An Interview With the Woman Behind the #Shirtgate Shirt

11_20_MattTaylor2
British physicist Matt Taylor sports a garish bowling shirt featuring a collage of pinup girls in various states of undress as he prepares for an interview at the satellite control center of the European Space Agency in Germany on November 13, 2014. The following day, Taylor offered an apology for his shirt. “I made a big mistake, and I offended many people,” he said. “And I’m very sorry about this.” APTV/AP

Elly Prizeman fixes mistakes for a living—the kinds of mistakes that say hope or misspell courage in Mandarin and appear on one’s lower back. That is, she’s a laser technician who removes tattoos. She also sews. Prizeman was responsible for the now-infamous shirt of near-naked pinups worn by Matt Taylor of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. 

On November 12, Taylor, a British physicist, and his co-workers successfully landed a tiny probe called Philae on a comet traveling 84,000 miles per hour around the solar system. An impressive feat, to be sure. But the shirt Taylor was wearing when TV cameras captured the Rosetta team’s celebrations seems to have garnered more attention than the landing itself. The shirt in question:

It was the shirt that launched a thousand think pieces. “I dont care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing,” wrote The Verge, without a hint of humor. “#Shirtgate Was About More Than a Tacky Shirt,” said Vice’s Motherboard. “Shirtstorm” was Slate’s headline. Taylor later apologized for his shirt.

Prizeman, 34, is based in England, in Chelmsford, Essex, and works at Eternal Art, a tattoo parlor. She spoke to Newsweek over email about “The Shirt.” 

What’s your background? Where did you learn to sew? Do you make clothing a lot?

I am laser technician, so I remove tattoos. I cant draw at all! I leave that to my husband, who did all of Dr. Taylors tattoos, including the Philae landing one. I taught myself to sew from a book in May this year, and I make a few bits for myself and my friends in my spare time. I have done a bit of modeling. I am from the U.K. and love the 1940s and 50s styles.

How did you meet Matt? How long have you known him? How would you describe him?

I met Matt through my husband when we were just friends, before we started dating. They were old school friends. I have known Matt for about three and a half years, and we clicked instantly. I find him to be a warm, funny and very caring person. He is very sensitive and brilliant to be around. He visits us regularly, and we go to stay with him when we can in Holland. I adore him and his whole family. He was best man at our wedding and is one of the best people I know, and I feel lucky to know him.

Some have said the shirt is sexist. What’s your opinion?

Everyone is entitled to have an opinion. We would all be very boring if we felt the same way about everything. I can see both sides of the coin in this debate, but as it is a style I am into, I don’t see it as offensive. But that is just my view. It is up to us to empower ourselves. We can achieve anything we want to if we have the skills and put our minds to it.

Do you think it’s wrong to complain that the shirt is sexist?

Everyone is entitled to their own personal opinion. I feel sometimes people can take it too far and get nasty. I feel all views can be expressed adequately if it’s done constructively. No ones opinion is wrong or right. Its the delivery of the opinion I feel should be considered.

Do you think pinup imagery is inherently sexist?

It can be construed that way, I suppose. In its time, yes, but not in the modern day with women being more empowered and accepted in all walks of life. I love the female form, and these pinup prints and pictures are unique and beautiful.