Slavi Kaloferov

Survival of the Outfit


Design and make a garment for surviving the social breakdown


Akriti Goel, Cristele Saric, Weiting Chi


16 – 20.01.2023


Selecting narrative

We were drawn towards and imagined the social circumstances of a pregnant homeless woman and her experience at picking up food from the foodbank during a social breakdown.

Initial ideas

Through discussion on the initial brainstormed sketches, we found that our ideas covered a diverse range of perspectives: functionality, protest strategies, technology and nature, and personal connections. 

Initial team brainstorm sketches using crazy eights.

Specifically, the team leaned towards sharing the weight of pregnancy and food with other women.

Measuring the pattern of a vest.
Preparing the pieces for our initial prototype garment.
Detail of the back of the garment.
Detail: connecting the back part of the garment with others.
Making the garment fit the body shape of a pregnant woman. Photo credit: Weiting Chi.
Detail of connection between torso and sleeve.

Grounding our outcome

We dropped homelessness from our garment because of practical and sensitive considerations about research.

The collected interview responses showed some correlation between the two papers we examined [1] [2]. We saw the connection of other women to help cope with single motherhood. 

Key insights from the conducted interviews.

Thanks to the support network of family, friends and institutions the interviewed mothers coped with physical, emotional and social challenges better resulting in a good experience with their pregnancy.

“At home, everyone showed me special care and spoiled me which made me feel special”

“My friends helped me by taking me to good food places, coming with me to do the shopping and doing other similar gestures”

Empathising with pregnant women

Wearing an imitation of a womb.
Cooking while wearing the womb. Photo credit: Akriti Goel.
Using the kitchen while wearing the womb. Photo credit: Weiting Chi.
Social interactions with the womb.
Doing a heavy task together with wombs.

Context and focus of our garment

The social disruption removed the supportive network – single mothers without connection to family and institutions.

Social connections expressed in the garment

The insight pointed us to social arrangements in space. In the case of a mother with a support network, she felt in the centre while single mothers counted on each other to carry the weight.

Garment sketch idea. Credit: Cristele Saric.
Testing the attachment of the garment. Photo credit: Cristele Saric.
Testing the next version of our prototype for carrying weights. Photo credit: Weiting Chi.
Cutting the fabric material for the garment. Photo credit: Akriti Goel.
Stitching the pieces together.
Sewing the garment pieces together.
Testing the garment. Photo credit: Qibin Cheng.

Rituals during motherhood

Another idea we explored is the use of performance to demonstrate the passing of time through movement and the use of a journal reading. From here we brought forward the ritual elements, such as rotating and repeated actions.

Challenges of using symbolism

Despite our attempt to link our artefact to specific symbols and express contexts in materials, we did not manage to achieve it as successfully. We could have used the AEIOU exercise to become very specific from where we could extract specific symbols (behaviours, interactions or objects) with which we can make it believable and tangible and decide how open for interpretation to the person to be.

(Dewey, pp. 10-25, 2008) Make the artefact disrupt the typical experience of, in our case, single motherhood by relating it to the broader social civic life. We looked at Lucy Orta’s and Matthew Barney‘s work to get a sense of how we might achieve this.

The garment

Garment: social connection of community. Photo credit: Qibin Cheng.
Garment detail: sharing the weight with the community. Photo credit: Qibin Cheng.
Garment from the top. Photo credit: Qibin Cheng.

Video footage credit: Qibin Cheng. Edit: Slavi Kaloferov.


We could have crafted our garment to a more sophisticated level, however, its shape and the connections between the pieces turned relatively complex to work with. We had experienced what Ingold refers to as a “process of growth” where the maker’s idea and labour “join forces” with the material qualities of the raw material he works with (2013, pp. 17-32).

We tried to be as efficient as possible and reduce waste which came at the cost of experimentation that could have helped us to solve the crafting problems and achieve the polished look.


The garment could have been more structured to work as a sculpture.


[1] Knight, C., 2017. Group work with homeless mothers: Promoting resilience through mutual aid. Social Work62(3), pp.235-242.

[2] Bimpson, E., Reeve, K. and Parr, S., 2020. Homeless mothers: key research findings.

Dewey, J., 2008. Art as experience. In The live creature (pp. 10-25). Penguin.

Orta, S. (n. d.) Artwork: Series – studio Orta, Artwork: Series –. Available at: (Accessed: January 17, 2023).

Matthew Barney: The Cremaster Cycle (Official Trailer) (2013) Dailymotion. Dailymotion. Available at: (Accessed: January 19, 2023).

Ingold, T., 2013, Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. In The materials of life (pp. 17-32). Taylor & Francis Group. London.