Forgotten Clothing: Hip Scarves

Hip Scarves. Image by Marie Verdeil.

Last year my partner stumbled upon a fascinating piece of clothing in a second-hand shop in Donostia, Basque Country. It looks like a miniskirt but is a (unisex) piece of underwear that increases thermal comfort in winter.

The clothing piece comes by different names: hip warmer, hip hugger, hip scarf, waist scarf, back warmer, belly warmer, tummy band, core warmer, warming belt, thermal brace — the list goes on. It is known as a “Haramaki” or “belly wrap” in Japan.

My hip warmers come in different sizes and are made from 69% wool, 22% cotton, and 9% elastodiene. Judging by the packaging design, they date from the 1970s or early 1980s. [Read more…]

This clothesline goes around the corner

Low-tech Magazine featured Jonas Görgen’s mist shower in an earlier article. He did a second graduation project at the Design Academy Eindhoven that is worth mentioning: the clothesline that goes around the corner:

Revive the ol’ clothesline! This pulley system can move objects around the corner of a building. Following (or avoiding) the sun can help with making the most of the momentary weather conditions.

Modern buildings often trap the inhabitants into unsustainable practices such as using a tumble dryer or a large refrigerator. Making practical use of outside spaces of buildings is commonplace around the globe, from clotheslines spanning across streets in Italy to roofs crowded with jugs full of fermenting Kimchi in Korea.

It is not merely about resourcefulness, as these practices become part of the identity of a place.

In a reaction, he writes that “I wanted to think of a possibility to break out of the lifestyle that is dictated by the building in which you live”.

Source: Jonas Görgen.

Drying clothes near the ceiling

“It’s winter in northern Europe, and there’s no electricity. How can you dry your laundry? One of the best places of all is a laundry room in the servants’ quarters of a mansion house. A generous ceiling height means you can have frames for wet clothes and household linen in the warmest, dryest part of the room. The estate handyman would make them, and by the later 19th century he would probably add ropes and a pulley to raise and lower the rack. No need to climb on a chair to hang laundry.”

Read more: Drying clothes near the ceiling, HomeThingsPast.

Anti-Surveillance Clothing

The use of facial recognition software for commercial purposes is becoming more common, but, as Amazon scans faces in its physical shop and Facebook searches photos of users to add tags to, those concerned about their privacy are fighting back.

Berlin-based artist and technologist Adam Harvey aims to overwhelm and confuse these systems by presenting them with thousands of false hits so they can’t tell which faces are real.

The Hyperface project involves printing patterns on to clothing or textiles, which then appear to have eyes, mouths and other features that a computer can interpret as a face.

Read more: Anti-surveillance clothing aims to hide wearers from facial recognition

Clothing Insulation with Different Drapes of Sari Ensembles

The word “sari” means a strip of cloth. Historic literature points towards the use of this garment even during the Indus Valley civilization in circa 3000 BC. India has a very long and rich textile tradition. The saris vary in style, material and embellishment across the regions and cultures. A recent large-scale yearlong field study in 28 Indian offices has shown that 99% of Indian women are dressed in Indian ensembles. However, knowledge on the sari’s clothing insulation is very limited in the current codes. ASHRAE standards carry the clo values of many western-style ensembles only.

The sari in its modern day avatar is a single rectangular piece of unstitched cloth: 1.15 – 1.25 m wide and 5 to 8.1 m long. The draping style of sari varies with geographical area and the activity of the female, while there are more than a hundred known styles of draping. A unique feature of sari is that it changes the insulation level significantly just by adjusting the drapes, and there are many ways to drape the upper body and lower body. The drape of the ensemble depends on several factors including weather, occassion, and activity of the person and it alters the microclimate around various body parts.

sari clothing insulation

The steps of sari draping in “nivi” style. Source: Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping (PDF), C. Boulanger, 1997.

For this study we used the most popular “nivi” style of draping along with its four subvariations using two 5.75 m long saris. We draped a female manikin in two different saris. These are (1) a heavy weight poly-cotton handloom sari, and (2) a lightweight pure silk sari made in the Indian states of Karnataka and Tamilnadu respectively. All together, we tested nine combinations of ensemble/drapes commonly observed in office buildings in both winter and summer.

Unlike the western outfits, the sari was found to be a unique ensemble offering a range of clothing insulation, rather than a single value for a given set of garments of the ensemble depending on the drape. We noted the clothing insulation varying by about 35% due to the changes in drape on the upper body alone. The winter ensembles had a clothing insulation of 1.11 to 1.39 clo, while the summer and monsoon ensembles provided 0.62 to 0.96 clo as clothing insulation.

Quoted from: Versatile Indian sari: Clothing insulation with different drapes of typical sari ensembles, Madhavi Indraganti et al, Proceedings of 8th Windsor Conference: Counting the Cost of Comfort in a Changing World, Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, UK, 10-13 April 2014. London: Network for Comfort and Energy Use in Buildings. Many thanks to Elizabeth Shove.

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Furoshiki: Zero-Waste Shopping in Japan

In a time when cloth-making was one of the most advanced technologies, a piece of square cloth was all that a man needed to carry goods around. Japanese call it ‘Furoshiki’, a square cloth that with different wrapping techniques can basically transport anything. With its name meaning ‘bath spread’, Furoshiki is a traditional kind of wrapping cloth made of natural materials like silk and cotton. It is believed to date back to the 8th century. What was at first used to wrap up noblemen’s clothes in bathhouses gradually transported goods and gifts.

Furoshiki zero waste shopping in japan

Click to enlarge. More pictures here.

Modern bags might have outshone Furoshiki, but recent years have seen its comeback as a green alternative to shopping bags, thanks to the ‘Mottainai Furoshiki’ initiative by Yuriko Koike, Japan’s Minister of the Environment, in 2006. “It’s a shame for something to go to waste without having made use of its potential in full,” said Koike. Like what beauty label LUSH has followed to produce, the modern Furoshiki Koike upheld was made of recycled PET bottles that, as the Minister put it, “can wrap almost anything in it regardless of size or shape with a little ingenuity by simply folding it in a right way.”

The above graph demonstrating different wrapping techniques went viral on the internet. A wave of shops emerged to sell fancy furoshiki. The Minister’s statement holds some truism because a furoshiki does wrap up almost anything of all shapes and fragility – from vegetables to bottles, from wine glasses to eggs, from a baby to a dog. Besides its diversity, Furoshiki is a great alternative to adopt also because of its portability, leaving almost no room for excuses like ‘I forgot to bring my own bag’. Most of the time very decorative because Japanese treat it as an artistic craft, a furoshiki makes a great scarf, headband or pocket square.

ren wanLight and small, it comfortably fits in your pocket or day bag, whilst some furoshiki clothes are big enough to a bag whose form you can change every other day. A personal experiment proves that it helps encourage shoppers to opt for less- or un-packaged options. To avoid unnecessary packaging I visit local grocery stores for unpackaged tomatoes and to the plastic bag addicts’ surprise, it is very easy and light to transport. Just think about how one piece of cloth has the potential to replace all shopping bags. Does it not make it one of the smartest solution to shopping bags and excessive packaging?

This is a guest post by Ren Wan, a writer and sustainability advocate who is based in Hong Kong. She runs JupYeah, an online swapping platform, is a managing editor for WestEast Magazine, and blogs at Loccomama.