Dictionary Dressings is an ongoing research project by Femke de Vries that uses the nature of the dictionary definition as a "zero condition" for 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 into English as Glove: covering of the hand). Since a hand can be covered by putting it in a pocket, by bandaging it or by sitting on it, the definition allows a pair of trousers or a bandage to be interpreted as a glove – they cover the hand and so adhere to the definition. It is exactly this particular nature of the definitions of clothing that forms the foundation and very structure of Dictionary Dressings as a research project and an emerging design approach.
VAN DALE Handschoen [Online]. Available here. [Accessed on 26/05/2015]
In this project artist/researcher Femke de Vries brings together designers, researchers and students to explore the opportunities of the approach. The experiments, references, materialisations and translations of these formal definitions have contributed to the development of an open space for experiment that facilitates hybrid, fluid ways of reading, seeing, defining and making. The approach has emerged as a playing field for fashion without any hierarchy between experienced and amateur makers, no set outcomes or conclusions, that, most importantly, generates inclusive modes of production.
The exhibition highlights an image and text archive composed by Femke de Vries and showcases explorations by practitioners who investigate materiality, form and modes of use.
The publication brings together theoretical contributions that address the relationship between fashion and the vestimentary word by Barbara Brownie and Joke Robaard, and practice-led approaches by BLESS, Conny Groenewegen, Elisa van Joolen, Ruby Hoette and participants of the Dictionary Dressings workshop. This ongoing project is captured in a book designed by Hans Gremmen and Corine van der Wal.
Overlapping and interlinking theory with hands-on making, Dictionary Dressings pushes beyond trends and accepted social and design codes to offer a fundamental shift in perspective that contributes valuable insights to the broader cultural discourse of fashion and dress.
Booklaunch and Talk
19.00 – 21.30
A talk by Joke Robaard on the ambivalence between the generalised, basic vestimentary words defined in the dictionary and the more saturated words found in fashion rhetoric or personal narratives.