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The deconstructed fisherman's dress

One Christmas, my husband asked me for a traditional fishermen’s’ sweater and it got me thinking about this versatile and much worn item of clothing.

There are so many variations and types whether it is the sweater as worn in Guernsey since the 15thcentury or the Arran sweater worn on the islands off the west coast of Ireland. It is the tradition and longevity of these jumpers I admire – also the fact they were knitted by the wives before the fishermen set out on their boats.

I didn’t knit my husband a sweater in the end, but I did end up designing my take on the fisherman’s sweater.

It had to resemble the traditional fisherman’s sweater, but I also wanted to bring all the elements associated with it – the feel of the ocean and the nets but also with a bit of a twist…

As I love playing with textures, I thought velvet would best represent the feel of the ocean. It is such a lush and tactile fabric. The original fishermen’s sweaters were hand knitted in unscoured wool; the natural oils in the wool rendering the sweaters water repellent… it was, therefore, important that I hand knit parts of the dress.

For the knitted parts, I used a blend of organic cotton, linen, merino and silk wool from The Fibre Company. The wool is called Luma – ‘threads of sunlight’ which made me imagine the fishing boats on a warm sunny day! I bought the wool in a lovely little shop in Bath called A Yarn Story that has fabulous organic wools.

I also love the neckline of the traditional sweater and I wanted to keep that in the ‘boat’ neckline of the dress. Integral to the fishermen are, of course, their boats and their nets so I wanted to incorporate a mesh element into the dress. Thus, the knitted piece down the front of the dress represents the fishing nets – complete with holes!

The fishermen’s sweater, for obvious reasons, had long sleeves but since I had intentionally deconstructed the pattern, my dress has hand knitted detachable sleeves; the dress can now be worn in spring and autumn (or on a particularly chilly summers day) without sleeves, then when winter comes, just button on the sleeves…

I wanted to dress to also have some playful elements in it and so with a nod to the 60s, the dress has an A-line form to it.

It is a playful dress to wear - pair it with wellies for an authentic feel or dress it up with a pair of wedges…

Karina Zabihi

August 2019

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