Day 19 of 21 writing challenge on leveling Up
Clothes that don’t fit, styles that don’t work, colors and patterns that clash all draw doubtful looks and muffled utterances such as “what were they thinking?”. Outward appearances trigger reactions faster than our ability to interpret or make sense of what we see. Its why facial expressions powerfully communicate when words are scarce.
In Fashion, Madeleine Vionnet in 1927 made a statement that evoked admiration from onlookers. Known as the originator of the bias cut, her garments draped softly and coverage stretched because they were enabled by a 45 degree cut to the fabric’s natural warp and weft threads. She opened new opportunities for designs that caressed and flowed.
Our speech patterns in our speech, the manner in which we walk and generally carry ourselves are adaptations and adjustments we’ve made to fit in with our peers or our circumstances. When we want to make an impression we add additional layers choosing clothing and accessories to signal to onlookers a message.
Sure not everyone takes the same care in their appearance, and some signals don’t travel across cultures, social status nor will they necessarily conform to local customs. Each of these reference states is biased or favor particular behavior aligned in the same direction. Diversity proves difficult to incorporate within the constructs of uniformity.
Designers as I’ve mentioned work their magic by shifting the basis of uniformity. Their tool kit enables them to find the stretch, or give that makes observable differences favorable, more attractive and raising up collective perceptions.
This is not the same as what sleight of hand, or redirecting the audience focus that magicians apply. Designers look for the behaviors that don’t match or where there’s friction and find ways to remove it.
I’m sure you have had a piece of clothing that pinches or restricts you. the too-tight skirt, or shirt or the waistband that has no give. Thank Madeline for her introduction of the bias cut when your clothes prove a little more forgiving.
Her use of Bias is not the same as the cognitive biases introduced in 1979 as Prospect theory by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. I was a graduate student in 1982 and I was not alone in finding their ideas about people’s irrationality a little shocking. I’m sure that was the reaction to Vionett’s first gowns too.
Alternative ideas, those that defy expectations and run contrary to what the present company finds acceptable will always trigger the frown or receive an unfavorable response.
Only those who stand firm in their convictions or possess self-confidence in the value of their approach or innovation stand a chance. It’s why designers and innovators tend to make a statement with their appearance, or for they bring the data.
We all play at an edge, some of us move forward by sticking close to the lines that are clear, the more natural grains in the fabric that constitute our environment. When we cross those lines, we make a choice as to how far off do we feel comfortable pushing?
For me, surrounded by two able partners, I had the support to pursue framestretching. I wanted to accumulate data, and at the same time also give others the natural confidence needed to step away from one edge and reach for another.
The image of monkey bars, when one hand lets go and you use momentum to bring it forward. I love this image because it’s our own body that we stretch to propel ourselves.
The challenge is probably finding new edges, not letting first appearances give you pause but see them as the presentation of learning opportunity.