Speculative sewing
August 23, 2022 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Researching, reconstructing, and re-imagining wearable technoscience, mostly adaptable bicycle skirts.

Abstract: "This article contributes to Science and Technology Studies (STS) literatures on ‘making and doing’ by describing and analysing the practice of researching, reconstructing, and reimagining archival clothing patent data. It combines feminist speculation and reconstruction practices into what I term ‘speculative sewing’. This involves stitching data, theory and fabric into inventions described in patents and analysing them as three-dimensional arguments. In the case here, of 1890s British women’s convertible cycle wear, I examine how inventors used new forms of clothing to challenge socio-political restrictions on women’s bodies in public space and help them make alternate claims to rights and entitlements. I argue that translating text and images into wearable data renders lesser-known technoscience stories visible and (more) knowable and transforms clothing (back) into material matters of public concern."
posted by clew (8 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Via Josquin Debaz on Mastodon, who has many other links that Mefites might like.
posted by clew at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2022

This is really, really wonderful! For all the sewists in the house...the patterns are available (for free under a Creative Commons license!) at the author's project website.

And a lovely quote from the article's conclusion: "Speculative sewing uses reconstructions of the past, to better understand the present and imagine different futures. It’s a means to think with and through the elements that make up sociotechnical worlds, of ‘making things to make sense of things’ (Jungnickel, 2018b). Some research projects benefit from being translated, made messy, material, or three-dimensionalized. Amongst other things, it invites contemporary audiences to speculate about their own lives, thickens data with fresh and relevant connections and encourages socio-political dialogues between century old experiences and today’s issues. Finally, what emerges in both practice and subject analysed above is action. These late-nineteenth century women inventors didn’t just accept or challenge constraints, they acted on them."
posted by ourobouros at 12:56 PM on August 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

A swim skirt and mastectomy swimsuit with silicone inserts made it possible for me to swim for the first time after I transitioned. My trip to a water park, using facilities aligned with my gender, was really affirming. Five years later, the sad thing is that even though I wouldn't need those clothes anymore, I would still be nervous doing the same thing, because of the changes (for the worse) in our society.
Still, though, mastectomy swimsuits are a great innovation.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 1:04 PM on August 23, 2022

Thank you for that link to the project website! There is a page with gifs showing how the various convertible costumes work.
posted by jedicus at 1:05 PM on August 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

The author of this paper, Kat Jungnickel, is an incredible person who recreates things like pulley-activating bike-riding skirts designed by female inventors of the 1800s. She has also written a great book about this research for general readers. She makes the skirt sewing patterns available for free on her website.

She’s also published a book on innovative approaches by scientists in communicating their work to the public, which could be of interest to many people in the mefi community.

Oh, and she’s a competitive penny farthing racer.
posted by archy at 1:05 PM on August 23, 2022 [6 favorites]

I made a full-length jean skirt once with buttons on the sides so you could hitch up the skirt for biking (probably and for walking, I forget). It worked pretty great, and it looked good, too!
posted by aniola at 6:35 PM on August 23, 2022

This couldn't be more outside of my area of research expertise, and it's a wonderful and fascinating read! Can't wait to dive into some of her other works. Thanks for the great post :)
posted by absquatulate at 6:35 PM on August 23, 2022

I love this! My great-grandmother and grandmother, born in 1871 and 1895, were skilled home sewists. I see their work as mistresspieces (don't you like that word?) of everyday applied mathematics and engineering, especially considering the complexity of the designs. I have a couple of pieces they made and I cherish them.
posted by mareli at 9:08 AM on August 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

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