Worth Reading

Worth Reading

Knitting fabrics have been conquering the world since 1850

A technical Swiss publication “Bodywear – the history of knitting fashion” documents that knitting fabrics have influenced fashion trends ever since their introduction around 1800

The author Monika Burry has documented the history of knitting fashion 1850 to 2000 in her book (in German only, Chronos-Verlag, Zurich, Switzerland 2012, ISBN 978-3-0340-1132-7 and in German language only) in the framework of the series of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) Technikgeschichte (history of technology) and bearing the title “Interferenzen – Studien zur Kulturgeschichte der Technik, Band 19”.

interferenzen19The book (432 pages and 66 photographs) gives an interesting historical background of the hosiery and knitting industry and their role as new and flexible player in the newly formed clothing market starting in the second half of the 19th century. The firms started to organise themselves in combining tricot fabrics, new mechanical knitters in the manufacturing of fabrics and clothing in one enterprise. Underwear and outerwear consisting of smooth tricot fabric were applied in sportswear and reform clothing.  The book documents the history of the two industries with examples of the Swiss hosiery and knitting industry and the forthcoming labels of lingerie such as Zimmerli, Hanro and Calida, all still existing and their products are appreciated beyond Switzerland. The author gives examples of particular types of clothing and production samples from the worldwide manufacturer trade with “Swiss ribbed underwear” to a more fashion oriented production of ladylike tricot elegance up to the functional attributes of bodywear at the beginning of the 20th century.  

The study merges technological and company history and offers knowledge on fashion and corporal historical facts and describes the success of machinery produced knitting clothing as multi factual process of innovations and crisis.

Originally the book Bodywear has been based upon the research work done for the doctor thesis of history of the author, and this origin reflects the language and terms used in the book, however it is pleasant reading and reveals many new aspects of knitting fabrics and fashion. Some of the advertising campaigns in this field almost created scandals and therefore it pictures also the thinking of the society at different times. The author had access to a multitude of resources, among the Calida archives with 100 meter of materials from 1950 to 2000, among were photographs, folders, photo-shooting documents and wrappings. In any case the documentation offers a tremendous insight into many aspects of the industries, manufacturing technology, innovations, fashion and human society. The reading offers also a sensual experience in view to the changing attitude of the body and skin through the two centuries.


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