Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Dresses Woven to Fit: Gabriele Wiegand


Dresses Woven to Fit

The concepts behind German textile designer Gabriele Wiegand’s “Dress-ing Structure” project began eight years ago in the form of her dissertation at Burg Giebichenstein College of Art and Design Halle in Germany. Wiegnad was able to further explore her innovative thesis first as a guest student at Denmark’s Designskole in Copenhagen and, after graduation, with the support of a grant from the German government.

The ephemeral surfaces of her “Dress-ing Structure” series typify a growing trend toward the blurring of boundaries between what have often been considered uneasy bedfellows: textile technology and fashion. Wiegand designs the garments of her collection in their entirety prior to weaving. Equal attention is paid to the minute details of the weave structure and the form of the finished garment. As a result, Wiegand, with the assistance of her computer, addresses fabric design and garment design as a single process.

The garments are woven on a jacquard loom, making full use of the complexities double weave can offer. Synthetics such as polyester and other “high-tech” fibers, which lend themselves to various off-loom manipulations, are woven on the surface layer of the double weave. For comfort, cotton is used for the layer beneath because of its proximity to the skin.

Once woven, the cloth is processed with heat and lye, which encourage shrinkage, so that the garment scales down to its intended proportions. As Wiegand explains, garments may need as much as twice the amount of fabric woven on the loom to produce the desired size; preparing for the drastic amount of shrinkage necessary to ensure regularity in fit had become one of the central challenges to the project. After shrinkage, a minimal amount of stitching secures the garment’s final shape.

It is Wiegand’s belief that such designs could offer the public a high level of performance while eliminating unnecessary waste from production. Looking to the future, she is exploring materials that would enable a garment to warm or cool the body depending on the temperature of the wearer. In the meantime, she juggles motherhood – her daughter, Helen, was born two years ago – with an increasing interest from designers and the public alike.

FiberArts magazine (Jan./Feb. 2003: 24)