There has been talk on blogs lately about the zero-waste concept in fashion design. The idea is that the fabric is cut in such a way that (almost) every last bit is used. Conventional fabric design (as anyone who has worked with a purchased pattern knows) is very wasteful in its use of fabric, and so the idea of using the fabric more economically (and therefore environmentally) is welcome.
Zero-waste is not a new concept though. Traditionally all over the world (including Europe and the US) fabric has been used in as economical a way as possible. Weaving fabric by hand was (and is) very labor-intensive and thus it was used with great care. For most people this has meant that their clothes were designed using rectangular construction. Rectangular construction involves cutting the fabric into squares and rectangles, some of which may be cut in half to produce triangles. The classic peasant skirt is two rectangles sewn into a tube and then gathered into a waist band made of one or more rectangles.
Below is a purple jacket made on this concept:
And a brown tunic:
The body of the tunic is one long rectangle folded in half. The jacket is two rectangles with small wedges cut out at the shoulder lines. The front rectangle was split up the center. The sleeves of the tunic are two trapezoids cut in such a way that they nested against each other. The sleeves of the jacket are rectangles. In both cases rectangles were split into triangles in order to add width from the waist line to the hem. You can see this more clearly in the below photo.
Generously sized and long (mid-thigh), each project took a mere two yards of fabric and all that was left on the cutting table was a few scraps.