Thursday, April 7, 2011

Senior Thesis Development

This is the second in a series of posts following the development of my senior thesis in fashion design at the University of Cincinnati, college of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).

As I first discussed in this post, the concept for my senior thesis, which is a collection of 8 women's wear looks, is based on the theory that the language you speak affects the way you view the world. One example that I frequently use when explaining this concept is from this article. The word for "bridge" is masculine in Spanish, while feminine in German. So when Spanish speakers were asked about bridges, they described them as sturdy, hard, masculine objects. German speakers, however, described them as slender and elegant structures - typically feminine adjectives.
I was intrigued by all of this and began to wonder - co
uld this thinking be applied to fashion? I began researching languages, looking up specific words for garments like "dress" and "pants." I noted the gender of the words along with the number. Did you know that the word for pants is plural in Spanish (los pantalones) but singular in French (un pantalon)?
My original idea was to study all kinds of different languages - Russian, Japanese, Chinese, German, French, Spanish, Latin (my background is English, 4 years of French, 1 year of Latin). Quickly I found that this would be overwhelming, since some of those languages use different characters, and it was hard to find native or fluent speakers to answer my questions. I decided to narrow my research to French, Spanish, and German.
I felt that since these languages have a similar root in Latin (although German not so much), the differences between them would be especially interesting.
So, I created a chart and went to town with the translator.
(The specific words and inspiration I took from them will be explained in a few days when I start posting my sketches)

For color inspiration, I did look at more of a broad variety of languages. After doing some research, I found certain anomalies that were too interesting and inspiring to be ignored. Apparently, in Japanese, the words for a pure green or pure blue can be used interchangeably. So, you could hear the green of a stoplight in Japan be called blue. More on that here. (so cool!!). That NYT article also discussed the fact that Russian has a lot more words for blue than English, and the language makes a distinction between light blue and dark blue, seeing them as different colors, rather than a shade of the same color. This seems to explain why Russian speakers can identify between shades of blue.
I hope this all makes sense. As I mentioned above, I'll soon be posting my sketches and fabric swatches, with an explanation of each design and the language/word inspiration behind it.

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