A decorative effect by Liam Revell

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This research project investigates the influence of decoration and decorating on a fashion design practice, exploring the transformative effects of both in relation to surface and structure.

Decoration is considered an after-effect, something that can be differentiated from the object it adheres to, sometimes making it superfluous to the object’s function. This project considers decoration as having its own function – the ability, through its link to the ‘exterior’ world, to transform the shape, appearance and context of materials and objects by modifying their façade. It is proposed that the act of decorating organises singular and disparate elements and transforms them into a whole which within the framework of this research is the garment.

Gottfried Semper’s theories underpin this project. He proposes that it is the decorative cover, and not the hidden structure, which expresses the purpose, the nature and the origin of the object, and that the object itself results from the primeval urge to create order through decorating.

In the practical experiments pursued as part of this project, these ideas are tested by investigating various examples of lace. Lace is regarded not only as a decorative cover but also symbolic of the act of decorating itself, in the manner by which it takes individual elements to create a unified whole, a characteristic embedded in its process of manufacture, with bobbin lace an example.

In response to the initial investigations into decoration, ideas of replication, individualisation and transformation, are explored, in both the practical experiments and in the text, through an analogy between the decorated cake and the clothed body and decorated garment. This is contextualised against the writings of Robin Boyd, who expresses contempt at the act of changing the shape and appearance of manufactured objects through decoration, a process he terms Featurism.

The findings of this research propose that decoration and decorating can inform fashion design practice. Decoration can be adjunct to the surface or structure of garments but it need not be a secondary consideration, and ultimately it is decoration and decorating that can be the catalyst in the design process either by representing an idea or through analysing its methods of manufacture to inform ways in which disparate elements can be combined to create a singular outcome.

Year: 2012
Examiners: Dean Brough, Laura Jocic, Peter McNeill  Supervisors: Ms Denise  Sprynskyj, Dr Sean Ryan


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