Changing the world one stitch at a time

Patents, power and the politics of clothing inventions

Cover image of Kat Jundnickel climbing over a fence

In 2024, Kat Jungnickel, Professor in the Sociology Department at the University of London, joins metaLAB (at) Basel as researcher-in-residence! During their research stay, Kat will explore inventive approaches to archival research, radical histories of clothing patents, speculative sewing, and DIY wearable tech cultures. In collaboration with Aylin Tschoepe, Director of metaLAB (at) Basel, Kat will further connect across the Institute of Contemporary Design Practices at HGK Basel FHNW and shared interests in feminist technoscience, feminist spatial and embodied practice, etc.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 4 pm (CEST; Switzerland)/10 am (EST; Boston), Kat Jungnickel will give a public Show & Tell presentation online and onsite at HGK Basel’s Aula (auditorium). A full description by Kat and event details below.

Changing the world one stitch at a time: Patents, power and the politics of clothing inventions

Kat Jundnickel’s carry-all hat sequence image

What might C19th aviatrix (women pilot) outfits have in common with early women’s sportswear for cycling, hiking, horse riding or simply climbing fences? What shared challenges, and barriers did clothing inventors attempt to address? And how did their innovative wearables help wearers make claims to equal rights, usurp conventional gender and power relations and forge radical acts of citizenship?

In this talk, I show & tell speculative sewing stories about historic sportswear inventions to explore how individuals, often in small and mundane ways, collectively attempted to change the world stitch by stitch. Here the ordinary is transformed into the extra-ordinary. I frame my discussion using STS, feminist technoscience, queer and gender theory and because little is as it seems on the surface, I reflect on steganography –a tactic of coding or concealing information in plain sight— and pay attention to use, misuse, and what Sara Ahmed calls “queer use” which is “when we use something in ways that were not intended” (2019, 26).

Data and costumes come from my European Research Council funded project Politics of Patents (or POP for short) in which I lead a team of sewing social scientists to research, reconstruct and reimagine 200 years of global clothing inventions (1820-2020). Throughout I discuss the challenges of stitching theory, methods and data into three-dimensional wearable arguments and reflect on what can be learned from getting up close to and into the clothes of others.


Wednesday, May 22, 2024, 4 pm (CEST; Switzerland)/10 am (EST; Boston)
Hochhaus, Seminarraum 1. OG, D 1.02
Freilager-Platz 1, 4142 Basel