Losing yourself in the design process

This shouldn’t be a shock to anybody, but I’ve come to realize that I’m definitely no fashion designer, nor do I think I ever will be. And that’s OK, my passion lies in creating things, learning new skills, perfecting the skills I have – I love to make clothes, and I always try to do the best I can to ensure good quality in what I make. I still find it interesting to learn about the design process and tricks to move ahead when I’m stuck, and just sketching clothes with no direction, not knowing where I end up can definitely be fun.

But it’s also exhausting, in part because I lose track of so many details when I try to find ways to translate my scarab into dresses. Over the last couple of days I’ve realized that fashion designers know each detail of the parts that go into making a dress intimately (obviously). They don’t necessarily know how to construct or sew a garment, but they have memorised a map of bodices, skirts, collars, sleeves etc. and know how to use this to make something new from it. And that knowledge is not something I have yet, but something I’m prepared to spend time learning.

Another aspect I miss, is the fascination of the showpiece – this big elaborate eye-catching garment that in most cases seems to be constructed only for show (therein the name), not to be worn as a garment. I like clothes to serve multiple purposes, including being worn off the runway. But all this is something I’ve worked hard to repress during this last week, as I need to at least try to move some of my boundaries when designing a mini collection based on a beetle.

I’ve had lots of help from my teacher, who’s passionate about fashion and design, and I’ve definitely pushed my limits if not exactly moved them. She’s had lots of ideas based on sketches I’ve made, and it’s been fun exploring my options. Still, I ended up lost, after shooting between different design routes, all of which were to some extent based on lines I found on the creature, like when I made dress from a landscape. I forgot about sleeves, collars and other details I’d really like to learn about constructing, and when I occasionally remembered them, I couldn’t find anything that fit into my designs.

So what have I worked with? Below is a picture where I’ve drawn in the lines I’ve worked with in orange.


Scarab lined in orange

In addition to these lines, I’ve tried too keep the turquoise and emerald green colours found in the pictures below in the back of my mind while I was working. There’s something about the scarab’s shell that screams taffeta, heavy satin or dupioni to me, and the emerald green would be stunning on a dress. During my exploration of lines I also touched the warm ochre and orange colours I associate with (Egyptian) deserts.


Scarab amulets


Green scarab

Yesterday my other teacher was supposed to tell me which of t he three dresses of my mini collection I should make. She took one look at my sketches and told me they didn’t look like anything I actually wanted to make, much less actually wear. How right she was! My sketches were finished in a hurry the night before, and I just had to have something to show at school the next day. I’d completely lost track of myself during this process. She asked me to take some time and look at pictures and sketches of clothes in order to locate something I actually wanted to (learn to) make. Then she would help me incorporate this detail into my work if needed. I love how these two teachers have such different approaches to the task at hand! Though I was bone-tired and really just wanted to be done with this, but I realised that I got an opportunity to turn thing around compared to what I did on my landscape dress. Then I just ploughed on through, tired and in need of some closure on the task. This time I get to find something to make the designs more appealing to myself, and hopefully I won’t be so tired of the design before I even start on the pattern that it all becomes a race to finish and not have to look at the thing for a couple of weeks.

I’m no fashion designer, nor do I think I ever will (want to) be. But I love making clothes, and I love to learn about the whole process of turning an idea into a finished garment. I also love the fact that I’ve learned at least two new techniques to move ahead when I’m stuck in the design process:

1. Look at the object of inspiration and just try something new and elaborate this (in this case I used the lines on top of the beetle’s shell and decorated my dresses with fractals from this) to see where it will take you.

2. Find an interesting detail and work to integrate this in the design or use this as a base for the design.

That’s all for today. Hopefully I have a new mini collection ready for inspection tomorrow, I can’t wait to go fabric shopping!


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