Dictionary Dressings is an ongoing research project that uses the nature of the dictionary definition as a “zero condition” of a piece of clothing to decode clothes and explore an alternative fashion vocabulary.
Dictionary definitions are constructed to be factual and rational and as a consequence the entries for items of clothing show no reference to the ephemeral or immaterial character of fashion. They describe the characteristics of the items, their use and their relation to the body but never mention fashion or style. Take the Dutch definition of a glove for example: “Handschoen: bekleding van de hand” (literally translated to English as Glove: covering of the hand).
In the composition of an image archive, showing newspaper images and text fragments that adhere to the dictionary definitions, the gaps that exist within the definitions play a leading role. By focussing on essential elements that describe clothing rather than fashion, the variety of possible re-readings of the definitions becomes evident and recurring questions of placement, size, material and relation to the body are revealed.
The potential of Dictionary Dressings as an activating and experimental design approach is brought forward in designers and workshop participants engaging with the approach, either by directly exploring a dictionary definition of their choice or by interlinking the Dictionary Dressings approach with their own current work processes and products, showing possible re-readings and translations. The broader implications and potential of this design approach are examined from a theoretical perspective in contributions by fashion researchers.
This new perspective opens up an inclusive playfield in fashion where hybrid, fluid ways of reading, seeing, defining and making are facilitated. Overlapping and interlinking theory with practice, it pushes beyond trends and accepted social and design codes offering an approach that contributes to the broader cultural discourse of fashion.
Dictionary Dressings book
Using an archive of images and text fragments as a starting point this publication brings together theoretical contributions that address the relationship between the vestimentary word and fashion by Barbara Brownie and Joke Robaard and practice-led approaches that investigate materiality, form and modes of use by BLESS, Conny Groenewegen, Elisa van Joolen, Ruby Hoette and participants of the Dictionary Dressings workshop.
Onomatopee: OMP 130
Graphic design: Hans Gremmen and Corine van der Wal
Editing: Ruby Hoette
Printing: Wilco Amersfoort
This research, publication and presentation have been kindly supported by: Creative Industries Fund NL, Kunstraad Groningen, LeoXIII Gastatelier and Onomatopee. Onomatopee and author © 2016