The Art and Craft of Fashion: Introduction

I have decided to blog about my art and my craft as a designer of fashion in a modern world. The art is the stuff I invent. The craft is interesting because it is the process, the engineering if you will, and all of the factors that help me take an idea to completion.

Award Winning Clothing Designer

So, I begin with an excerpt from a conversation with my brother-in-law, a naval engineer. He works on big government engineering projects. There are similarities in what we each do….

He asks,

“How do you make your designs, what is the process?”

I answer that it is much like the process he goes through – it is engineering, and iterative, to get to the point where I have the design as I want it.

He mulls that over, wants to know all about the engineering of a garment, a design.

The Art and Craft of Fashion

I tell him that as an artist I have a vision for a design, and a collection, and as a designer/engineer, I make that vision happen. I begin with some ideas about form and silhouette, and I draw those, often with notes about certain fabrics and design treatments. Then I move to the draping and pattern-making phase, and explain that draping is the most fun for me.

Draping the design involves use of a muslin fabric specially woven for the draping process. I cut a length of cloth and square it = make sure the warp and weft are true, perpendicular to each other. Then I drape on the form, marking the lines and curves I have in mind for the design with a pencil and with special marking ribbon, or tape (not sticky tape). This is a lot like sculpting or making a 3D model, but in real size rather than half scale.

Once I have the design as I think I like, I take it off the form (mannequin) and begin to solidify the lines and design marks to make a muslin pattern. Then I cut a first prototype in a fabric that will mimic the drape of my target fabric, usually something less expensive….

Clothing Engineer

I baste the prototype together, fit it to a ‘fit model’, someone who has a good figure, e.g. one of good proportions. This fitting process involves pins and tucking and realigning design lines to better flow for a living breathing moving person as opposed to my still life mannequin.

If the alterations are minimal, I can adjust my pattern, create a paper pattern and cut in my designated fabric. If the alterations are more extensive, I go back to my mannequin and re-drape or I make adjustments to a new muslin and cut a new prototype in the inexpensive fabric, refit the model – it is definitely an iterative process!

Even when I cut my final prototype in a beautiful and luscious fabric, there are still the details of trims and finishes to attend to. Each fabric requires that special attention to detail to make the design truly unique, modern, flattering to the human form. Eye candy, yes. But also easy to wear! Effortless, as though the body and design are integral to each other.

When I begin with an illustration, I may put in certain details in the drawing that will lend to some fabrics but not others, so the details often change to suit the ‘context’ of the fabric.

Next topic: Who are the different team members in a fashion business?

Drapers, pattern-makers, sewing techs and engineers. Like my brother-in-law’s profession, quality engineers are always in demand, always hard to find!