War Collars project

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I have spent quite a lot of the summer at conferences presenting my research to my colleagues.  One of the new projects for this year was on the connection between suits of armour and contemporary men’s business suits.  Both are about protection and display, and both are designed for men.  Women fit very badly into business suits just like they fit uneasily with big organisations.  My explanation for this is that organisations are arenas for men’s aggression, real or symbolic, micro-aggressions as they are known in the sociology business and women have no place in men’s quasi aggression (consider women’s football, cricket, rugby, boxing).  You can decide whether you agree with this or not, but whenever I listen to my corporate friends talking about their cars I always think of the scene in `Henry V where the Dauphin and his knights boast about their horses.  Anyway, according to this logic, women going into the corporate fray need their own sort of protection, so I thought it would be interesting to make some gorgets for them, based on an element of plate armour:

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Gorgets were the piece of armour that protected the throat.  The throat is a vulnerable area, and also produces the voice, which so many women find gets silenced in organisations, hence the old New Yorker joke, ‘That’s an excellent idea, Miss Jones, perhaps one of the men would like to suggest it.’  So, I decided to make some gorgets with the proviso that they had to be just about wearable.  More about this project later, but I wanted to start with the second one I made, which I call the ‘Money Gorget’.  The finished piece is at the top of the post.

I started with a piece of fabric made from remnants of previous projects which I had started and then abandoned:

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These were rough strips of blue, woven loosely together then tacked down onto a piece of Laura Ashley needlecord.  Then, for some unknown reason, I started to do seeding all over it with thick yellow perle cotton.  What a stupid idea.  Very hard on the hands.  But the little yellow marks look like tumbling coins when you step back a bit.  I added some more stitching with Madeira’s lovely lana thread which has a high wool content and so makes quite a nice firm mark and comes in really good subtle colours which tone down my preference for fuschia and lime:

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I outlined the pattern with tacking stitches and then filled it in with stitching.

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Then I began to cover it with smoky acrylic gems that I collected from a flashy top.  There is a custom in my part of Bristol of leaving things on the wall for others to take if they can use them, and I picked up the top on a walk with the dog.  Fantastic to find so many gems for free:

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Finally, I lined the piece and then stitched some cube beads on with buttonhole, using a technique that I learned from Laura Kemshall, and the whole thing sprang to life and suddenly looked very finished:

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These cube beads used to be violently expensive so you could only do a bit of the edge, but they seem to have come right down in price.

I finished it off with a secret pocket on the back for messages of encouragement and support:

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Which is the fabric without any embellishment.  I made the strap with a chain necklace in Sainsbury’s sale – and you could see why – which fitted well and makes it look like the more ceremonial hanging gorget you see after plate armour was no longer widely used in battle.

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The idea behind this piece is to prompt thought about how bad women still are about talking about money.  The grey gems obscure the coins, but the money is still there.  Maybe I should put some cash in the secret pocket and see if that has any effect.

Here’s the workbook page for those of you who like sketchbooks:

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7 thoughts on “War Collars project

  1. So interesting, as always, to follow your thoughts and design processes right to the finished piece. I made some collars years ago, need to look at them again.

  2. This is fabulous. Love that secret pocket. I can imagine the confidence boost wearing this would provide, especially with the fortification of a secret message.

  3. being a feminine version it also looks much more practical than the male versions, which always look uncomfortable. but that kind of ceremonial gorget always reminds me of those little silver labels that hang round the nexks of sherry decanters ~runs away and hides~

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