A couple of weeks ago I bought a shirt, a summer tank top, at one of the mall ladies' clothing stores. It's probably been around since the middle of Spring, because it was on the markdown rack. I didn't buy it because I was in love with it, it's a fabric that I'm not fond of wearing but the colors are good for me, it was reasonably priced, and makes a very cute outfit with the knit maxi skirt that's become my first choice for a quick change for an evening out. I put the top on last night for the first time, and found myself marveling at what it actually is.
The fabric is printed - most likely a digital print, with a section of metallic beads heat-applied on the center front. (Yeah, I know. Not really the best choice for a woman my age.) The first thing that caught my eye as I was wearing the shirt is that the embellishment is color-coordinated and applied so that it follows the images in the print - there are blue "stones" (they're actually more like little nailheads, like flat-top hexagonal mounds) on each petal of a flower, for instance, and gold ones following the scalloped border of the section. The entire design is a little bit distorted in the center, so not as perfectly applied on the garment right as it is on the left. But someone would have to be pretty close and staring at an intimate part of my anatomy to really notice that, for sure.
|I can envision this as a sort of iron-on transfer, with all the studs set on the garment at one time.|
I pointed this out to my husband, and he - ever the engineer - had me turning in circles while he examined the shirt. The print continues across the side seams as well. A little tug there, and you can see a small solid line on either side of the seam.
|The front of the armhole is lying flat, with the back side pulled over to show the inside. The print break at the side seam is also visible in this photo.|
So, how did they do this? The garment has to have been assembled using a solid fabric, then printed as a garment. The embellishment has to have been applied in one pressing, coordinated to the print. My dh used to manage a team in a plant that assembled CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) milling machines - these are room-sized pieces of machinery that can take a block of steel and turn it into a part for something at the push of a button: holes drilled into any face needed, engraving done, you name it. He's betting this process has been adapted to fabric printing, but he's stymied by how the garment is held in position for the printing. Working with the flattened shirt to take the photos this morning, it looks like it may have been some kind of spray application. The logical mind in me wants to know if this is even possible?
The country of origin is listed as China. Fabric is a poly/spandex knit. I can't wait to hear if some of you have seen this in the clothing out there - I look forward to your comments.