fashion school flashback – my first design project

Okay, if you’re just landing on this site now for the first time, I want to assure you that since this project was made I went on to do much more impressive things.

This is more of a treat for all of the fashion students who email me with questions, and aspiring fashion entrepreneurs who are curious about how I got started.  I often say that no one (with the exception of exceptional geniuses) starts out as a fashion rock star, and perhaps the best way to prove this is by showing you something.

I present to you… my first ever major fashion school project, circa 2002:

front view

Yes – this is a linen-look polyester printed striped shirt, with purple polyester ruffle trim, princess seams, a V neck and matching hemline.  On a design level, I have no idea why I would make such arbitrary choices when it comes to fabrics, trims and design details.  This shirt takes ugly to a whole new level, which is why I won’t show you what it looks like on a body.

inside view

One thing that I am impressed with for a first effort is the level of finishing.  Seems I was an unusually finicky first year fashion student, and the seam allowances, serging and seams are all remarkably even and assured looking (though I do recall much unpicking and restitching). I also managed to match almost all of the stripes on the side seams, though the stripes don’t quite match anywhere else.  I also quite like the shaping of the facings.

button detail

One area where I had trouble was where the collar meets the center front.  It had not occurred to me in the patternmaking stage how I would deal with such a narrow breakpoint when I sewed it, and I had to jury-rig the finishing here with a small snap and some stitches to make the collar lie correctly.

collar detail

The other thing I valiantly struggled with was fitting the required 2″ sleeve cap ease (according to the patternmaking textbook) into the armholes.  That I managed to somehow compress the inflexible polyester without a single pucker is a testament to many tries, and maybe a little bit of “cheating” when it came to trimming the seam allowance.

back view

The other thing that amuses me now about this shirt is the effort I put into transferring all of the curves of the princess seam into the side panels, so that the front and back panels seams were straight lines along the grain.  The unintended (and in retrospect, funny) effect of such painstaking patternmaking is that the stripes on the fabric appear to create a bulging effect at the waist.

Your turn – do you have any tales of first year fashion projects?  Major bonus points from me to any blogger gutsy enough to post evidence of such early efforts.

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17 thoughts on “fashion school flashback – my first design project”

  1. Hilarious! Thank you for sharing… I’m tempted to pull out an old project from deep in a closet somewhere so you can see that I definitely made less attractive things than this. 🙂 We all have to start somewhere.

  2. oh my. I think the first thing I made as a student not in muslin was a chambray circle skirt w/ white stripes and a built up waistband. I would post a photo if I still had it. I still hate matching stripes and babyhemming. babyhemming! gah! *shakes fist

  3. It might make me some kind of weirdo, but I really like this shirt. The material, the ruffles, the cut – all of it.

    I’ve been wanting to get into designing clothing from remixed thrift finds. I got as far as adding embellishments to a shirt, but stopped there. I’ve got zero experience with clothing alterations. Maybe I’ll pick up again later, but for now, that idea’s been (wait for it) scrapped. (I kill me.)

  4. Haha! I can’t wait to dig out my bin of old projects, and post them on my blog! I have pre-fashion school design projects that are pretty hilarious, and my first school project too which was inspired by. . . chickens, and made of orange and brown chintz. It exists in an alternate universe of ugly.

  5. It’s not as bad as you think! The stripes made me laugh pretty good though, took me a minute to figure out what you did to make it look like that lol If I can find a photo I will post something tomorrow.

  6. Jaka, if the fit on this shirt wasn’t so atrocious, I might consider giving it to you. But the last thing I’d want to do would be to make you look like

    Nadia, you’re killing me. ROFL.

    Kathleen – yours is classic – and I should have credited you for coming up with this post idea first by a long shot

    Adrienne – OMG I can’t wait either. Chickens!?!

  7. I love it! Seeing your first fashion school design project made me think of how we all probably thought that we were bomb back in the day (in some way, shape or form). I don’t have any fashion design projects to share but I’m sure I can find some pictures of my earlier forays into style.

  8. Ohmigod…amazing.
    i remember that shirt! I still have my skirt kicking around.
    There are so many things in fashion school that I wish i had a do over for….but like you said, we’ve all got to start somewhere…if only i knew then, what I know now…

    but really, i think all of these mishaps and mistakes really shaped us to be the designers/creators we are today

  9. My fist project was to design something for Le Chateau — so I did a Metropolis (yes, like the silent black and white film from a million years ago) themed work wear skirt. Now, our teacher told us we were NOT allowed to use our machines at home – EVERYTHING had to be done on the school machines. But my skirt had a three button detail at the bottom hem … so what did I do? I sewed the button holes BY HAND. I was soooo proud of those button holes – they looked like something out of the nightmare before christmas but I loved them anyway. And of course the teacher was like: why didn’t you use your machine at home to do the button holes?

  10. Re CF top neck, square off and create a wider button extension and yes use a snap (you can get clear plastic). Stripes and princess line take a set of panels side or CF/CB and put them on cross grain or bias. Nice finishing

  11. Fashion school flashback is probably too early for me!
    (visuals to look at)

    For first year first term project we had a white shirt brief i.e. “a top-body garment made without zipper closure and utilising the colour white” (after much repeated wrangling with various design tutors of what ‘white shirt’ could constitute.) After two draped toiles and a flat-refined third (the first just said how my first chosen design stinks in fabric form and will never make it into a garment), I made the above, using two different fabrics to snub the white colour rule. Finishing techniques were pin-hemming and semi-hand-bound seams (following my distaste of overlocked/serged finish – eew), with a flat-felled seam down centre back to ‘denote’ it is a split yoke shirt. When it was finished, I was sooo happy and wore it around, attracting comments (which my brain picked up as “compliment”) from passerbys.

    With hindsight, I would try doing something with the collar/neckline treatment other than the obligatory wee mandarin collar, shift the front styleline where the undersleeve joins the main bodice, and use pure cotton marcella instead of the poly-cotton replacement. That is, if I could get my head around the sleeve/bodice pattern pieces I made! :))

    Prior to fashion school I had some head start in costume making. I have sewn up easy things like a tulle skirt (5m of tulle on 1.5m of satin ribbon), drafted flower-petal skirts and wonkily copied a ballet bias wrap skirt. Classes in pattern drafting resulted in a calico collection of pencil skirt, godet dress and some sort of blouse/top. At this stage I had used more than 10m of pearlised poly organza and poly satin, so the novelty had worn off as I started my formal fashion education.

    Prior to starting my fashion degree, I did a fashion portfolio course where all students continuing to a practical degree-level course had to make an outfit and present them on a runway show. I made a shirt/jacket/shrug with 40 pieces to it (poly shirting + metalised silk chiffon) and knee-length lined trouser outfit (leather + matka silk + viscose lining) just to excessively prove my mojo. The making of it made me cry before a friend’s sewing machine the night before it was supposed to be handed in.

    That aside, right now I am happily staying up and knocking out samples for my major project – it’s my final year at fashion college and deadlines are approaching fast! Wish me perseverance and luck!

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