 40cm, chest 100cm, armhole depth 24.4cm,
natural waist length 44.6cm, half back 20cm and sleeve length 85cm. This block
conforms to the basic principal pattern pieces used for the dress shirt – that is,
front, back, yoke and sleeve – as identified in Chapter 2. Over the years, I have
constantly refined the block, and comparing the original draft to the final variant
used in the practice highlights major shape changes. As more concept shirts were
made the block was altered, with fine-tuning applied to the neckline, armhole,
sleeve head and sleeve length, body ease, garment length and waist shaping. The
purpose of these alterations was to improve the fit and progressively reduce
garment volume to a leaner silhouette.
Figure 3.1-2: Un-styled men’s shirt block used as a basis for the concept shirts.
3.2 Designing and Assembling the Concept Shirts
Sourcing Materials – design-by-finding
My source of inspiration for a design is sparked by found objects. I amass a diverse
array of items such as buttons and trims and a considerable quantity of fabrics, and
these are used as a catalyst for creative thought. This bower bird approach has
created a stockpile of notions and trims and these objects acted as a springboard for
the design of the concept shirts. I have termed this process design-by-finding.
The sourcing of materials for design inspiration was not a premeditated process. In
fact it was quite the opposite. I randomly sourced laces and trims without a fixed
plan or preconceived idea of my exact requirements. This was an ongoing process
and pivotal within the design process, as the materials were one of the primary
sources for design inspiration.
There are, however, three disadvantages to this process. It is time consuming,
replication of multiples using the exact materials may be difficult, and it requires
considerable storage space for fabrics and trims. Indeed, I store most of my fashion
based materials in my roof space, where I regularly fossick through boxes for an
elusive bolt of fabric or trim. Hence, my main site for design inspiration is, in
effect, a hot and dusty confine, that can only be accessed by a ladder.
One of my favourite retail sources was an old fabric shop at Redcliffe which
specialises in liquidation stock at very affordable prices. I would regularly visit the
store on Saturday mornings just to see what was new and to try to find trims or
fabrics of interest. My other key source in finding key trimmings was a liquation
sale by a bridal manufacturer. At this trade only sale I was able to purchase quality
laces and trims that were used as a stepping stone for design inspiration.
Approximately half the fabric used in the research came from wholesalers. The rest
was sourced at numerous retail outlets, as no minimum order for fabric length was
The other design influence was retail shopping for both children’s wear, in
particular girls clothing, and womenswear. Men’s clothing stores provided limited
inspiration as the clothing was characteristically restrained in design. I was
frequently enthused by the decoration or detail applied to children’s garments, such
as a small area of smocking on a knit top, a particular texture on the fabric, or a
flounce applied to the front. Boys’ clothing did not provide a source of inspiration
as the clothes were quite austere in detail. For retail outlets for womenswear,
texture was the main inspiration. The detailing viewed acted as a catalyst for design
inspiration and was not used as a direct facsimile.
Forming the concept shirts – design-by-making
The next phase involved designing as the object was made. In general, I had a
broad notion of what the end design might look like before I commenced making.
However, once the fabrication process started, the design evolved significantly as
the object was created. Hence, I have called this process design-by-making.
Conventional approaches to fashion design involve designing on paper first and
then producing a number of samples until the design is resolved. Rather than work
from a sketch, I designed the garment as it was made, using the materials at hand.
This approach involved sketching the block directly onto the fabric with a watersoluble pen and designing pattern shapes as I cut out the cloth. The cutting of the
cloth influenced the design process as the collar and cuff shapes and the overall
silhouette were altered as the shirt was cut. The degree and position of the detailing
could then materialise during the making of the shirt. This pattern drafting method
did not create a pool of patterns for future reference, except for the basic shell.
Aspects of this design methodology align to the time-honoured approach of
bespoke tailors where the suit is directly drafted onto the cloth with tailors chalk
and no paper or cardboard patterns are created.
The benefit of this methodology is the ability to reflect upon a three dimensional
object as the design evolves and alter the course of the design during the making
process. Thereby, this artisanal approach allows the sense of sight, and at times
touch, to lead the design direction as the practice evolves. As Murray (2006) states:
“there is a renewed appreciation of the tactile involvement of making in the
realisation of successful design”.
3.3 Wearing, Exhibiting and Documenting the Concept Shirts
Wearing the concept shirts myself
The concept shirts were worn at social functions, both formal and casual, and
within a work context. The purpose of wearing the concept shirts in a public arena
was to explore both the reaction of others and test my own judgment in regards to
the designs. As Plowman (2003, p.31) argues, through using and interacting with
an object, an engagement with its design is experienced.
One of these experiences was when I presented an artist talk at Artisan gallery
(formerly Craft Queensland) and I decided to wear one of the more unusual shirts
and team it with a pair of blue jeans. To my surprise, the audience for this talk
consisted of approximately fifty high school students from a regional country
school. After I presented the talk the first question that was asked was: “Did you
intentionally decide to wear that shirt with jeans so as to look like Seinfeld’s ‘puffy
shirt’?” (Comedian Jerry Seinfeld wore a version of a pirate shirt in an episode of
the American sitcom Seinfeld. It originally aired on American television on
September 23, 1993 and the shirt now resides in the National Museum of American
History.) At that point, I questioned my notions of wearability in relation to levels
of innovation as in the eyes of the audience I had clearly crossed the boundary of
mainstream wearability.
When I first starting wearing the concept shirts I did not feel at ease. I felt the shirts
appeared attention seeking and over adorned. However, as time passed, my
confidence grew and so did my need to expose the concept shirts to an audience.
By the end of the research project, friends would comment if I did not wear a
decorated white shirt as it became my customary dress.
The decision to wear the concept shirts had its disadvantages. Some of the shirts
have been worn at least twenty to thirty times and the balance between keeping
them pristine and gauging wearability is difficult. At times when the shirts have
been worn by others, including models and acquaintances, the condition of the shirt
upon return has been poor.
Other people wearing the concepts shirts
Even though I did not set out to design the concept shirts for a wider audience, they
have been worn by others in numerous circumstances. This assisted the research
project as I was able to view the concept shirts on both male and female bodies
and, in doing so, gauge the appearance when worn by different genders. Images of
other people wearing the shirts can be found in the supporting Design Notebook
The first time I saw the concept shirts worn by other people was when they were
shown primarily on female bodies. Six shirts were paraded as part of the Mercedes
Benz Brisbane Fashion Festival in September 2006. Five shirts were worn by
female models and one shirt was on a male model. The female models wore black
tights with the shirts and I was exceedingly pleased with the appearance. The male
model, on the other hand, wore the shirt tucked in and his burly stature detracted
from the shirt. This experience led me to reconsider whether or not to parade the
garments on male models for the final exhibition. It also allowed me to question
the type of body that might be suited to the shirts as a muscular build appeared
incongruous to the garments.
Figure 3.3-1: Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival, September 2006
(left) shirt number 39 and (right) shirt number 56.
Figure 3.3-2: Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival, September 2006
(left) shirt number 59 and (right) shirt number 45.
In June 2007, one shirt was worn by a groom for his wedding at the Victoria Park
Golf Club. Prior to the wedding, both the bride and groom came over to my studio
and I showed them the entire collection of concept shirts. This was a beneficial
exercise as it was interesting to analyse his individual preferences and listen to his
partner’s perspectives on which shirt would be the most suitable. As the function
was formal, he planned to wear a buttoned-up jacket and principally required
interesting detail either around the neck or in the lapel area. His partner was trying
to sway him towards the more extreme designs and it was obvious he was feeling
hesitant with that particular direction. In the end, after trying on many concept
shirts, his partner selected a shirt with a formal neck wrap. He actually seemed
relieved that he did not have to make a choice. For more information about gender
variance in selecting clothes, see Gleeson and Frith (2004).
Figure 3.3-3: Shirt number 55 worn by the groom for a wedding ceremony in June 2007.
In October 2007, three concept shirts were worn by female dancers for the
rehearsals and opening night performance for the ARC Biennial at QUT Art
Museum. This experience provided limited feedback in regards to wearability as
the shirts, in essence, adopted a new role as a costume item.
Figure 3.3-4: Three female dancers wearing the shirts as part of a site specific
performance to open the ARC (Art Craft and Design) Biennial.
Figure 3.3-5: Dancer ‘rolling’ on the floor as part of a site specific performance for the
opening night of a site specific performance for the ARC (Art Craft and Design) Biennial.
Exhibiting and talking about the concept shirts
I presented the concept shirts in several exhibition spaces and gave public talks
during the research. The public exhibition spaces included the Artisan gallery in
Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, the Queensland Art Gallery, the QUT Art Museum,
and the gallery spaces of the Block and the Loft (final exhibition) in the QUT
Creative Industries precinct. Artist talks were presented at the QUT Art Museum,
Artisan gallery and within the QUT fashion studios. Below are comments relating
to the most notable occasions, in terms of the reflections and insights gained.
In March 2006 I was part of an exhibition at Artisan gallery. The exhibition
consisted of ten shirts (see Design Notebook (Appendices) – numbers, 15, 23, 24,
26, 30, 45, 48, 51, 52, and 56) displayed on hangers against a white wall. This
experience was illuminating, as previously I had considered the shirts to be items
of clothing. However, as a result of the gallery setting, the perspective had shifted
and the shirts became more aligned to art objects. This experience highlights the
disparity of notions about clothing in a gallery situation. On opening night, to my
amazement, numerous people were handling the shirts, feeling and crushing the
fabric and even unbuttoning them. This was in contrast to the customary practice of
not touching artwork in a gallery situation.
Figure 3.3-6: Shirts exhibited at Artisan Gallery (Fortitude Valley, Brisbane) March 2006.
Figure 3.3-7: Shirts exhibited at Artisan Gallery (Fortitude Valley, Brisbane) March 2006.
Figure 3.3-8: Shirts displayed front window of exhibition at Artisan Gallery, March 2006
Figure 3.3-9: Rear view of the front window display at the Artisan Gallery in March 2006.
At this point I entered the shirts into the Design Institute of Australia Awards
(Queensland chapter), won the category of 'Lifestyle Product Design’ and was
nominated as one of only four finalists for the overall major design award. As part
of this award, the garments were on display at the Queensland Art Gallery for three
weeks in July 2006.
I also presented the concept shirts at the QUT Fashion ‘Shed Talks’ in April 2006.
The shed talks are an informal monthly fashion gathering that is open to the public.
At this talk I outlined my research to date. This presentation highlighted aspects of
the research project that I incorrectly assumed would be of minor interest to an
audience, including questions in regards to the making of the shirts.
As part of the Art, Craft and Design Biennial (ARC) the concept shirts were
displayed in the QUT Art Museum from early October to late November 2007. I
also presented an artist talk at the gallery during that time. The shirts were
displayed hanging on a timber rod and also folded on a plinth. On reflection I
realised the wooden rod used was both too narrow (so that the racked clothes did
not sit perpendicular to it) and did not resemble a classic elegant rack, thus
detracting from the display of the garments.
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 3.3-10: The Minister for the Arts, the Honourable Senator George Brandis and
myself discussing the shirts on the opening of ARC Biennial.
In December 2007 the complete body of work was exhibited at the QUT Creative
Industries gallery space, the Block. This exhibition allowed for an experimental
opportunity to test the use of garment racks for display, lighting methods and
gallery layout.
Documenting of the concept shirts
The concept shirts have been documented in photographic form. This has been
beneficial as it has assisted in the cataloguing of the concept shirts according to the
order in which they were made and levels of design innovation. The concept shirts
were first photographed in 2006 as part of Peak Performance, a collective of
practice-led researchers who were exhibiting their work at QUT Creative Industries
galleries that year. In mid 2007 I photographed the concept shirts myself and
documented the order of make and then used the graphic program Photoshop to
enhance the photo.
Figure 3.3-11: Shirt number 37 photographed for QUT Peak Performance.
I experimented with a range of presentation styles for the photographs. These
included display on mannequins, models on the catwalk and garment hangers.
When the shirts were photographed, either on a model or a mannequin, the
characteristics of the body/form within the shirt became the focus, whereas I
desired the shirts to be the central focus. However, shirts photographed on hangers
did not accurately record the fit of the shirts. Thus, the final method selected was a
body display so as to accurately record the fit. However, the image was cropped
from neck to seat to accentuate the concept shirt design, as opposed to the wearer’s
individual features.
3.4 Conceptualising the Collection of Concept Shirts
By January 2006 the last concept shirts were made and the next phase involved
‘taking stock’ of the research project. During this time I began to reflect on the
aims of the research project. In this period, I extended my research, reflecting and
connecting the studio based research to larger issues including the history of the
white shirt, discourses around wearability and codes of dress, and the dandy and
other menswear designers who have experimented with the white shirt. What
resulted was the formulation of the Spectrum of the Modern White Shirt. As a
result of this spectrum, a Matrix of Innovation was developed (discussed
subsequently) and the concept shirts were clustered according to levels of design
innovation in relation to the research aims.
Discovering dandyism
From the outset I had an underlying interest in dandyism, although initially my
knowledge was very basic. However, after the studio based component of the
research had ended, it was evident that the dandy figure was pertinent to the
research. The practice of dandyism, with all its multiplicity of meanings, echoed
aspects of the research aim. That is, the desire to test limits of design innovation
through dress, juxtaposed against mainstream wearability. Within my research it
became apparent that the dandy represented a subversive position in regards to the
cusp-of-wearability for fashion innovation.
It became evident through the research that the specific style of dandyism that was
of interest to this project was that which leant towards the characteristics of
womenswear, while retaining the appearance of menswear. To be more precise, I
was gauging the confines for design innovation in men’s shirts within the accepted
norms for menswear and womenswear. At this point, I assigned the working title
for my research project: the Neo-Dandy.
Racking the shirts
Once the concept shirts had been pressed, they were placed in sequential order of
making on two garment racks. This allowed the concept shirts to be viewed, not in
isolation, but as a body of work and allowed me to analyse them relative to each
other. The rack has been an exceptionally beneficial site for reflective practice.
The daily scrutiny of the rack to find a suitable shirt to wear has created a natural
filtering process. Some shirts were rejected outright due to their over adornment.
Others I was lured to but, as I took them off the rack, they were quickly discarded.
Some of the shirts I tried on, took off, tried on again and then finally rejected due
to a minor fault or a just-not-right reaction. In the end, a small handful of shirts
always seemed to be selected.
The next phase was to shuffle the shirts on the rack and place them in positions
relative to their level of innovation and degree of success. This process occurred on
a daily basis for several months. The continuous positioning and repositioning of
the shirts on the racks created a further filtering process, highlighting successful
and not as successful attributes. As a result of the filtering a Matrix of Innovation
was developed. This matrix consisted of assigning shirts to positions that spanned
from safe to innovative design. Within this matrix, the aim was to ascertain which
garments best aligned to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic for design innovation. The
matrix functioned as a device to question degrees of innovation and levels of
design resolution.
The Matrix of Innovation explained
Opposing directions of innovation and wearability
The Matrix of Innovation of the white dress shirt for men consists of two opposing
directions. That is, innovation flows in one direction and this is against the other
direction of wearability. The two sides of the matrix are in tension as a highly
innovative shirt is more likely to have a narrower field of wearability, and the less
innovative a shirt is the broader the field will be for wearability.
Through the clustering of the concept shirts into zones, I determined which were
pre-eminent, which captured the desired Neo-Dandy aesthetic, and why. This
analytical process has been highly beneficial as it has highlighted the tension
between innovation and wearability for the men’s formal dress shirt. That is, the
more a shirt is innovated the more likely it will transgress towards the unwearable,
in relation to men’s mainstream clothing. The use of a matrix has also brought to
light the fluid boundary that exists when a garment contravenes conventions. This
boundary is not rigid and is contextually specific according to time, place, social
standing, age and individual style. Nonetheless, for mainstream menswear, a point
(albeit shifting) at which a garment crosses over into the womenswear margin does
exist. For some, this point may be deemed an effeminate position.
(Positions of the Concept Shirts in the Matrix of Innovation begins next page)
Positions of the Concept Shirts in the Matrix of Innovation
4 9
of rack
18 19
levels of
21 22
23 25
34 35
38 44
of rack
of rack
13 27
24 26
29 45
zones of
49 50
32 33
36 41
51 52
neck, chest,
53 56
43 58
30 31
Directions of Innovation (toward the blouse) Æ
Å Mainstream wearability for men (toward the archetypal men’s shirt)
Note: Shirts not included: 1 (short sleeve), 2 & 3 (cream colour), 7 & 47 (incomplete).
The positions in the matrix explained
In the Matrix of Innovation, four zones have been developed: Safe, Mildly-Dandy,
Neo-Dandy and Blousy. Within each of these zones, there are three levels of
success: Resolved, Mild Problems and Definite Problems. (For an explanation as to
why each shirt is in a particular zone, see Design Notes.)
The Safe zone consists of concept shirts that are very conservative in design, with
minimal design innovation. Three concept shirts fall into this category and they
could be considered highly wearable within mainstream society, as they adhere to
visual norms for a classic shirt. The Mildly-Dandy zone is a progression of design
innovation from the Safe zone and the concept shirts still appear relatively
conventional in design, although with a more heightened level of innovation away
from the classic shirt. Six shirts fall into this category. Nineteen concept shirts fall
within the Neo-Dandy zone and all align closely to this desired aesthetic. That is,
they appear not to have overly excessive detailing (refined); they have many
markers of formality included in the design (formal); and varying degrees of
detailing that may be considered to have characteristics associated with the blouse,
albeit within boundaries. Finally, the Blousy zone consists of twenty six shirts that
have gone beyond the desired aesthetic. The detailing is either excessive, outside
the traditional zones associated with men’s dress shirts, or the silhouette is aligned
to the loose blouse.
3.5 Bringing Together the Research – the Final Exhibition
Trial exhibition
As previously mentioned, the method of presentation of garment racks was trialled
in a previous exhibition at the Block (QUT) in late 2007. This display method was
successful for three reasons. Firstly, the four racks allowed for a clear delineation
between the zones within the matrix and the concept shirts can be clustered on
racks according to degrees of success. Secondly, the racks convey a sense of work
in progress. That is, the concept shirts were not designed for retail sale and are to
be viewed as being at first sample phase. Finally, by displaying the concept shirts
on racks rather than on a body or a mannequin, they paradoxically appeared more
wearable. This display method is void of any particular body form or facial
features. Hence, the potential for the exhibition audience to imagine themselves
wearing the concept shirts is increased, as they were not swayed by display
methods that might be incongruent to their own body image.
The Final Exhibition
For the final exhibition (26 to 27 June, 2008) the principal display method consists
of four delineated racks that align to the zones in the Matrix of Innovation. Each
rack is spotlighted by a single light; namely, four racks and four spot lights. The
intention is to create a dark environment in the gallery space, except for the
garment racks. Thus, the lighting creates a delineated area, although blurred, that
represents the matrix used to delineate innovation.
The exhibition audience is provided with a pair of white gloves. The audience is
encouraged to take the concept shirts off the rack for closer scrutiny and the gloves
provide less risk of garment soiling. Additionally, the gloves convey a degree of
formality associated with the white shirt and thus echo the historical significance of
this iconic item of apparel in Western society.
This experience attempts to emulate elements of retail or sample room
environments, where the cloth can be felt and the garment readily removed from
the racks for perusal. This practice of inspecting and handling objects is not the
custom in traditional gallery spaces. Hence, the objective of this experience is for
the concept shirts to be viewed not as works of art but as items of clothing, albeit
with varying degrees of innovation and wearability.
(Schematic layout of the Neo-Dandy exhibition begins next page)
Figure 3.5-1: Schematic layout of the Neo-Dandy exhibition in the Loft Gallery space.
Figure 3.5-2: Four racks of shirts displayed in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Figure 3.5-3: Shirts positioned on the Blousy rack in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Figure 3.5-4: Shirts positioned on the Neo-Dandy rack in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Figure 3.5-5: Shirts positioned on the Mildly-Dandy rack, QUT Loft gallery June 2008.
Figure 3.5-6: Shirts positioned on the Safe rack in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Figure 3.5-7: Close up image of shirt number 48 in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Figure 3.5-8: Close up image of Blousy rack in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Figure 3.5-9: Close up image of Blousy rack in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Figure 3.5-10: Close up image of Neo-Dandy rack in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Figure 3.5-11: Close up image of shirt number 52 in the QUT Loft gallery, June 2008.
Summary – Design Contributions
This final section summarises the key findings related to the principle research
question as well as the broader research contributions. It ends by proposing areas
for further research and reflecting on the journey I have undergone as a designer
through this research project.
Central Contribution – the concept shirts and key design
The central contribution of this research project has been the development of a
body of work, namely the Neo-Dandy concept shirts, which was exhibited in The
Loft as well as documented in the appendices of this exegesis. Despite the ubiquity
of the men’s white dress shirt in contemporary fashion, design innovation for this
garment is relatively rare. Thus the body of work represents a ‘gap’ in the field of
contemporary menswear design. As discussed in Chapter Two, a component of this
research involved analysing thousands of archive catwalk images from major
online fashion sites, and of these only a fraction (around sixty) tampered
appreciably with the men’s white dress shirt – no single practitioner was found to
have focused solely on design innovation for this garment, beyond several
In summary, the direction for design innovation for this research project leaned
towards the blouse. A limit was employed so the men’s dress shirts adhered to
notions of contemporary mainstream wearability, and as a result a cusp position is
created between a man’s shirt and a woman’s blouse. The challenge in the research
was to find a harmonious level of innovation that connected to that position, and in
so doing, achieve a Neo-Dandy aesthetic. This direction enabled the shirts’ form to
be consistent with a man’s dress shirt – with long sleeves, back yoke, tab front,
curved hem, collar and cuffs – whilst degrees of innovation could be tested through
decoration and detailing characterised with women’s blouses.
To ascertain which concept shirts aligned to this research aim, a Matrix of
Innovation was then developed. This matrix allowed an analytical approach to be
employed so as to determine which shirts aligned or came close to the Neo-Dandy
aesthetic, which went beyond into a blousy appearance, and which remained
conservative in design. As a result of this matrix, the successful concept shirts were
Finally, by determining the design elements and traits common to the positions on
the Matrix, a set of Neo-Dandy design principles can now be distilled, which
address the central research question:
What are the specific design principles that are required to create
design innovation in the modern men’s white dress shirt, achieving a
Neo-Dandy aesthetic (refined, formal and with womenswear
nuances) within boundaries of mainstream wearability for men?
These principles, discovered and tested through this research, are as follows:
Design Principle 1 – Locations of Detailing
When detailing is applied to the shirt, the upper front torso is the most successful
location. In this way the shirt references the traditional tuxedo bib and appears
wearable in form, even with perceived womenswear characteristics. Other
successful areas for detailing include the collar and, to a lesser degree, the edge of
the cuff. In other words, it is the areas that leak out of the jacket (upper front torso,
collar and cuff edges) are safe zones for experimentation, relative to boundaries of
Design Principle 2 – Degree of Detailing
In order to assist with refinement, adopt a one area only approach for the detail. As
an example, if the bib area is detailed, the rest of the shirt should be plain; that is,
simple stand collar, traditional cuffs, yoke, tab front and buttons. Inversely if the
shirt is plain more adventurous design detailing can be applied to the neckline, such
as neck wraps. Also to assist with refinement a judicious amount of detailing
should be used.
Design Principle 3 – Integration of Detailing
In order to assist with refinement, the detail should appear integrated into the shirt
design. As an example, if lace is used it should appear joined to the fabric, not
sewn on top of the fabric; if the collar has detailing it should be built-in with the
shape of the collar, not added as additional trim; and if fabric texture is used to
create detailing the treatment should appear to reside ‘into’ the fabric not placed
‘onto’ the fabric.
Design Principle 4 – Silhouette
If the silhouette is significantly changed – with waist fitting or excessive sleeve
fullness – the form appears blousy in appearance. Consequently, in order for the
shirt to appear wearable, the silhouette should be consistent with the traditional
form of a men’s dress shirt.
Design Principle 5 – Skin Exposure
If excessive skin is visible – through cut away areas or open detailing such as lace
– the shirt appears blousy in appearance. Therefore, skin exposure needs to be
subtle, avoiding areas that may have body hair.
Design Principle 6 – Formality
The use of increased rigidity applied to areas such as collars, cuffs and front tabs,
enables the shirt to remain within the formal end of the spectrum for the men’s
shirt. Formality is also enhanced by the use of French cuffs and pearl style buttons.
Design Principle 7 – Customary Design Elements
Extreme changes to traditional elements – such as oversized collars, cuffs, tab
widths and button sizes – accentuate blouse like characteristics. Thus, the
customary design elements need to remain within a range that respects norms for
men’s dress shirts.
Design Principle 8 – Fabric Types
In order for the shirt to maintain both a level of formality and a wearable
appearance, the fabric needs to adhere to convention; that is, the use of woven (not
knit), 100% cotton or cotton blend fabric. Highly shiny fabrics contribute to blouse
like attributes, whereas knit fabrics reduce ties to formality.
Broader Contributions
Broader research contributions and findings were made through addressing the
supporting research questions which arose in the course of this research project, as
summarised below:
How does mainstream wearability differ between genders?
It has been found that gender variations within mainstream wearability are
considerable. As distilled in Chapter One men have a narrow field of dress, whilst
women have a significantly broader scope for levels of dress innovation.
Mainstream wearability for men is a function of: silhouette, zones of detailing,
degree of detailing, and narrow range of fabric choice. Wearability for women, on
the other hand, does not have these limits: it could consist of a men’s or women’s
silhouette, any zones of detailing varying degrees of detailing and any type of
fabric choice.
What are the recent trends in menswear that are pertinent to the NeoDandy aesthetic?
For a segment of the menswear market, shifts in wearability are occurring and this
has enabled a less gender defined aesthetic to evolve. Urban men are more likely to
experiment with less rigid codes of dress, as it is increasingly difficult to define
male sexual preference by clothing styles. This shift in wearability for men to a
more elastic gender boundary for dress is pertinent to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic, as
this look leans towards womenswear for design innovation to the modern white
shirt for men.
What defines a modern white shirt for men and women?
As explored in Chapter Two the field for the modern white shirt for men consists
of a range of styles that are all linked to levels of formality. The casual short sleeve
shirt is the least formal, whilst the tuxedo shirt is considered the epitome of
formality. The middle field within this scope of formality is the classic shirt, whilst
the dress shirt is considered more formal in appearance.
The field for the modern white blouse for woman is somewhat different as it spans
two forms, one fitted and the other loose. A loose or fitted blouse can be decorated
or plain and can traverse the field of formality. Thus, for a woman’s blouse, form
and detailing are not linked to levels of formality. That is, a loose, short sleeved
blouse – either with detailing or without – or a long sleeved, fitted blouse – highly
detailed or plain – can be worn in a multiplicity of contexts.
How does the Neo-Dandy aesthetic compare and contrast with
contemporary menswear designs that tamper with the modern white
The Neo-Dandy aesthetic compares to, and contrasts with, other white shirt designs
by contemporary menswear designers. A number of menswear designers scope
towards other domains such as military, sporting or workwear for innovation for
their white shirt designs. These looks are in contrast to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic.
On the other hand, some men’s shirt designs by contemporary menswear designers
head towards womenswear for design innovation. Men’s shirt designers may elect
to extend this direction of innovation so that the garment adopts significant blouse
like elements. This particular look goes beyond the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. More
importantly, the level of innovation in the white dress shirt from some other
contemporary menswear designers, such as the examples by Gucci and Missoni,
compare favourably to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic.
In answering these questions, the research has mapped out several significant
undocumented areas of knowledge. These include: coining a new term -–
mainstream wearability – to describe a field of dress within men’s clothing;
marking this position out in relation to the dandy figure and in more recent times
that of the Neo-Dandy trend; identifying the inverse relationship between design
comprehensive, conceptual-historical framework of the modern white shirt and its
relation to wearability and gender; identifying the common traits and differences
between the shirt and blouse; establishing markers of formality for the white shirt
and articulating the dissimilarity between the spectrums of formality for the shirt
and the blouse; and charting the history of the shirt and blouse, including recent
design innovations for the white dress shirt for men.
Thus, in several ways, this research project contributes to the discourse around the
field of fashion history and fashion practice, shifting notions of womenswear as the
principal domain for a fashionable display by demonstrating that the restrained
aesthetic associated with menswear can be augmented by a more innovative – and
now, theoretically grounded – stance.
Further Research
Looking beyond the current research there are several possible areas for further
First of all, men’s formal white dress shirts can continue to be a fertile ground for
design innovation and it would be a fruitful experience to translate the concept
shirts to final design, and ultimately, to commercial sale. This research could then
be extended to examine consumer perspectives, in a variety of retail settings, to
analyse levels of design innovation to determine garment saleability.
Next, the design research could be taken further by experimenting with other
colours, in particular black as this colour allows design attributes to recede. This
shift in colour would appreciably change the shirts appearance and it would be
intriguing to evaluate the design shifts that may be required. An examination could
be undertaken comparing design requirements linked to colour, innovation and
Another avenue for future research is to examine other garment types that could be
used as a case study for wearability. One notable example for this examination is
the characteristic differences between men’s trousers and women’s pants. Formal
men’s trousers have not significantly changed in construction or general design
(apart from minor styling details, such as pleats and hem widths) for more than one
hundred years. However, women’s pants encompass a wide diversity of styling
details, including menswear styled trousers. This future research would further
contribute to the limited discourse around gendered clothing from a design
Also throughout the journey I have had many requests from women to purchase the
concept shirts. This did not occur as I required the shirts for the final exhibition and
they were sized for the male body. However, as a result of this interest, the research
could be extended to determine design characteristics required for non-gender
specific garments as well as more blousy garments for women.
An additional area that is of significant interest for further research is men’s
industrial workwear. Even though my design interests in menswear have been
geared towards formal wear, I spend a considerable amount of time wearing
industrial clothing as part of pursuing my passion for home renovation. Evidence
from my own experience of wearing workwear, as well as feedback from numerous
acquaintances in the building industry, suggests that the design of men’s workwear
requires examination. The clothes are rudimentary in design and issues of form and
function appear unresolved. At the time of writing this exegesis a research project
into designing ‘better’ men’s workwear, linked with industry partners, is in the
preliminary phase of implementation. Such a project would provide an opportunity
to further advance my love of making and designing men’s clothing.
In the closing phase of this research project I can now look back upon the fruition
of an aesthetic, titled Neo-Dandy, and question this look in relation to my own
style of dress. This poses a question: am I a Neo-Dandy? At the start of the project
my particular panache at that time could be described as relatively formal, cautious
in style and strongly adhering to notions of mainstream menswear – certainly not a
Neo-Dandy. My style then shifted as a result of wearing and testing the Neo-Dandy
shirts during the research. I became more audacious in my style of dress and at
times I was a Neo-Dandy. I felt comfortable in this new zone and enjoyed the shift
to a more innovative stance. However, by the end of the journey this has changed
again. For the most part I am no longer a Neo-Dandy. My style has shifted back to
a relatively conservative position, with a surprisingly more casual bias to my dress.
The principle reason for this shift to casual clothing has been the purchase of a
beachside holiday house. I have adopted a new weekend lifestyle – boating, fishing
and sailing – and as a result, my preferred panache has slightly shifted away from
the formal aspect of the Neo-Dandy aesthetic. However, for prescribed occasions
that require a level of formality of dress I gravitate to being a Neo-Dandy, as the
aesthetic provides a level of uniqueness in dress whist remaining formal in
On reflection, the research project has also contributed to shifts and growth in my
design practice and increased my understanding of my background and identity in
relation to being a designer/maker of clothing. To reflect upon this collage of life
experiences and how it influenced my designing was a useful experience, as it
brought to light my need for wearability juxtaposed with innovation – a position
that is slowly gravitating more towards mainstream wearability as I age. The
research project has brought to light my methodology of designing and making and
provided an opportunity to examine and connect this process to my other design
interests. Foremost, this research project provided an avenue to formally connect
my love of designing and making with a theoretical grounding.
Appendices – Design Notebook
A.1 Characteristic differences between men’s white dress shirts
and women’s white blouses
Men’s White Dress Shirt
White Fitted Blouse
White Loose Blouse
Body form is recognisable
Body form is
Relaxed fit
100% cotton
or cotton and polyester mix
No boundaries for fabric composition including 100%
Normally matt fabrics
Shiny or matt fabrics
No sheer fabrics
Sheer fabrics OK
Limited texture
Texture OK
Easy care – preferably machine wash
Numerous cleaning methods due to variety of fabrics
types e.g. Dry Clean, hand wash and machine wash
Must have a centre front opening
Can have no opening and slip over the head
The opening can be in a number of positions
(not just centre font)
Must be left over right opening
Either direction opening is possible
Small buttons, preferably four hole for
No determinate button size,
any method for closure including clasps and lace-up
Minimum of 7 buttons on the front –
buttons must not be too close or too
Any number of buttons
Generally buttons are white or pearl in
Buttons any colour
Limited or no waist shaping
Waist shaping
Limited or no waist
No skin visible on chest, back or arm –
only wrist and neck
Exposure of skin is OK (sheerness – lace openings,
low-cut, short or no sleeves)
Shirt bottom has curved hem tails
Any hem shape
Shirt is longer at back than front
Must have enough length to tuck in
Any length
Normally has a horizontal back yoke
Shoulder line and/or yoke position – any depth or
shape of yoke
Armholes are sufficiently deep to provide
Generally armhole depth
is high
Generally armhole depth
is low
Shoulder/armhole line is true
Generally a true
shoulder line
Can have dropped
Separate sewn-on front tab
Rigid bib (if used)
Any method
Shirt is longer at back
Back pleats from yoke or waist darting
on back only
Generally formed to fit body
Set in sleeves
Long sleeves
Tapered to wrist in silhouette
Pleated into the cuff to allow for
Traditional method and position for
placket opening
Limited sleeve blousing
No restrictions
May have darting on back
No fitting
and/or front
Any sleeve method including Raglan and Magyar
Long or short sleeves
Many forms including puff at head or wrist
Many forms – gathered or pleated if a cuff is used
Any method or position for placket
Generally no blousing
Blousing is OK
Quite shallow in depth
Cut double
Horizontal on back
Slightly comes forward to the frontal
Yoke is cut on horizontal straight grain
Has a cuff
Rigid, rectangular and narrow.
One or two button opening. Otherwise
cuff links
Close to neck
Not falling on any part of the body
except for frontal area
Traditional form
Two-piece construction to provide a
good role line
Collar has no facing
True to neck shape
No pocket or one pocket only on left
Small stitch size in generally matching
Top stitching on collars, cuffs, yokes to
increase garment durability
Rigid fusible interfacing on cuff, collar
and centre front tab
Applied to visible surface
Any shape or depth
Can be cut singular
Generally soft interfacing or no interfacing, can be fusible
or traditional
Applied to either surface
Generally applied to top frontal area
Any position and degree of detail
Grain direction is not critical
Cuff optional
Many forms – soft, rigid, shaped, any size
Any number of buttons or alternate closure methods
Rigid or soft
Close or away from neck
Can fall on any part of shoulder, back or frontal areas
Can be excessive in shape
Any method of construction
Facing can be used to assemble the collar
True to neck or away from neck
Any number or size of pockets
Any stitch size, and contrast thread colour is OK
Stitching not critical
If used relatively discreet in appearance
Sleeve is sewn to the armhole then side
seams are sewn
Seams are overlocked (seam finishing)
Sleeve is sewn to the armhole then side seams are sewn
sleeve is set in after side seams are sewn
Seams can be sewn open or closed seams
A.2 Complete thumbnails of white shirts by other designers
Directions towards a Neo-Dandy aesthetic
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-1
Antonio Marras, 2006
Figure 2.3-2
Patrick Ervell, 2007
Figure 2.3-3
Burberry Prorsum, 2006
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-4
Paul Smith, 2006
Figure 2.3-5
Gucci, 2006 a
Figure 2.3-6
Gucci, 2006 b
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-7
Gucci, 2006 c
Figure 2.3-8
Neil Barrett, 2005
Figure 2.3-9
Neil Barrett, 2006 a
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-10
D Squared, 2006
Figure 2.3-11
Paul Smith, 2005 a
Figure 2.3-12
Dries Van Noten, 2005 a
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-13
Dries Van Noten, 2005 a
Figure 2.3-14
Neil Barrett, 2006 b
Figure 2.3-15
Raf Simons, 2006
Heading beyond the Neo-Dandy aesthetic into a blousy aesthetic
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-16
Alexander McQueen 2006,
Figure 2.3-17
Dior Homme, 2007 c
Figure 2.3-18
Gucci, 2005 a
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-19
Jill Saunders, 2007
Figure 2.3-20
John Galliano, 2005
Figure 2.3-21
Kris van Assche, 2006
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-22
Costume National
Homme, 2006
Figure 2.3-23
Gucci, 2005 b
Figure 2.3-24
Gucci, 2007
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-25
Pablo Ramirez, 2007
Figure 2.3-26
Dior Homme, 2006
Figure 2.3-27
Emanual Ungaro, 2006
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-28
Dries Van Noten, 2005 b
Figure 2.3-29
Kris Van Assche, 2007
Figure 2.3-30
Paul Smith, 2005 b
Aligning to the Neo-Dandy aesthetic
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-31
Gucci, 2006 d
Figure 2.3-32
Missoni, 2005
Figure 2.3-33
Neil Barrett, 2006 c
This figure is not available online.
Please consult the hardcopy thesis
available from the QUT Library
Figure 2.3-34
Emanuel Ungaro 2006
A.3 Images and studio design notes on all sixty concept shirts
Note: The following shirt images and studio notes are discussed in order according
to the four zones in the Matrix of Innovation: Safe, Mildly-Dandy, Neo-Dandy and
Blousy. Within these groupings the assigned shirt numbers correspond to the
chronological order of assembly.
Some shirts overlap in both the Blousy levels of detailing and Blousy zones of
detailing. When this occurs, the shirt is placed in the zone with the most
predominant characteristic. Furthermore, the Blousy zone states the key design
principles that have not been adhered to.
(Safe zone begins next page)
Safe (Conservative)
Images begin next page.
Shirt number 11
This shirt is based on a classic dress shirt with no features apart from the traditional bib, French cuffs
and vintage dress buttons. This shirt was made with the intention of adding decorative treatment to the
bib front. This did not happen as I abandoned the use of hand skills for detailing.
Zone: Safe (front of rack)
Comments: The fabric used on this shirt was overly dense in weight.
Shirt number 16
This shirt experimented with a more traditional look using a pleated front panel. The silhouette on this
shirt is leaner than previous shirts, as a result of waist darting and less volume through the chest and
the body. As well, the length of the garment has been extended.
Zone: Safe (middle of rack)
Comments: Very safe in innovation as the shirt appears similar to a classic pleated dress
shirt, except for the twisting of the front pleats.
Shirt number 6
Waist suppression was achieved on this shirt through the use of hand smocking. Vintage shirt
buttons were applied to the shirt and the inspiration was from Victorian tab front dress shirts.
Zone: Safe (back of rack)
Comments: Resembles a classic period dress shirt, with tab front and stand collar. Subtle in
appearance and relatively effective style of detailing, considering smocking is not traditionally
used on men’s clothing. The waist suppression is flattering to the body, although the hand
stitching is poorly executed. The style of smocking used on the back should be similar to the
front. Similar waist suppression results could have been achieved by sewing a simple dart.
Mildly-Dandy (Approaching)
Images begin next page.
Shirt number 5
Tailor’s tacks (hand stitching technique) were used on shirt number 5 to create small folds on the centre
front panel.
Zone: Mildly-Dandy (front of rack)
Comments: The use of tailor’s tacks is relatively innovative as this type of hand stitch is not
normally used as detailing. White thread on white fabric worked extremely well. The shape
created by the hand stitching needs refining – the stitching should be closer towards centre
front and the gap decreased between each pleat.
Shirt number 28
Bridal closures (small loops and buttons) were the inspiration for shirt number 28.
Zone: Mildly-Dandy (front of rack)
Comments: Discreet use of detailing, although a very impractical number of buttons for the
pragmatic nature of menswear. The button loops on the bottom of the shirt front are not
Shirt number 17
This shirt has shoulder guards that were designed to add ‘masculine’ visual strength to the upper body.
Zone: Mildly-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: The shoulder guards appear to balance the soft collar shape. The front band
could be narrower in width and the shape of the curved collar modified. The slightly textured
fabric is effective.
Shirt number 10
This shirt has a decorative hand stitch (chain) applied to the collar, centre front and name patch.
Numerous attempts were made to reapply different name patches without success. At this point in
the research project I realised that hand stitching was not working on the shirts. The time in relation
to the quality of the outcome was unbalanced. I had to re-examine the notion of spending a
considerable amount of time applying detailing through the use of hand sewing, for a limited
outcome, was unsuitable.
Zone: Mildly-Dandy (back of rack)
Comments: The applied name patch appears not integrated to the shirt. It looks as though it is
an afterthought for detailing and is highly unsuccessful.
Shirt number 12
Shirt number 12 is based on shirt number 11, although with subtle beading added to the bib and cuffs. A
soft large curved collar was applied to the shirt.
Zone: Mildly-Dandy (back of rack)
Comments: The curved collar appears overly soft (needs more interfacing) when used with a
traditional men’s bib front. The pearl trimming did not withstand high iron temperatures and
melted on the edges. The interfacing needs to be firmer to create crisp bibs and cuffs. For
future reference ensure all trims are tested for high iron temperatures.
Shirt number 46
This shirt was an intentional regression to a more ‘masculine’ styling, with epaulettes (shoulder straps)
and a traditional collar shape. The epaulette and collar have multiple layers of fabric stitched together.
Zone: Mildly-Dandy (back of rack)
Comments: As a result of using multiple layers of fabric the collar and epaulettes are overly
thick and the collar does not roll correctly. The epaulettes do not enhance the design of the
Neo-Dandy (Aligning)
Images begin next page.
Shirt number 37
The collar on this shirt was inspired by the traditional neck tie and Beau Brummell’s (renowned dandy
figure) use of wrapped neck-cloths.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (front of rack)
Comments: Effective balance between austerity and detailing through the use of shoulder
guards and the neck tie derivation. The shoulder guards are subtle so as not to ‘fight’ with the
design detailing applied to the collar. The use of fringing on the tie adds interest. French cuffs
were effective although could be more rigid to increase formality. However, if this shirt was
remanufactured I would consider removing the shoulder guards, so the attention is solely on
the neck area. As well, a higher quality of cloth could be investigated.
Shirt number 40
This shirt was a follow-on experiment from shirt number 39.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (front of rack)
Comments: An excellent result was achieved with multiple varieties of lace applied to only the
front area of the shirt. The amount of frills used on the front band is appropriate, as it
references a traditional tuxedo shirt and is subtle in appearance. If this shirt was to be
remanufactured the lace could be shortened so it finished on the chest area. As well, a
heavier interfacing could be applied to the cuffs and front tab to assist with more rigidity.
Shirt number 48
Shirt number 48 continued experimenting with the layering of fabric for collar detail. This shirt was more
successful than previous versions (shirt numbers 47 and 46) as the lines were softer and the layering
was not as rigid as the previous two shirts. Multiple layers of fabric were used to add depth to the collar
and alternating bias panels created strong vertical lines. This shirt forged the path for experimentation
with neckline treatments on future shirts.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (front of rack)
Comments: An effective way to use bias strips for a fabric treatment and a resolved use of
multiple layers of fabric for collar detailing. If this shirt was to be remanufactured several
aspects may be improved: the front detailing could be reduced in depth so it finishes on the
chest area, with a shape that follows a bib silhouette; the collar is fully resolved although it
could benefit from being placed on a plain shirt, without frontal detailing; inversely a plain
stand collar would be the preferred style, when matched with the front detail. Hence, this shirt
could be reinterpreted into two styles, if remanufactured – one with a layered fabric collar and
a plain body and the other with the textured bias front (modified) and a plain stand collar.
Shirt number 55
This shirt explores neckline and collar treatments. The collar wraps around a neck band and falls in
folds in order to imitate a scarf or separate neck cloth.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (front of rack)
Comments: The collar extension creates for a neckband that successfully wraps around to
form a resolved shape. The band shape allows for a multiplicity of tie variations and is refined
in detailing – a successful collar experiment. I would consider the use of a higher quality
fabric, if the shirt was remanufactured.
Shirt number 59
This shirt continued with derivations of the attached neck cloth and tie. Fabric is folded and twisted to
form a tied neckband.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (front of rack)
Comments: A harmonious level of innovation and austerity, as the collar references a
traditional tie and the folding on the neck band provides for a soft and delicate appearance. If
this shirt was to be remanufactured, the length of the neckband could be slightly extended
and the trim on the cuffs could be removed. French cuffs would be preferable to the plain
barrel style cuffs used on this shirt, as it increases formality.
Shirt number 24
This shirt builds upon shirt number 23 with the use of bib detailing.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: The use of a traditional collar successfully offsets the softness of the lace. The
contrast of sheer fabric and a solid bib effectively highlights the chest area. The bib shape
could be narrower in width.
Shirt number 26
Bridal lace was used to create an attached over-vest.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: The combination of a traditional men’s vest silhouette and the use of soft bridal
lace creates for an effective visual balance. The vest could benefit from an improved bottom
shape and fit. The lace is overly textured.
Shirt number 29
On shirt number 29 the front fabric is slashed on an angle and a self-fabric bias strip is threaded through
the cut area.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: An effective method to add detail without exposing skin. However, there is no
need to slash so low on the front, as the loose fabric can be annoying when tucking in the
Shirt number 45
This shirt experimented with treatments to the frontal area with a classic centre front jabot (flounce).
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: The use of a bias cut front effectively highlights the decorative jabot. The degree
of detailing appears refined, as it is applied to the front and neck regions only. The French
cuffs assist to aid formality. The jabot could be smaller in size, as it is very floppy when worn.
The collar trim could either be smaller in size or eliminated.
Shirt number 49
On this shirt the collar forms four loose flowing folds (similar to a men’s neck tie) and was inspired by
the ‘four-in-hand’ tie knot.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: The collar treatment is effective, although the lengths of the ties are excessive
and hang down longer than a traditional tie.
Shirt number 50
This shirt was a continuum of shirt number 49 and experiments with collar changes.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: A novel way to create an extension of the neck band. The detailing applied to the
shoulder and the armhole area is slightly excessive. This shirt would have been placed front
of rack Neo-Dandy if the seam detail was not applied.
Shirt number 51
This shirt digressed back to the ‘safeness’ of using a traditional two-piece collar. The collar was twisted
and buttoned down, similar to the classic button down collar. Although in this case two pearl buttons
were used instead of the traditional one button.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: An effective collar treatment as it stays within known visual boundaries. The lace
on the centre front tab is visually unnecessary, as it adds unneeded texture.
Shirt number 52
This shirt revisited shirt number 2 by using a knotted style of collar.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: A more successful outcome than shirt number 2 as the fabric texture matches the
twist in the collar line. The textured fabric is effectively applied only to the frontal area. The
collar could benefit from extra rigidity and a better quality interfacing.
Shirt number 53
This shirt experimented with a collar treatment inspired from a traditional men’s neck tie and is an
evolution of shirt number 49.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: This shirt is plain except for the collar treatment, thereby allowing the collar to be
the focal point. The collar angle needs further resolution. One collar tip needs to be longer so
the tie can be fully knotted, similar to a traditional tie. The interfacing on the collar ‘bubbled’
after a hot wash.
Shirt number 56
This shirt experiments with changes to the collar and is inspired by a men’s neck tie. The collar wraps
around the waistline to create suppression and is buttoned at the rear.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (middle of rack)
Comments: The collar effectively reduces waist volume and from the rear view the collar
references a masculine vest silhouette. However, from the front view the collar seems slightly
excessive in size. The cuff treatment is not needed.
Shirt number 8
Shirt number eight has brown embroidery thread applied to imitate patch pockets and highlight seam
Zone: Neo-Dandy (back of rack)
Comments: The use of colour detracts from the shirt as this aligns to a casual appearance.
White on white stitching would be more discreet and preferable. The buttons did not withstand
a hot wash and the stitching catches on watches and jewellery.
Shirt number 20
Shirt number 20 was an evolution from shirt number 19 although with a classic centre front opening.
This shirt also was the first of many to experiment with lace to join seams and exposure of the skin.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (back of rack)
Comments: The lace adds excessive weight and thickness to the front.
Shirt number 39
This shirt revisited early experiments with the use of lace to join seams together.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (back of rack)
Comments: An effective way to replace seams with lace detailing, thereby giving an
integrated detailing effect to the shirt. An alternate lace should have been used so as to
expose less skin around the armhole area. This shirt was almost placed in the Blousy zone
due to the exposure of skin.
Shirt number 54
Shirt number fifty four continued with the idea of a tie silhouette. The tie folds from the chest position on
the centre front tab.
Zone: Neo-Dandy (back of rack)
Comments: The bias strips are visually effective however the tie falling from the chest area
resembles a ‘feminine’ style bow. This shirt was almost placed in the zone of Blousy levels of
Blousy (Beyond)
Images begin next page.
Shirt number 4
On this shirt ‘White Work’ (hand embroidery) was used to decorate the front in a curved symmetrical
pattern. The hand sewing was slow, taking many hours to complete. An interesting decorative effect,
however the time taken to hand sew the feature seemed disproportionate to the final outcome. White
decorative thread on white fabric was effective.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The symmetrical shape created by the ‘White Work’ gives an interesting depth to
the frontal area of the shirt. However, the texture appears not integrated to the shirt and
excessive. The symmetry creates a shape that needs refining. The French cuffs appear
overly formal in relation to the casual and loose texture of the detailing.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 3 - Integration of Detailing
Shirt number 9
Hand weaving of cotton tape was used to decorate the front bib. The detailing appears ‘added on’ and
was unsuccessful.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: An interesting use of cotton tape for bib detailing, as this form of tape is normally
used for inner supporting treatments and generally not as decoration. However, the tape
creates an unfinished and overly decorated look. The tape slightly shrunk in the first wash
thereby making the front of the shirt difficult to press. The addition of cotton tape to the front
tab and cuffs appears excessive. A more lustrous style of tape would add more formality to
the shirt.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 3 - Integration of Detailing
Shirt number 18
Shirt number 18 was a formative shirt that assisted the design direction for numerous subsequent shirts.
This shirt experimented with the combination of lace and frills.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The use of lace and the textural front appears slightly over adorned. The stand
collar works well with the lace trim, although not when matched with the front detailing. More
interfacing is required on the front tab as it gaps at the neckline and does not give a crisp
formal appearance.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 6 - Formality
Shirt number 19
This shirt experimented with lace panelling. The lace was partially hidden with sheer fabric to create a
discrete effect. The shirt also tried to break away from using the traditional full centre front opening – an
unsuccessful experiment.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The use of piping was unsuccessful, as it created bulk of fabric and is superfluous
detailing. The concept of ‘hidden’ lace was an interesting idea. The shirt front is significantly
difficult to press with the lace detailing. The omission of a full front tab gives the shirt a casual
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 6 - Formality
Shirt number 21
This shirt explored using frills and smocking on a traditional bib front.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The frills on the bib are quite large and ‘fight’ with the smocking. The pearl
buttons are effective and add formality to the shirt. The bib treatment appears patched ‘onto’
the shirt.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 3 - Integration of Detailing
Shirt number 22
This shirt builds on from shirt number 21 – the lace and frills offset the crispness of a rigid bib. Large firm
French cuffs are used.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The use of lace and frills appear excessive and overly decorated. The French
cuffs and the self-striped fabric assisted to increase formality. The front bib shape is too wide
in appearance. Frills on the neckline are not required.
Principle not adhered to: Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Shirt number 23
This shirt was a continuation of the previous shirt design. Bridal lace was used on the bib to contrast a
plain shirt. Frills adorn the neckline.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The use of braid adds formality to the shirt and the self striped fabric references
dress shirt nuances. The use of a neck frill appears excessive when combined with the
frontal detailing.
Principle not adhered to: Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Shirt number 25
Shirt number 25 was another bib experiment and uses soft directional self fabric frills.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The frills appear excessive when used on different angles. The method of frill
attachment is not successfully executed, as the sewing is visible. The frills appear patched
‘onto’ the garment. The diagonal stitching is also unnecessary.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 3 - Integration of Detailing
Shirt number 34
This shirt follows on from shirt number 33 – small scraps of fabric and short lengths of lace are used to
join seams together.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The lace on the armhole area exposes underarm body hair and too many types of
lace were used. The detailing protrudes unnecessarily from the shoulder region and the bias
striped fabric ‘fights’ with the lace. This is an effective way to reduce fabric costs as detailing
is attained through the use of small lengths of lace and sample room floor leftovers.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1- Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 4 - Skin Exposure
Shirt number 35
A continuous length of ruffled bias pleating was spiralled at random over a length of fabric and then
stitched in place to form decorative detailing.
Zone: Blousy (overly decorated)
Comments: The neckband treatment is thick and appears unwarranted. The ruffled bias
pleating is excessive when applied over the entire front area.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 3 - Integration of Detailing
Shirt number 38
Intricate lace was applied to a large curved cuff – inspired by decorated shaped cuffs used on blouses
and wedding dresses.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The curved cuff is incorrect in shape (does not fit the wrist silhouette) and is bulky
in appearance and overly large in size. The amount and type of lace used does not enhance
the wrist area and is excessive in appearance.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 7 - Customary Design Elements
Shirt number 44
This shirt has lace and frills applied to a raglan (styled armhole shape) style panel.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: The shoulder area is not enhanced by the lace panel and the detailing is
excessive. The upward frills on the cuffs appear unnecessary.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Shirt number 57
This shirt was inspired by accidentally buttoning up the previous shirt incorrectly and as a result the
buttoning created a fold at the centre front tab.
Zone: Blousy levels of detailing
Comments: Skin is visible through the folds and the shirt appears unbalanced and overly
adorned due to the increased volume created by the folds. The front folds are excessive and
exceedingly deep in size.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 5 - Skin Exposure
Shirt number 13
This shirt has a folded diamond pane pleating applied to one sleeve. This technique is an old fashioned
sewing skill that was commonly used on cushions. The treatment looked effective until I cut it up the
fabric and applied it to the shirt. Folded pleating can be successful on large areas but it did not translate
well onto a small sleeve panel.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: The asymmetrical detailing unbalances the shirt and the sleeve becomes the
focal visual point.
Principle not adhered to: Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Shirt number 27
Shirt number 27 experimented with alternate closure methods – snap press buttons as well as a
diagonal front opening. Smocking and frills were used on the front tab area. This shirt defined the use of
buttons in preference to snaps for subsequent shirts.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: The front diagonal opening requires a greater offset from centre front. The snap
closures are discreet. However, they do not have a quality feel or appear formal in
appearance. Detailing is not required on the cuff or yoke areas.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 6 - Formality
Shirt number 30
This shirt follows on from shirt number 29 with slashes created by folding bias strips in alternate
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: This is an effective method to add design detailing by sewing and folding bias
shapes together, however it appears excessive when applied to the entire frontal area. This
treatment ended up unnecessarily thick and bulky.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Shirt number 31
This shirt experimented with randomly tucked fabric on the diagonal grain prior to cutting out the shirt.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: The tucking treatment appears excess and unwarranted when applied to all body
areas. The raw edges detract from the formality and the back tucking does not match the front
in angle. This treatment was extremely wasteful in fabric – approximately eight metres. The
haphazard effect created on the fabric was effective.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 6 - Formality
Shirt number 32
Shirt number 32 was conceived by examining the scrap fabric on the cutting room floor and trying to
work out how I could creatively use it. Numerous fabric swatches were cut on the bias (to stop fraying)
and applied randomly to the front panels. This method of detailing was a reaction to the excessive
waste of fabric used on shirt number 31.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: This treatment became heavy and bulky, and appears excessive when applied to
the whole frontal area. Lighter weight fabrics could have been used to eliminate bulk. The
patched detailing made the shirt appear casual in appearance.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 3 - Integration of Detailing
Design Principle 6 - Formality
Shirt number 33
A continuation of using waste fabric for detailing – bias rectangles are stitched together to create a fabric
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: The patching appears integrated to the shirt design, however when applied to the
whole front it is excessive in detail. The use of bias strips was effective in stopping the fabric
from fraying. This shirt provided a more resolved version of the use of fabric scraps for
Principle not adhered to: Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Shirt number 36
This shirt experimented with a similar spiralling detailing used on shirt number 35. The treatment is
applied to the sleeves and back yoke.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: The sleeves and yoke are not enhanced by the detailing and the frills on centre
front, collar and cuff are excessive when combined with the sleeve treatment.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 3 - Integration of Detailing
Shirt number 41
A raglan style sleeve was used as an experiment to change from the use of the traditional set-in sleeve.
Smocking was applied to the panel and lace was used to join the seam.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: An excessive amount of detailing was created by the use of smocking and when
applied to the yoke and sleeve it appears unwarranted.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Shirt number 43
This shirt continued to explore the raglan sleeve silhouette with lace and smocking as a design feature.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: The detailing appears excessive and not appropriate on the sleeve and shoulder
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Shirt number 58
Shirt number 58 experimented with extending the collar line on both the front and back of the shirt.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: From the rear view the collar shape appears exceedingly unwarranted and is
excessive in size.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 7 - Customary Design Elements
Shirt number 60
The last shirt continued to experiment with collar changes.
Zone: Blousy zones of detailing
Comments: The collar falls onto the yoke area of the shirt and from the rear view appears
excessive in size and in doing so references a Peter Pan style collar – commonly used on
women’s blouses and children’s tops.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 7 - Customary Design Elements
Shirt number 14
This shirt revisited waist suppression that was used on shirt number 6. A detailed braid was applied to
form soft waist gathers. This shirt also experimented with folding fabric and fusing it onto the interfacing
of the collar to form a gathered effect.
Zone: Blousy silhouette
Comments: The amount of waist suppression is excessive. For future reference, the shirring
thread should be removed prior to the fusing of the interfacing, as it leaves a residual mark.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 4 - Silhouette
Shirt number 15
This shirt experimented with waist suppression. This was the first of many shirts to use machine
smocking – a relatively quick process to reduce fabric volume and a style of detailing not familiar to
men’s clothing. Pearl buttons were also used to add lustre and formality to the shirt.
Zone: Blousy silhouette
Comments: This shirt has hanger appeal however the smocking is overly restrictive to the
waist. Excessive waist suppression creates fullness in the chest area and armhole area. The
smocking creates an overly curved waistline.
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 4 - Silhouette
Shirt number 42
This shirt uses a similar raglan experiment as shirt number 41, except the smocking is looser in
construction. The sleeves ended up excessively full and the shirt appears voluminous in the sleeve
Zone: Blousy silhouette
Comments: The looseness of the sleeve creates an excessive silhouette. Tighter smocking
should have been used to overcome the looseness. The wrist frills are over adorned and
Principle not adhered to:
Design Principle 1 - Locations of Detailing
Design Principle 2 - Degree of Detailing
Design Principle 4 - Silhouette
Shirts not displayed in the exhibition (no matrix position)
Images begin next page.
This first shirt experimented with drawn thread work on the front panel. The intricate detailing was very
effective, however, the short sleeves on the shirt did not harmonise with complex decorative detailing;
the short sleeves were casual and the detailing appeared formal. This formative shirt determined that all
future shirts would be long sleeve as the detailing matched the formality of a long sleeve shirt.
No position - short sleeves do not match the criteria for a dress shirt.
The inspiration for this shirt was derived from a neck tie with the knots on the collar forming the central
feature around the neckline. French cuffs highlighted the formality of the shirt; however, the cream
colour looked ‘dirty’ in appearance.
No position - colour (cream not white) does not match the criteria for a white dress shirt.
This shirt was also cream in colour but with red thread used to accent the button stitching. This shirt was
made as a shell to add decorative hand stitching. The detailing was never added and this shirt assisted
in determining my preference for a neutral palette. The red thread appears effective however it makes
the shirt casual in appearance.
No position - colour (cream not white) does not match the criteria for a white dress shirt.
No photograph - the shirt was not assembled to a significant level to be worn on the body.
This garment was never finished. It began as an experiment to apply fringing to the hem line and was
highly unsuccessful.
No position as the garment was not finished. The fabric was not suitable and the fringing was
This shirt has multiple layers of fabric stitched together on a high stand collar, as well as the cuffs.
No position - This shirt was not finished and still requires buttons and buttonholes. It became
apparent during construction that the design was poorly executed, due to the thickness of
fabric on the collar and cuffs.
A.4 Specific elements of experimentation on concept shirts
The experiments can be clustered into seven areas, which depending on the shirt,
can overlap in their treatments. All major patterns shapes were experimented on
including the front, back, yoke, sleeve, collar and cuffs.
Firstly, a significant number of shirts had texture. These include shirts number 4, 5,
9, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 41, 42, 43, 44, 48, 52 and
54. Texture was a significant element for design experimentation, as evidenced by
the quantity of shirts with this treatment. By using techniques such as machine
smocking, slashing of fabric, decorative hand stitching, or applying lace, the
plainness of the fabric could be enhanced. Within this diversity of techniques the
most successful was to allow bias edges to be exposed when joined, such as shirt
numbers 33 and 48.
Numerous shirts had frontal detailing, such as numbers 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16,
17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 40, 44, 45, 47, 48,
51, 52 and 54. Frontal treatment was, in the main, highly successful. These
experiments included adding lace, smocking, frills, texture, and changes to frontal
openings. At the time of making I did not intentionally realise the underlying
notions as to why frontal treatment was successful or the fact that I had applied this
to more than half the shirts in the practice. Hence, frontal treatment formed one of
the main experimental areas for the studio based component of the research.
Very few shirts had changes to frontal closure methods. These include shirts
number 27, 28, and 57. Shirt number 27 experimented with diagonal openings and
the use of press studs. Both of these treatments were ruled out as satisfactory for
subsequent shirts, as they digressed too far from the archetypical dress shirt. Shirt
number 28 used numerous pearl buttons spaced closely together as an experimental
feature. This worked exceedingly well even though it was impractical to unbutton
the shirt. Finally, shirt number 57 experimented with changes to the front using an
asymmetrical folded opening and once again this did not significantly reference the
classic tab front on a men’s dress shirt.
Experiments to sleeve detailing were tried on shirts number 13, 36, 41, 42 and 43.
In all of these cases the experiment was deemed unsuccessful. The techniques
included texture through the use of smocking and applied trimmings.
Cuff experiments were tried on only two shirts, numbers 38 and 56. On shirt
number 38 I frustratingly tried many variants of cuff detailing, including different
shapes and textures. All were unsuccessful including the final technique. In
hindsight I should have documented (photographed) all the variations used. Shirt
number 56 had an inconsequential modification by extending the cuff shape to
create an overlap.
On shirts number 33, 34, 39, 48, 50, 51, 52 and 54 seam experiments were applied.
These treatments included using lace to ‘bridge’ seams, such as the sleeve to the
armhole and the sewing of smaller shapes to create exposed seams. Collar
experiments were applied to shirt numbers 2, 37, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59
and 60. The collar detailing forms one of the principle methods to draw attention to
the face and these experiments included applying texture, frills and changes to the
collar silhouette. Finally, experiments to change waist form were applied to shirt
numbers 6, 14 and 15. These experiments were unsuccessful as the silhouette
tended to become overly loose.
In addition, numerous shirts experimented with texture of the fabric. The
techniques included the use of bias cut panels, slashing of fabric, hand sewing
detailing and applying trimming directly onto the fabric. The most successful type
of texture was when it appeared to reside ‘into’ the fabric; that is, the detail
appeared integral to the garment design, not added on. Examples of this ‘into’
effect are shirt numbers 5, 15, 16, 29, 31, 40, 48 and 54. Other techniques created
an ‘onto’ effect. This outcome appeared less successful than the ‘into’ effect and
could be viewed as decoration for the sake of decoration. Examples of this ‘onto’
effect include shirt numbers, 21, 24, 25, 32, 35 and 36.
Finally, it is noteworthy that as the experiments evolved they became more
audacious in style and this mirrored my growing confidence in wearing more
uncustomary clothing. This confidence can be evidenced with the use of
treatments, such as smocking and lace insertion, as well as significant deviations
from archetypical forms for neckline treatments.
(Intentionally left blank)
Texts cited
Adams, C. 1990. White-Blouse and White-Collar: Work, Culture and Gender.
Gender & History, Vol 2 (Issue 3).
Aldrich, W. 1984. Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear. London: Granada
. 2006. Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear: Including Unisex Clothes and
Computer Aided Design. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Anderson, G. ed. 1988. The White Blouse Revolution: Female Office Workers
Since 1870. Manchester [England]: Manchester University Press.
Blaszczyk, R. ed. 2008. Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers.
Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Press.
Breward, C. 1995. The Culture of Fashion. Manchester: Manchester University
_____. 2002. Style and Subversion: Power Poses and the Neo-Edwardian Suit in
Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain. Gender & History, Volume 14 (Number 3).
_____. 2003. Fashion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
_____. 2004. Fashioning London: Clothing and the Modern Metropolis. Oxford:
Bryde, P. 1992. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: B.T. Batsford Limited.
Burtis, E. 1999. Ladies Home Journal, Jan 1911, Making a Shirt for a Man. In
Shirt's & Men's Haberdashery 1840's to 1920's. California: Shep
Calasibetta, C. and P. Tortora. 2003. Dictionary of Fashion. London: Laurence
King Publishing.
Chenoune, F. 1993. A History of Men's Fashion. Paris: Flammarion.
Cicolini, A. 2005. The New English Dandy. London: Thames and Hudson.
Cole, S. 2000. Don We Now Our Gay Apparel: Gay Men's Dress In The Twentieth
Century. Oxford: Berg.
Craik, J. 1994. The Face of Fashion. London: Routledge.
Cunnington, P. and C. Willett. 1992. The History of Underclothes. London: Dover
Damhorst, M. 2005. Dress as Nonverbal Communication. The Meaning of Dress.
ed. Damhorst. M., Miller-Spillman. K and S. Michelman. New York:
Fairchild Publications.
Darnell, P. 2000. Victorian to Vamp: Women's Clothing 1900-1929. Reno: Fabric
Drehle, D. 2004. Triangle: The Fire That Changed America. New York: Grove
Edwards, T. 1997. Men in the Mirror: Men's Fashion, Masculinity and Consumer
Society. London: Cassell.
Entwistle, J. 2000. The Fashioned Body. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Flugel, J. 1930. The Psychology of Clothes. New York: International Universities
Foner, E. and J. Garraty. 1991. The Readers Companion to American History.
Wilmington, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Gleeson, K. and H. Firth. 2004. Clothing and Embodiment: Men Managing Body
Image and Appearance. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, Volume 5 (Issue
1): p. 40-48.
Gray, C. and J. Malins. 2004. Visualizing Research: A Guide to the Research
Process in Art and Design. England: Ashgate publishing.
Griffiths, I. 2000. The Invisible Man. The Fashion Business: Theory, Practice,
Image. ed. White, N. and I. Griffiths. Oxford: Berg.
Griggs, C. 1998. S/he: Changing Sex and Clothing. Oxford: Berg.
Harris, K. 2002. Victorian & Edwardian Fashions for Women, 1840 to 1919.
Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing.
Haseman, B. 2006. A Manifesto for Performative Research. Media International
Australia incorporating Culture and Policy. No 188, February 2006, pp98106.
Hegland, J. 1999. Drag Queens, Transvestites: Stepping Across the Accepted
Boundaries. The Meaning of Dress. ed. Damhorst. M., Miller. K and S.
Michelman. New York: Fairchild Publications.
Hollander, A. 1994. Sex and Suits. New York: Kodansha America.
Honeyman, K. 2002. Following Suit: Men, Masculinity and Gendered Practices in
the Clothing Trades in Leeds, England, 1890-1940. Gender & History,
Volume 14 (Number 3).
Horwood, C. 2002. Dressing Like a Champion: Women's Tennis Wear in Interwar
England. The Englishness of English Dress. ed. Breward, C. and B. Conekin.
Oxford: Berg.
Jay, U. 2008. Recognition and Restoration of the Fashion Crafts of Pakistan.
London College of Fashion, Research Degrees, Current Research Students. (accessed 19.06.08)
Kirkham, P. 1996. Introduction. The Gendered Object. ed. P. Kirkham.
Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Knowles, L. 2005. The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers:
Menswear. New York: Fairchild.
Marsh, L. 2006. The Week in Fashion. ( (accessed 29.09.07).
Martinez, K. and K. Ames. ed. 1997. The Material Culture of Gender, the Gender
of Material Culture. Winterthur: Winterthur Museum.
McDowell, C. 1997. The Man of Fashion: Peacock Males and Perfect Gentlemen.
New York: Thames and Hudson.
McEvoy, F. 1995. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911: The Triangle
Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911: Social Change, Industrial Accidents, and the
Evolution of Common-Sense Causality. Law & Social Inquiry, Volume 20
(Issue 2): P. 621-651.
Michelman, S. 1999. Appearance for Gender and Sexuality. The Meaning of Dress,
ed. Damhorst. M., Miller. K and S. Michelman. New York: Fairchild
Miller, N. 1997. The U.S. Navy: An Illustrated History. New York: American
Heritage Publishing.
Moers, E. 1960. The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm. London: Secker and
Murray, K. 2006. Craft Culture. Craft Victoria. (accessed 13.05.08).
O’Bryne, R. 2000. After a Fashion. Dublin: Town House.
Olofsson, G. 2004. When in Rome or Rio or Riyadh: Cultural Q&A s for Success
Business Behaviour Around the World. Boston: Intercultural Press.
Peitsch, E. 2004. Making Over Masculinity: the Metrosexual and the Rise of the
Style-Conscious Male, McGill University, Montreal.
Pendergast, S. and T. Pendergast. 2004. Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing,
Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. ed. S.
Hermsen. Detroit: Thomson Gale.
Plowman, T. 2003. Ethnography and Critical Design Practice in Design Research
Methods and Perspective. ed. B. Laurel. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Roetzel, B. 1999. Gentleman: A Timeless Fashion. Colonge: Konemann.
Ruehl, P. 2005. Frock Horror! It's Blokes in Blouses. The Australian Financial
Review, March 5-6.
Shep, R. and G. Cariou. 1999. Shirts and Men's Haberdashery 1840's to 1920's.
California: Shep Publications.
Sheman, G. and S. Perlman. 2007. The Real World Guide to Fashion Selling and
Management. New York: Fairchild Publications.
Steinmetz, M. 2008. Freedom of Movement in Woven Women's Wear Clothing
Products- Flat Pattern Cutting as a Response to Urban Life. London College
of Fashion, Research Degrees, Current Research Students. (accessed 19.06.08)
Turbin, C. 2000. Collars and Consumers: Changing images of American Manliness
and Business. Enterprise & Society, Volume 1 (Issue 3).
. 2002. Fashioning the American Man: The Arrow Collar Man, 1907 - 1931.
Gender & History, Volume14 (Number 3).
Twain, M. 1981. Roughing it. New York: Penguin Classics.
V&A (Victoria and Albert Museums). c2007. Jean Paul Gaultier.
(accessed 10.09.07).
Warner, P. 2006. When the Girls Came Out to Play: The Birth of American
Sportswear. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Amherst. A
full-text of this book is archived at (accessed 15.10.07).
Waugh, N. 1964. The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900. New York: Theatre Arts
WGSN (Worth Global Style Network). 2007. Menswear Season Overview
Autumn/Winter 2007/08, Evening Wear for Daywear. (accessed 07.11.07).
Wilson, E. 2006. Using a White Shirt as Their Canvas, The New York Times.
tml?_r=1&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin (accessed 29.09.07).
Figures – General (Chapter 1 and 2)
Aldrich, W. 1984. Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear. London: Granada
Bryde, P. 1992. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London: B.T. Batsford Limited.
Chenoune, F. 1993. A History of Men's Fashion, Hugo Boss Advertisement, Paris:
Cunnington, P. and C. Willett. 1992. The History of Underclothes. London: Dover
Horwood, C. 2002. Dressing Like a Champion: Women's Tennis Wear in Interwar
England, in The Englishness of English Dress, Oxford: Berg Publishing.
Olian, J. 1995. Everyday Fashions 1909-1920, As Pictured in Sears Catalogs. New
York: Dover Publications.
Pendergast, S and T. Pendergast. 2004. Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing,
Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear Through the Ages. Detroit:
Thomson Gale.
Shep, R and G. Cariou. 1999. Shirts and Men's Haberdashery 1840's to 1920's.
California: Shep Publications.
Skinner, T and L. McCord. 2004. Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalogs,
Late 1940's, Dress Wear Fall/Winter 1946-1947, Atglen USA: Schiffer
Smith, D. 1999. Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalogs, Early 1970's,
White Crepe Shirts, Atglen USA: Schiffer Publishing.
State University of New York. Fashion 224 History of Costume Homepage,
Shirtwaist 1890's.
(accessed 10.10.07).
Waugh, N. 1964. The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900. New York: Theatre Arts
Yahoo Shopping. 2007. Clothing, Accessories & Shoes. (accessed (25.10.07).
Figures – Contemporary White Dress Shirt Designers (Chapter 2)
Alexander McQueen. 2006. Catwalk Show, Milan (Autumn Winter 2006/2007). 6
of 24. (accessed
Antonio Marras. 2006a. Catwalk Show, Milan (Spring/Summer 2007) 14 of 80.
(accessed 04.09.07).
Burberry Prorsum. 2006. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, A Touch of
(accessed 09.09.07).
Costume National Homme. 2006. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Sheers and
Semi-sheer Shirts.
(accessed 05.09.07).
D Squared. 2006. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Bib Fronts.
(accessed 10.09.07)
Dior Homme. 2006. Catwalks, Key Items Analysis, Stock Tied Necks and Bow
(accessed 09.09.07).
. 2007a. (Spring/Summer 2008) 16 of 20.
ow&pageNo=2. (accessed 09.09.07).
. 2007b. (Spring/Summer 2008). 20 of 20.
ow&pageNo=2. (accessed 09.09.07).
. 2007c. (Spring/Summer 2008). 19 of 20.
ow&pageNo=2. (accessed 09.09.07).
Dries Van Noten. 2005a. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Decorative Shirtings.
(accessed 05.09.07).
. 2005b. Catwalk Show, Key Items, Poet Shirt.
(accessed 05.09.07).
. 2005c. Catwalk Show, Paris (Spring/Summer 2006). 59 of 137.
199 (accessed
. 2005d. Catwalk Show, Paris, (Spring/Summer 2006) 52 of 137.
(accessed 05.09.07).
Emanuel Ungaro Homme. 2006. Paris (Spring 2006).
.asp. (accessed 05.09.07).
Giorgio Armani. 2006. GQ, (Spring) Australia: FPC Magazines. p.99.
Gucci. 2003 Catwalk Show, Milan (Spring/Summer 2004). 79 of 88. (accessed
. 2005a. (Fall 2005). 30 of 40.
CIMEN?trend=&page=3. (accessed 10.09.07).
. 2005b. (Spring 2005). 12 of 40.
CIMEN. (accessed 10.09.07).
. 2006a. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Bib Fronts.
(accessed 04.09.07).
. 2006b. Catwalk Show, Key Items, Analysis, Stock Tied and Necks and
Bow Ties.
(accessed 09.09.07).
. 2006c. Catwalk Show, Milan (Autumn/Winter 2006/07). 36 of 84.
eport=17&page=3. (accessed 10.09.07).
. 2006d. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Touch of Romance.
(accessed 05.09.07).
. 2007. (Spring 2008). 30 of 45.
CIMEN?trend=&page=3. (accessed 05.09.07).
Jill Saunders. 2007. (Spring 2008). 7 of 42.
N. (accessed 09.09.07).
John Galliano. 2005. Catwork Show, Key Items, Poet Shirt.
(accessed 04.09.07).
Kris van Assche. 2006. (Spring 2006). 4 of 36.
MEN. (accessed 10.09.07).
. 2007. Catwalk Show, Paris, (Autumn/Winter 2007/08). 18 of 54.
(accessed 07.09.07).
Louis Vuitton. 2006. GQ, (spring) Australia: FPC Magazines. p.103.
Missoni. 2005. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Collarless Shirts.
(accessed 20.10.07).
Neil Barrett. 2005. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Pattern Placements.
(accessed 05.09.07).
. 2006a. Milan, (Spring 2007).
(accessed 09.09.07).
. 2006b. Catwalk Show, Milan. 22 of 88. (accessed
. 2006c. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Fashion Flash: Fly-Front Shirts
(accessed 10.09.07).
Pablo Ramirez. 2007. Uomo Collezioni (Spring/Summer 2008). Italy: Perfetti, S.
Patrick Ervell. 2007. (Spring/Summer 2008). 4 of 28.
7&ImageIndex=3&ShowType=Mens. (accessed 07.09.07).
Paul Smith. 2005a. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Decorative Shirtings.
(accessed 10.09.07).
. 2005b. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Pattern Placements.
(accessed 05.09.07).
. 2006. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Bib Fronts. (accessed
Raf Simons. 2006. Catwalk Show, Key Items Analysis, Collarless. (accessed