"Uniforms: habit and belonging" Workshop proposal at LOTE


Workshop of 4 hours composed by 2 sessions:

  • a discussion

  • hands-on prototyping

TITLE: “Uniforms: habit and belonging”

Starting from the  “Habitus non facit monachum” principle (“It’s not the gay coat that makes the gentleman”) we’ll examine the main reasons why uniforms became useful in history, what are uniforms today, and outline which concept subtends unMonestary habitus. In the second session we’ll explore simple techniques of garment construction to start tracing some possible prototypes to be shared and discussed among a larger group of members.

Who should attend: anyone who is interested in reflecting on the specific aim of proposal and preferably is not afraid of putting her hands at work.

Why I propose this activity: I’ve been running a similar (but longer) workshop in Geneva within Serpica Naro Collective some years ago and the results made me think that it would be worth doing it at LOTE.

In that occasion, we prototyped a uniform called MULTIFORMA. I also worked on other project on open design, rapid prototyping and alternative fashion systems.

You can find more info and pics about the MULTIFORMA event in the following links:

“Uniforms have always been carries of messages highlighting the collective identity and eclipsing individual subjectivity- In religion, uniforms express virtue, in armies bravery and obedience, at work, hygiene, order, status. All uniforms have the aim to provide an individual with sameness within a collective, while at the same time making her or him distinct from the members of another collective.”



Below some interesting quotes from different texts to inspire you:

“The Roman Catholic Church— which split from the Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Empire in 1054 was at the height of its power during this period. To most western Europeans, the popes in Rome were God’s representatives on earth.They dressed in splendid robes and jewels, and wore a kind of crown as a symbol of their power […] By the time of Pope Benedict XII (died 1342), the tiara was ringed by three crowns, arranged in tiers. […] Some objected to the earthly riches of the Church and preferred to live their lives in spiritual retreat. From the tenth century onward, these monks and nuns formed different “orders,” communities devoted to a religious life.The orders favored very simple dress and each had its own uniform.”

(History of Fashion and COstume, Medieval WOrld, volume 2)

"Monastic rules are the first texts of Christian culture in which clothes acquire a completely moral meaning. Until that moment, in fact, cleric was not distinguished by his dress from the other members of the community.

Monasticism transformed clothing into habitus, rendering it indiscernible from a way of life and consequently different from secular habit."

As only during Council of Trent in the middle of 16th century Council of Trent - Wikipedia that clergy garments were universally determined.

“Wearing the habit confirm this choice, making it visible and enforceable, but this is not strictly essential. […]  Some who wear habits are not entitled to them: they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. […] Virtue can be judged only by direct observation of a person’s way of life, while religious garments are useful for the reason in support of school uniforms: they promote group cohesion, eliminate visible differences between persons of different social origin, and distinguish insiders from outsiders.”

(Imagining an English Reading Public, 1150-1400, By Katharine Breen)

“To inhabit together thus meant for the monks to share, not simply a place or a style of dress, but first of all a habitus. The monk is in this sense a man who lives in the mode of “inhabiting”, according to a rule and a form of life. It is certain, nevertheless, that cenoby represents the attemp to make habit and form of lige coincide in an absolute and total habitus, in which it would not be possibile to distinguish between dress and way of life. The distance that separates the two meanings of the term habitus will never completely disappear, however, and will durably mark the definition of the monastic condition with its ambiguity.”

(The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life - By Giorgio Agamben) Thanks to BEN Vickers for this book suggestion .

Great idea Zoe: Style and stealth :slight_smile:

I think this is a great idea Zoe, and there is much to be explored with respect to the relationship between what we wear and how we relate to one another. I spent a good chunk of my early life in school uniform and didn’t appreciate how much not having to choose what to wear everyday freed up cognitive space. It was also an equaliser of sorts, and I remember feeling somewhat protected by it. On reading about the workshop for some reason I was reminded about Stealth Wear a deign/art project in which they design garments for counter-surveillance. It’s been featured on the Guardian, Salon etc. Check it out here.

1 Like

I <3 the experiments of stealth wear

And we could also add a bit of interactivity, maybe in a second phase :wink:

look what i’ve just published today: The interactive veil expressing emotions with Lilypad | Arduino Blog

What we could immediately do is test countersurveillance makeup and hair style  (is it full of CCCT cameras in matera ;)??)

1 Like

Curious about the prototyping phase

This seems like a fantastic session, thank you dor proposing it. I definitely want to attend. Though I am more of the bookish type myself, I am most intrigued by your second phase of prototyping. How would that work? I can’t see how you’d build anything that complex in just two hours. Is this going to be sketches on paper?

The picture I have in my head is this: do some preliminary work online between here and lote3 to identify some of the requirements that a garment would need to meet to be worn by unMonasterians. Then identify some simple “platform” that could turn into an unMonastic dress (the mind runs to [Matthias]'s famous kevlar-woven cargo pants). Procure one or two exemplar. Then, once in Matera, do some work to “pimp them” for the purpose; finally, have someone wear them and take pictures. Unrealistic?

1 Like

Thanks for the enthusiasm …

Thanks for the enthusiasm and focus on the practical part.

Actually I believe that the discussion could start online, from the basics, to understand also if a uniform is necessary at all. As Nadia pointed out, we could come out with the idea that it’s enough to wear an accessory or a symbol, because a uniform is not suitable for such a diverse environment. It’s important though to have a live session of discussion, because in that moment we can allow ourselves  to be a bit more intimate about our feelings and attitute towards uniforms,  and people are more free to share details without being too public.

Regarding the prototyping session, what I’m interested in is showing some techniques to empower people in the ability to prototype concretely starting from very basic shapes. Drawings are definitely not enough especially if we want to involve in the process people without any experience in garment-making. It’s easy to make complicated 2d drawings and features, but it becomes a nightmare when you have to cut and sew it. The result I’d want to aim at is to have a documentation of very easy instruction for people to create their own uniform and customize it, without being a tailor. The sharing of knowledge is about building some steps to shorten the distance between professionals and beginners, at least building a set of bridges to allow communication and co-creation.

We are going to prototype and learn about techniques on dolls/puppet, it’s faster, immediate and cheaper to learn about fitting and 3d. Way before fashion magazines, fashion dolls was the best way couturiers were using to show off to noble ladies living far away, what garments they could do.

“When Henry IV of France was about to marry Marie de Medici as his second wife, he sent her several model dolls ‘as samples of our fashions’, presumably to impress her with the desirability of life at the French court”.

Clear :slight_smile:

Clear, great. So, will you need a fashion doll? Where do you find one? It’s important to state clearly what materials you need, we’ll try to make them happen. Please add them to the wiki for materials and talk to [Rita O] for specifics.

[Bembo Davies], you need to read through this thread. You have much to contribute here.

1 Like

Wooden puppets would be perfect

I’ll add a list of materials in the wiki.

1 Like

Which wiki?

[zoescope], I can’t find th wiki with the list of materials!

Here’s the place


1 Like

prototyping phase

hi [zoescope] I read your update on my wiki as soon as you published it but, at that time, I could’t give you an answer: BTW, things are going further. Tomorrow, in the morning, I’ve a date with the Principal of a professional institute for fashion in Matera. I thought that it would be easier for us to ask taylor’s shop use (but I still don’t know how large it is): in exchange, their best students may take part to your workshop.

On the alternative, I’ll try to borrow some sewing machines (hoping that it won’t be so hard)…otherwise I’ll try to find another way! :wink:

officine frida

hi [zoescope] [Alberto] [Noemi] let me introduce to you officine frida, a group of creative tailors (besides architects, painters, etc) who have been so nice to host our workshop. The atelier is at Piazza del Sedile, in the very center of the town, in a lovely studio on two levels. They’ve anything we need and I found fabrics too. They just want to know how many people will attend (max 15) and asked me to set up a facebook event to spread the new so that also Materani can joy us. The attendants will have to sign a release of the responsibility if they were hurt.

What do you think? Can we send an e-mail and check out who will bw involved?

1 Like

Attending to events at Lot3

Hi Rita,

that’s great news :slight_smile:

I think you are touching a broader issue. It’s not clear to me what’s the channel of communication you set up between Lot3 and Materani. How are you dealing with letting Materani know what’s happening in the city in the next 5 days and how can they subscribe to events? (not only my workshop). If you are using facebook, then it’s ok to use facebook, but usually fb events are not a good way for limited access situations because people tend to click on GO, even if they will not, because it’s a way to express good feeling about the event. (and also a lot of people don’t have fb, incredible!)

How many people can sit and work in Frida’s room? 10? 20? If that’s the maximum number than I’d prefer to use a software similar to evenbrite that allow booking. But it all depends on my previous question about the overall approach you are having because it’s better to use only one tool for all the events.

looking forward to meet you all soon! (arriving on thursday) :))))

1 Like

Platform, rather

I would rather use the Edgeryders platform + the usual combination of Twitter/Facebook for communication. The advantages are that all the info stays in one page; and that people coming to LOTE3 are registered on it anyway (or should be). I propose [zoescope] updates her session’s wiki with a limited capacity warning: only 15 people to be accepted. At this point, everyone takes that link and pushes it out through Twitter and Facebook, in English and Italian starting with the official Edgeryders account “Important! Sign up for @zoescope’s workshop… limited capacity… [link].” People subscribe by leaving a comment to the wiki. In this way they are committed.