Circular garments

2. Circular garments

Zandra Rhodes was completely new to making dresses, having studied for her foundation and diploma in design at Medway College of Design, followed by textile design at the Royal College of Art. However, she turned this challenge into one of her strengths. As she didn't know the rules, it meant that she could invent her own rules for fashion design and be original and innovative.

The textile print 'Knitted Circle' consisted of a circle measuring 36 inches from edge to edge, in order to match the width of the wool felt fabric. However, she also wanted to print the design on silk chiffon and this fabric had a 42 inch width. The challenge was not to waste the expensive fabric so Zandra Rhodes added a border to the 'Knitted Circle' screen to make the most of the fabric. When printing on wool felt, the border could be blocked off.

It was also a challenge to print a circle on these different fabrics. Printing on wool felt was straightforward because it doesn't have a weave. However, when working with a circle of silk chiffon, there were problems to overcome to make the hems even due to the stretch on the cross of the fabric.

Once the fabric was printed, Zandra Rhodes would hold it up to her body and look at it in a mirror to try and decide what she was going to make with the fabric. By adapting or playing with the shape of the circle, and with the nature of the actual fabric itself, a circle could become a yoke or sleeve or skirt. In addition, elements of the design would be worked on a stand and pinned to a mannequin to create the desired shape.

The approach that Zandra Rhodes started with her first collection in 1969 is still followed by studio staff to this day. Her Pattern Maker describes the process in the video tutorial 7: Pattern Cutting.