Origami Clothing

The main themes of my stupid unintended design week are of course convenience, portability, and “why are you so obsessed with travel gear, you never go anywhere”, the latter of which is a question revolving to a certain degree around a permanent fear of homelessness. [Solutions which aren’t, alas “more social housing”]

Back in my more venturesome days, when I had the flexibility, Young Person’s Railcard, and high number of friends at different universities that made it less imprudent to abandon things at a moment’s notice and get on a train to wherever for the privilege of getting drunk and sleeping on someone’s floor, I packed absurdly light. My major concessions to hygiene were to stuff into the pockets of a very large pair of Cyberdog trousers a pair of clean pants, a toothbrush, and some deodorant. Admittedly during the same time period my major food group was “vodka” and the major export of the State of Del was “bad decisions”, somewhat linked to that particular foodgroup.

On the occasions that I’ve needed to take a change of clothes anywhere more recently I’ve been wildly indignant about how much space the wretched things take up, requiring me to do things like “bring a suitcase” on planes or “have a bag with me” when I don’t feel like it. The Cyberdog trousers, with their crisp-packet texture and eight enormous pockets, are long dead.

Exploration into the world of garment bags and packing assists along those lines has been fruitful but insufficient: while I like being able to mash an outfit into a small case and chuck a series of small cases into a bigger bag, I feel more can be done, and the existence of the cases themselves seems cumbersome. After five years at boarding school and various wildlife camp weekends (I am a cool kid, a very cool kid) I’d say I’m relatively adept at wrangling clothing into the most efficient configurations, but sometimes you really do not WANT to spend time turning each t-shirt into a spiral with a balled-up pair of undergrunts in the middle.

T-shirts are also the least of my worries. They condense down small. They compress logically. They’re made of jersey, which is cooperative in the “taking any shape without being a nuisance” stakes.

Recently I bought a Matador, because I live my life on gift and gadget websites and have been misguidedly given control over my own finances under the shaky idea that I am in some way a responsible adult rather than a poorly-contained bundle of impulses who, by the way, bought 7 books on T E Lawrence in under 3 minutes last week. Who allows me to have a debit card and why?

The relevance is this: the Matador is a very thin water-resistant nylon blanket with fold lines and an attached pouch. Condensing down to the approximate size of a wallet, it spreads out to cover enough ground that two adults can comfortably lie down on it. This is, of course, magical. And also enticing. Thin, light, water-resistant fabric which is already shown to take up less than no space and to weigh nothing – I’ve been carrying it in my pocket for a couple of weeks and it’s a damn sight lighter than the wallet full of USB drives, spare change, and soy sauce bottles I insist on keeping in the hip pocket.

Also, attached pouch.

I’m hoping that, if I can get my hands on some of this fabric, I’ll be able to replicate this level of compression and convenience as a pair of trousers, or at least shorts. In the meantime, I intend to test the idea with jersey, since I’ve got some knocking around and, unlike everything else that’s come up in Oops It’s Design Week I Guess, I CAN sew and design clothing. CAD and 3D printing may be beyond me. Dehydrating and powdering food definitely are. I can’t fund a housing project. But I can probably make a pair of shorts with one pocket that is an inverted storage pouch, perfect for flipping the whole garment into, yanking on some drawstrings, and transforming “fuck, my clothes are everywhere” to “I have a couple of small bundles that will fit in my jacket pocket” in seconds.

But why stop with these shorts? I mean, shorts are wonderful, and I want these to exist in lightweight fabric for reasons besides convenient folding (why are all the shorts I want to buy made out of fabric that is apparently intended to make me sweat to death when every summer it gets above 30C now? I’m English! I can’t handle hot weather! Or cold weather! Or weather!). BUT.

I think there’s scope for a wider range of products. A whole line of origami travel clothing, designed to be shoved into itself and carried with immediate ease, or with a secondary function, and these people clearly already agree with me. See?


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