Galliano's 'Pirate' jacket appeared in his Autumn/Winter 2001 collection. In that context the jacket bespoke historical heroines like pirate Ann Bonney, Delacroix's draped allegorical figure in Liberty Leading the People and the re-cyclical nature of rebel clothing. It was resonant of post-battle euphoria, with the flag torn off a captured ship and hijacked as clothing, held together with sail rivets and ties. The jacket brought gritty imagery to the catwalk, in strong contrast to some of Galliano's more romantic visions. Today, represented on SHOWstudio, the jacket exists alone as a complicated and symbolic piece of corseting and tailoring.
It would be easy to be distracted by Galliano's use of the Union Jack, to dismiss it as a piece of nationalistic flag-waving. There are many clues in his earlier work, however, which suggest that he would never be quite so obvious in his use of source material. The Autumn/Winter 2001 collection was infused with references to the kind of renegade historical groups that have stimulated Galliano's muse since his graduate collection in 1983: Les Incroyables. And even when Galliano's designs are seemingly couched in the language of high fashion and bourgeois taste, they always have something else about them, an edge, that is drawn from the underground, the street or historical sources.
The very use of the title 'Pirate Jacket' is connotative of Galliano's approach to plundering historical detailing and silhouettes, evident in all his work. If you have experience of pattern cutting and dressmaking, or have studied historical fashion in any detail, then Galliano's work speaks to you on a level beyond the purely visual. Galliano is often at his most creative when he divulges his references through the medium of tailoring. There is a real pleasure in mentally deconstructing his work, in tracing how a certain sleeve was achieved and whence a drape originates.
Tailoring and corsetry are historic and subtle arts. To be truly innovative with them the designer must have an idea of exactly what can be achieved creatively, whilst simultaneously considering that the garment must work as practical clothing. The 'Pirate' jacket is deceptively unconstructed, a union jack appears to both wrap and support the body but simultaneously to unfurl upon it. The jacket turns traditional tailoring and corseting around and inside out, to re-present it in a modern idiom.
There is a seeming contradiction in Galliano's 'Pirate' jacket - a complicated fashion puzzle - being made available to the home dressmaker. Designer dressmaking patterns are available to buy but even the 'advanced' ones do not present the challenge to a dressmaker's skills that this project does. For a dressmaker, downloading this pattern and rebuilding the jacket excites in a visceral way. The myriad pieces and complicated construction provide an opportunity to get inside the garment and the mind of the designer - to grow the piece on a mannequin or on the body - that is incredibly holistic. The making of this jacket should be as important as the wearing of it.