A n annex to the International District's wildly popular Asian-foods emporium Uwajimaya, Kinokuniya is a two-tiered store with imported books and gifts, and singsong Japanese-pop background music, and narrow aisles that bring a crammed feeling. You'll also find taco-scented stickers, eraser sets rendered into thrillingly precise strawberry-dessert miniatures, magazines in every language, and a vast selection of instructional pattern-making books.
Fashion patterns are paper templates traced onto fabric—which get cut out and sewn together, forming clothes. To develop patterns, pattern-makers must incorporate three-dimensional fabric garments as two-dimensional paper shapes. This conversion is part of proper apparel development, but unless you're fascinated by elaborate spatial puzzles, measurements, and labeling rituals, the labor turns steadily joyless. (As in all things, it helps to be high, and to bring an assload of Skittles.)
Back to Kinokuniya's shelves. Some of the books don't feature English translations, and if you have no technical training, the diagrams' arrows will only point without meaning. I bet you can figure them out, though. And if nothing else, the pictures are gorgeous. She Has a Mannish Style is good, with patterns for dainty epaulets and scallop-collared tippets. Definitely check out the Pattern Magic series by Tomoko Nakamichi, a professor at Japan's esteemed Bunka Fashion College. Worth noting: Every fall, Seattle Central Community College hosts Bunka's student fashion show, which is always excellent, and you should totally go. Nakamichi's garments are sculptural oddities, inlaid with tunnels or craters, or knots everywhere, surging up from the chest in a tangled wad. These knots are meant to resemble tiny bells, explains Nakamichi, and seeing the finished dress will evoke the sound of their ringing.
Nakamichi's other inspirations are similarly far-flung. One design has bendy accordion-disk sleeves, like the arms of a mid-century robot. Another, with stacked folds encircling the torso, deliberately resembles a crushed soda can. Another has peaks jutting out the back, belly, and hood, making a perfect triangle silhouette. Another has gloves emerging from the waist seams, so the wearer's fingers become disembodied units, growing up from fabric.
Nakamichi's masterwork blends an ordinary white knit T-shirt with an ordinary white knit hood. But the ovoid face hole and marshmallowy contours mutate all the sportswear-casual-ness, and the look swiftly takes on a sock-footed, cavity-fighting, hovering-apparition kind of vibe.
Special thanks to translators Lei Nakatani and Koji Yabumoto.
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