Thursday, December 28, 2006

S-Patterns and SELF (Self-Employed Laboratory of Fashion)

As an important reminder I will mention about S.E.L.F. structure on each blog post, that we are a Laboratory for research and solving problems in couture and high fashion design and production – for DEs and consumers all over the world – because you are the ones that need our help, and to whom I am committed. The same solutions can be used in lower priced apparel and big name manufacturers, but it is the high fashion market that desperately needs to learn quality yet also cost-effective ways of producing.I could give you many examples of bad shape/fit and poor workmanship on shape/fit on $2000 and up brand label apparel. But, if you truly want to sell and you’re not a “brand label”, then consider trying out our “S-Pattern” system. Yesterday’s blog post gave you a little on the S-Patterns for developing a fashion style. And in order to get these patterns you must learn first how to use them – in 3 learning lessons.

By January 6, 2007, we will have the first lesson on the web for you to do. You must email me of your interest to get the URL in an email reply.
1) The first lesson is about learning to SEE inside your mind, the 2-D & 3-D translations, which is what creative pattern making is all about. That is my Stylometrics system which I spent years researching with grants from the National Science Foundation, and is a non-mathematical system. You must have experience in sewing clothing to comprehend the system. Hopefully you have the ability to send me some sketches of shapes you draw by email. If not, then you can send by regular mail.
2) The second lesson is the experience of manipulating a primitive pattern to a new shape, still a creative, observing methodology.
3) The third lesson is the experience of adding seam allowances in such a way that an industrial stitcher can make the style cost-effectively.

Some have been asking me questions, such as learning ways to get better fitting. This is way down the road, and there are many new things to learn first about a new system. “First things first” and “One step at a time”, are some philosophies to guide you. Remember that the S-Patterns are “standards”, that are used to evolve all styles, shapes, and fit from. It’s the key by which we can help you with every pattern evolved from it. I’ve had a university in Singapore quote and praise the concept in the mid-1990s. A CAD vendor in Germany in 2001 contacted me about using the Stylometrics system. We emailed back and forth, until I realized he wanted me to design a way to put my system on top of his CAD system. I said no way, being a “standard”, he had to design a way to put his CAD system on top of my pattern system. We failed to agree, and I now realize that it’s best to teach it to the young DEs and consumers, and forget old hat CAD vendors & apparel manufacturers.

Please email me and let me know your interest, so that as soon as the URL is ready I will send it to you. Meanwhile, have a Happy & Successful New 2007. Shirley

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Generic S-Pattern & Developing a Dress Style Idea

On 12.9.06 I showed you the Generic Empire Sheath, which we are now calling “AB-1”, and is shown again here on the right. “AB” is the title of the basic sheath dress as a combination of A Bodice and B Sheath skirt. I just designed the draped dress, sketched on the left, and it will be developed from the Generic Empire Sheath Dress, or AB-1. The new style has draping that takes the place of darts, something I love to do. By developing it from the generic, the dress will maintain a “standard” of sizing and shaping, which is an imperative for those who are repeating a style for customers. The new style is a “simulated wrap”. That is, the piece diagonally crossing over the front covers the side zipper and is attached after putting the dress on. There are some complexities, but they are in the “construction”, not in the development of the pattern shape. As we are developing the many generic patterns for DEs (Designer/Entrepreneurs), we are also going to develop a small collection for spring/summer that will test these generics, and will be sold to consumers. Not only can DEs buy the generic patterns, but they can also buy the patterns for the styles we develop.

I know I said I would give you more on setting up for beginning instructions on S-Patterns. But, this was all I could get done today. I will continue tomorrow.

Monday, December 25, 2006


While selling my design and manufacturing business, “Shirley Willett, Inc.”, I wrote this book, “Let’s Design A Dress” and published it in 1980. There were a few reasons that I sold my business. I hated the big size that it must become if you want to maintain success, I was at the mercy of the new young 60s workers who were demanding and not like the family feeling of older stitchers and my once smaller business, and I wanted to be happy, not caught up into the making of great profits and lose my creative soul to big designer retailers. But most of all, I wanted to teach, and leave my legacy to young designers: of great styling that consumers bought and loved, and my creative and technical mastery of pattern engineering and production. I could never teach at any of the fashion schools or colleges, because with intense jealousy from teachers who could only teach what they had been taught - the old hat rules from past technical books – there would never be acceptance of creating technical systems. So, I wrote a text book that I used in the 1980s in fashion departments I set up myself at colleges or community/adult education, or with private clients in a re-incorporated, Shirley Willett, Inc., as a small business consultant. This gave me great experience with testing my innovative ideas of a new and easier methodology for pattern making – and to realize how successful the concept is.

After working on my NSF grants through the decade of the 90s, and presenting my ideas at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in January, 2004, I again made the decision to teach and leave my legacy, successfully testing my more advanced ideas for pattern making. Now, I want to test them online for all of you, the readers of my blog, Fashion Solutions.

I created the concept of “Self-Employed Laboratory of Fashion” (SELF) with some protégés I have here locally, that are willing to help me. The most important word is Laboratory, that is we will research problems and create solutions. At this stage of a “research lab” I do not personally want a business for making money, although there will be costs. That does not apply to others working in SELF, who are each self-employed with fashion clothing businesses, or aspirations to develop one, that is not dependent on SELF for primary business income. We are going to open up the concept of SELF, for all of you that are interested in becoming a part, whether you are in a business designing for others, or just want to design and make clothes for yourself and friends. There are requirements and benefits. The great benefit is that you can get some “Primitive and Generic Patterns” (called “S-Patterns”) for a low cost, and have the ability to get your pattern problems solved free. One requirement is that in order for you to understand how to use these patterns you must study three programs of many that I designed for classes here, and give us feedback. The programs, as we are designing them for online, are necessarily different than face-to-face in a classroom. So, we are making them free, but the feedback is an imperative. Remember we are a research lab, so we need a commitment and a willingness to think about how you can help us, and help others in a system that can become worldwide, and perhaps even help the poor in developing countries eventually. And that is a really exciting legacy to be a part of.

Tomorrow I will continue this discussion with more details. I have already discussed this idea with Tracey in the U.K. and Diane in Colorado, and a few that are closer that will do it on computer. Please give me feedback now if you are interested, so that we can determine if we use the blog and my web site to present the programs, or do it with a smaller group. My protégés and I are busy preparing it for after the New Year. Continued tomorrow…

Meanwhile Happy Holidays and a Happy, Successful New Year, 2007,

Saturday, December 16, 2006

1968 Ball Coat - Inspiration, Apollo Mission

In 1968 I was inspired by the Apollo Mission, the first time astronauts went around the moon. The moon as a ball was the inspirational 3-D shape. The outside shell was in a heavy worsted wool, cut into spherical slices for shaping as a ball, much like we do with the global ball of the earth – and with slit openings as in a cape. The inside lining was silk taffeta, with a very 60’s graphic pattern of balls. The lining was fully interlined with lambs wool and cut as a coat with sleeves. The part of the sleeve that came out from the slit was covered in the shell fabric of worsted wool. I designed the helmet in white mink fur in 1968 to go with the coat.

In 1968 I was the chair of the fashion dept. of Massachusetts College of Art, and had no time to do a whole collection. I was frustrated, so that when I did design it had to be very expressive of my creative sculptural abilities, with less consideration for the fashion consumer, or its salability. Although I wore it a great deal myself, and when I did I got the most attention from young adolescent girls!

The boots are actually just “boot-tops” that I designed for a vintage fashion show of my styles in November, 2004. I created and made a few of them in different colored leathers, to go over shoes. It’s a very inexpensive way to have a wardrobe of boots, as no one knows they aren’t actually boots.

The photographs were done by Ron Ranere, Positive Image Studios.
The model is Lidiya Lovkh

Everyone, Happy Holidays

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More on S.E.L.F * Standards * Prepare for CHAT

Many of you are asking to learn more about SELF and the S-Patterns, or Stylometrics system. Here’s a very simple example, even though they are not ready yet for you to buy and use. In the Nov. 18th post, “SELF (Self-Employed Laboratory of Fashion) Coming” I diagrammed five of the nine “Primitive Patterns” that were designed and researched in my grants on Stylometrics, and that I said would be a base for the S-Patterns – P-1 Bodice, P-8 Skirt (as a dress in first sketch); P-2 Blazer, P-7 Pants (in second sketch); and P-9, Gored Skirt (in third sketch). The first sketch above is now a dress pattern I am calling AB Primitive. Note that it includes the sleeve accurately related to the bodice, and all pieces are planned to match perfectly. The second sketch is a generic evolution I am calling AB-1 Generic. The critical plan to make the system easy and excellent quality for everyone is that each generic will have just the key style as changes in the pattern. That is, note that the all over 3-D shape is almost the same except for the indent under the bust, and the jewel neckline, sleeves, sheath skirt are identical. This is very important for the ease in pattern making. There will be hundreds of generic patterns as we evolve them from all the primitives, including necklines, collars and sleeves.

What makes the Stylometrics system work is that the Primitive Patterns are standards, that is the #6 definition in the dictionary, “a structure built for or serving as a base or support”. The Generic Patterns will all evolve from the primitives, and you will need to evolve your personal styles from the primitives or the generics. I will not evolve the patterns for you, although there may be some technical designers connected to SELF eventually that may do that for you. I will do some instruction, but I’m trying to keep it simple. One thing to realize that this system takes an ability to see creatively in spatial dimensions inside the mind. That’s why I wrote the Oct 17th post, “Inner Visualization of 3-D / 2-D Translations in Pattern Making”. Please look at it again, and ask me questions if you don’t understand it. I am experimenting with a couple of designers online to see if they can understand this basic principle. That is this system is not drafting at all. If you study the photo of the blue silk dress with panels interwoven at the waist, (See Nov. 11th post, “4 Successful Vintage Fashions”) you will see that it can be evolved from the AB-1 Generic, with an empire waist. (Note, the photo was by Ron Ranere, Positive Images, ) But, it does require for you to “design”, “drape” and “see in your mind to develop further. It’s interesting that Georgene, designing for 25 years, says she “prefers draping to drafting”. Drafting is very old hat and belongs in the cheap commodity trade. But draping can be difficult to get a pattern for reproduction for more of the same styles. I’m trying to set up a system that still requires you to drape your ideas, but evolved from a standard so you will have the result reproducible.

I hope all of you will join our CHAT tomorrow, so we can discuss this further, and I can answer any questions. Remember you must go to Fashion Product Development Meetup and RSVP Yes, so that I know you are coming. I will cut anyone I don’t know from joining us.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

S-Patterns & SELF (Self-Employed Laboratory for Fashion)

Logo for
S Patterns
fashion, & S
for S-ELF,
& S-hirley

In my grant research work for NSF, an objective was to test the Stylometrics Primitive Patterns as standard templates for the whole American apparel industry. The graphic is an example of that testing. The dotted lines show the side view and 2D pattern pieces of the Stylometrics Pants Primitive compared with an Ann Klein pair of pants in solid lines - the same size, but Ann Klein’s was shaped for a model’s “stance”, while our Primitive was shaped for the average woman. The objective was that it would not matter if every manufacturer wanted a different shape, because the computer software I was designing could calculate the differences and match the appropriate one to “consumer profiles” to be established. The graphic was copied from the workshop paper for MIT that you can see at my web site.

There’s been many requests from around the world for me to help in quality pattern making and to answer problems that both my Stylometrics Pattern system and SELF is being designed to answer. Because I want this innovative system to be an excellent one and to be a legacy of my nearly 60 years of experience, expertise and knowledge of the fashion clothing industry, it must be carefully researched and developed. That’s why I call it a research LABORATORY. Please be patient – it takes time to be excellent. But it also takes knowing your needs and problems – so please keep letting me know more about your work.

Some history is necessary to understand the changes in direction for the use of the Stylometrics system over the past 20 years, and why it is taking time to develop it for you. That is, the original series of research grants that I won from the National Science Foundation, starting in 1989, were for helping the American apparel industry and their CAD/CAM vendors, completely different goals than for young designers and consumers. The graphic of the pants comparison is just one of many tests done for applying the system to the industry and trying to promote the tremendous need for standards. Unfortunately, I learned when working with NIST (National Institute for Standards & Technology) and Natick Army Labs, that Sears & Roebuck and the Dept. of Defense had spent 20 years pushing American apparel manufacturers to accept standards in just sizing. Each one said, ”Sure, but use mine. I’m not changing my sizes to anyone else’s” Even my innovation of having the computer calculate the differences, did not deter them. Perhaps it’s their egos, thinking they are the top dog, that has killed so many of them here in America – much more than prices and offshore contracting. Please do not let this happen to you, young designers!

I worked for years on objectives for the industry, with most of it previously not of value for the young designer, except for the Primitive Patterns themselves. After I did the workshop for MIT in January 2004, I made the decision to try again to do something again with this system, and started teaching “Fashion/Pattern Design for Beginners”, a 7 session course. I planned it differently than any school had ever taught it, by developing spatial relations in the students ‘ minds – learning “to see” - inner visualizations to manipulate pattern shapes. It’s much more creative and a lot more fun, but those few who are steeped in rules and want things all laid out for them don’t “get it”. You must learn to create solutions. The class and some individuals I mentored (like Tess) were a great test to show that this is the best way for creative young designers to learn pattern making and it also results in quality patterns that can be reproduced efficiently and cost effectively.

Our next step is to test it online. There are a couple of people that are going to test the first 3 important sessions of that online. Tess is one designer that has tested my systems for her use in China. Now I am working with Susan, a technical designer, that will work with using some of the Generic Patterns for a spring/summer collection, as well as helping me develop the Generic Patterns from the Primitive Patterns. There are a few others that are going to do certain things that will assist in researching and testing our system for you. I will tell you more about Generics in the next post. Please keep emailing me about your needs and desires.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

1960s Fashion Show in Italy * More on SELF

One summer in the mid-60s I was invited to teach fashion design in Florence, Italy for an American college’s program called “Garland in Florence”. At the time I was chair of the fashion department at Mass. College of Art in Boston, so I had many of my own students with me. As a finale for the course we put on a delightful garden fashion show, and I added some of my own designs. It was a grand opportunity to use some of the magnificent Italian fabrics.

These are two of the group I designed. The photos, however, were taken in November, 2004 at my fashion show “Half-Century of Vintage Designs” by a great photographer, Ron Ranere, who also co-organizes the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup with me. It’s a great photographer who can take such good photos when models are concentrating more on moving fast for a show than on the photos. You can see more of Ron’s photos at, and learn more about the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup at

The dress on the left is in a four-ply pure silk crepe, and cut on the bias. The big bold black print was very 60s, as was the dress length. The unique feature was the neckline, which I call a “bib”. It was cut as a halter tying in the back, and the front was a few cowls shaped upward to form the bib shape. The dress on the right is in a 100% wool woven with gold and silver threads. The top is cut as a blouson, and the skirt is cut as a yoke skirt. The pleating was formed by tucking in an “umbrella” shape.

S.E.L.F. “Self-Employed Laboratory for Fashion

I’ve been getting a lot of requests from young designers who want both the Stylometrics Pattern System and the instructions on their use for quality, efficient, and fast pattern making. However, I am building a “research laboratory” with a few committed assistants who are self-employed in their own fashion design businesses to test further development. This takes time to make these beautiful for you with instructions for use. So, I beg your patience. I may have some beginning things after the first of the year.

We have agreed on the five primitives, and are in the process of deciding on what generic patterns we will have. Many pieces from my vintage collection will be used to explain some of those generics and how to use them. As, for example, we will have a “generic blouson”, and a “generic yoke skirt”, as developed further in the photo above. Eventually we will have a series of necklines and collars, such as a “generic cowl” neckline. If any of you have specific needs, please email me and let me know. It would help to add those needs into our plans, and you will benefit later.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

SELF (Self-Employed Laboratory for Fashion) – Coming!

In 1980 I published a book, “Let’s Design A Dress”, mentioned in an earlier post. I had developed a set of nine Primitive patterns to make high-quality pattern making much easier. Many have asked me for this book. But I took it off the market later in the 80’s when I was awarded a series of National Science Foundation grants for researching and developing this system, I called Stylometrics. The book was only 2-D, and now I had the system as 2-D, 3-D and 4-D. I tried for years to get the CAD-CAM vendors to work with me, but they only stole certain parts, never the whole system. In January, 2004, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Engineering Dept. asked me to represent the fashion apparel industry in a workshop to compare design practices between industries, and talk about Stylometrics. It was then I realized that the way to get this system out to the world was to teach it to young designers and help them start a whole new kind of fashion industry that will benefit them instead of big retailers and apparel manufacturers.

Teaching alone, however, wasn’t working that well. Only a very few could really go further by themselves without continued help. This past year I began to take on protégés that I would mentor. Tess, (see the post on her success and production in China) is one of those protégés. As more young designers want this, I realize I cannot continually take on single ones to mentor. Now going on 74, I realized I must create a “business system” that can be passed on to some, who can then pass it on to others. SELF, Self-Employed Laboratory for Fashion, is the result. As a research laboratory it will be structured to accommodate the continual and fast changes in the fashion industry. Having my Stylometrics Pattern Engineering System, as a base is a recognition that what makes any high fashion apparel business successful are the patterns, their beautiful shape, fit, and the cost-effective production systems they are designed to achieve. This is far more important than simply getting low-cost production overseas.

The fundamental product of SELF, therefore, will be patterns. After years of testing the set of nine Primitives (P), I discovered there were really only five that were important, P-1 Bodice, P-8 Skirt (as a dress in first sketch); P-2 Blazer, P-7 Pants (in second sketch); and P-9, Gored Skirt (in third sketch). I have a team of five young designers, each of whom will have their own design businesses. We will start with their needs, and develop a list of “Generic Patterns”, or the next level up of pattern design changes. There is a great deal more to this whole idea. I have four steps, all very creative processes, in the product lifecycle: 1) Creativity, Research & Resources, 2. SELF Pattern Designs, 3. Production, and 4. Marketing & Sales.

This is all I’m saying about it now. But, please ask some questions and let me know your interests, because it can influence our direction to help all of you. I will continue to tell you more in the next posts.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

4 Successful Vintage Fashions * Join Our Live Chat

To join our “Live Chat”, with many other fashion designers and consultants from around the country (California, Texas, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, and hopefully China) who will be there, you must click on the Fashion Product Development Meetup to find out the time and other details.

The 4 fashion styles in the above photo were voted by the consumer audience as their favorites in the NEFI (New England Fashion Industry) show in November, 2004. I showed over 60 pieces from my half-century of vintage collections. Ron Ranere of Positive Images took these great photographs while the models waited to go out or while moving in the show. See: If any of my readers want to ask me any technical questions, I will answer them. But for now I will simply tell you about the style details and the dates.
1) The first on is from an early sixties custom collection, a royal blue silk crepe, and consists of vertical bias panels in the front and back that are basket-woven with horizontal bias panels from the hip-bone to the empire waist. You can’t see in this photo that the panels in the skirt are free to move very beautifully as you walk.

The next three are in a very soft lambskin suede, and were from my collections in the 1970s that I manufactured for many of the top designer retailers in the country. I did very well, and sold the business, when it was making a million dollars, to a men’s wear manufacturer in the 1980s.
2) A wrap coat, buttoning with one large very old button, and with raglan sleeves. This coat was enormously successful in selling because it looked flattering on a tiny petite, or a tall, heavy woman. Although there are very few I will design for today, I did repeat this one recently for my favorite customer (from the 1960’s) in a brown cashmere wool.
3) The third one was my successful suede evening gown that I talked about in a previous blog,
It was the one around which I designed a very new kind of production systems for my 25 stitchers, that made me reap a 60% profit on each, even with selling it wholesale. The gown wrapped in the back and tied in the front, and I sold it as well to some celebrities.
4) One of a collection of “landscape fashions”. The flared skirt was cut in pieces in which the aqua color represented waterways, and the beige color represented sand. You can see the bare brown tree on this side, but the other side had a series of houses. I had a girl, Toula, who had just come over from Greece, and who took these home to stitch together, the few hundred I sold. The top was a halter with a collar that wrapped in the back by brown belt ends that came to the front to be buckled.

Let me know if you have any questions. Today, I am totally committed to helping young designers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Sunburst Dress, 1962, Intricate Pattern Design

The sunburst dress was a piece in my spring collection for 1962. A proud moment was when the Boston Sunday Herald photographed it for a full page article in its Sunday Magazine, March 4, 1962. Under the photo was the following:

“SUNBURST is the name given to this new style by young Boston designer Shirley Willett. Of bright orange silk pesante, the dress is hand pleated and all the fit is within the pleating.”

It certainly goes along with today’s spring 2007 collections in which orange is a color choice of Paris fashions. A piece from the article:

“SHIRLEY WILLETT is one of Boston’s new young designers who shows an originality of design and individuality of concept that is unusual for her twenty-eight years. She is an exponent of cut and shape and believes that each garment must have something unique as well as flattering for the wearer. Shirley also feels that high fashion design warrants superior workmanship in order to be recognized as true couturier. Because of her fresh young approach we felt her styles will be of great interest to the new, young brides of 1962.”

The early 1960s was a time of extensive technical research for me, a time of intense creativity that would challenge every engineering skill I could dream up, in order to result in simplicity and the ability to reproduce easily, yet maintain the intense originality. It was a time of fashion shows, and a small but loyal group of customers, before I went into manufacturing and selling to retailers. However, because I was so devoted to research and self-learning, I made no money. But, it didn’t matter. I was a “fashion sculptress”, and supported my art in other ways. I look back at that period nostalgically. It was my kind of schooling because everything I know was self-taught. That self-teaching is what helped me to create the original technologies and educational principles that won me National Science Foundation grants in the late 1980s, after I sold my manufacturing business.

Saying the “fit is within the pleating” means that all the shaping for the bust, the waist, the hips, and in the back as well as the front – all comes into the sunburst point in the front. The way I approached the pattern then was to “slash the paper pattern” wherever I wanted the pleating to fall, and add in whatever amounts I determined. It was very complicated, a technical challenge. Today I would do it quite differently. In fact, as I tell my students and protégés, the best quality and easiest approach to complicated draping as here, is to start with my basic “dress primitive” and then drape on top of it. This is very simple explanation of something that needs a lot of visuals to help understand the principles.

Another feat I accomplished is the soft armhole. Women in the 1960s considered the armhole line hard and ugly, and did not like showing their underarms. Study the soft drape I achieved over the arm. It means the lining does the work of being a support , a different shape than the shell, in order to support the drape. Again, it would take some visuals to full grasp the technique.

I get so many questions on how to achieve some of these things that I am playing with ideas of how to do this online. What do you think? Let me know.

Friday, October 27, 2006

1960s: Hemlines and the Stock Market!

Here’s a fun post for my readers. The newsletter was sent out by Harris Upham, Inc., a stock brokerage firm, in May, 1967. My roommate at the time was working as a trader for the firm, and brought home the newsletter for me to see – since I was in the fashion industry. Hemlengths were a big fashion discussion topic in the 1960s and 1970s. Whether you believe it or not, these brokers really did believe that there was a relationship between the two. A newsletter one month later had Ralph Rotnam, a stock analyst for Harris Upham, saying that “as a barometer this chart is 100% correct.” Here is what the 1967 newsletter says:
“For some time there has been a suspicion in Wall Street that the stock market and the hemlines of women’s skirts move in the same direction. To find out if this was true we sent our textile and apparel researcher, Foy Roberson, to the library to make a detailed study. The results are shown on the chart on page one. From the days of street-sweeping skirts in 1897 to the days of Twiggy in 1967 the market is up 2100% in value. And as the chart shows the hemline changes and the direction of the market have been amazingly parallel. Perhaps we should be listening more carefully to the planning in Paris. Someone has called this a “Mini Market”. There are mini skirts, a mini recession and mini stocks.”

I used this later in the 1980s, when teaching about fashion marketing, production, and trends. I explained that a lot of fashion trends have to do with “collective social emotions”. And those affect general business, stocks, politics, etc., as well as fashion trends.

We’re getting some fashion people from other parts of the country joining us in “Fashion Product Development Meetup” on our “Live Chat”, which will be in a few days. Go to:
It’s going to be a great Virtual, 21st century, Web 2.0 experience.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Logo & Label for Designer Identity & A New Chat Room!

It has taken awhile to set this up, but we finally have a Chat Room so we can chat with young fashion designers and others interested in fashion – all over the world. You know that Tess, one of my protégés that I mentor, is now in China producing her collection of cashmere and silk coats and jackets. Hopefully, we may be able to chat with her in one of the scheduled chat room times. The way it is structured, so that we don’t have people from the Internet we don’t want, is to have you join the “Fashion Product Development Meetup”, that I organize.
It is free, you answer at least one required question: “What experience in fashion design, patterns, production, do you have?” You can answer with “aspiring designer”, or just interested in fashion and talking to others in fashion. I accept you quickly and then you can see the scheduled times for the chat room. I hope all of my readers, who are a great audience, will join. If you click on the chat room any other time, there will not be anyone there. But you can click on the Bravenet chat rooms, to discover other chat rooms and topics.

One of the first discussions that so many have asked me about is “Designer Identity”. First, you need to be sure of the direction of your fashion product development. That is, you know that your fashion product is saleable and has some uniqueness that the product can be identified with you. Then, it shows a high degree of professionalism if you design a “logo” that is completely yours, and people will recognize it as such. My logo I designed in the 1950s, when I started in business. It is an abstract fashion figure (very 50s) and also represents an S, my first initial. Next, when you are designing a label to go into your fashion apparel, consider the impact of the “lettering”. Again I designed this label in the 1950’s and used it throughout every business I developed, in custom and in manufacturing for retail stores – to this day. The black lettering is woven into the label, and it’s base is a pure white silk satin.

Please sign up for getting my posts by email, and sign up Fashion Product Development, so you can be a part of our Chat Room. I love questions, and love to answer them. And, as you have seen, I will make posts on those answers.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bias Shaping? Answering Sarah's Request

On a post a week ago, “Creative Technical Design Solutions, 1960 Bias Shape”, Sarah asked in a comment, “How do you stretch the bias? Are the skirt panels cut mirror image for symmetry?” I repeated the photo for everyone to see again. Note that the skirt of the dress I cut on the bias, and it is attached at the empire line. It is cut in four panels, a “pair” in the front, and a “pair” in the back, because the front and back, of necessity, are slightly different shaping. “Mirror image for symmetry” is a correct understanding, but we use the word “pair” in the industry. Also note that it “skims” the waist rather than revealing it, and it is an “A-Line” shape from hip bone to hem. That is, the flare of the hem is a straight line from hip bone to hem. All 3-D curvature is caused from the bias and the flare at the hem is caused by stretching the bias at the empire line.

I made three sketches to describe the process. These two words are emphasized because I want all to know this is not telling you how to make the pattern. They are rough sketches to help you see the process in your mind. The first is simply a 2D sketch of how the eyes sees 3D. So many beginners do not understand this, and call it 3D. The second sketch, please note has the same hem sweep, but is much narrower at the empire waist, and is stretched to the proper measure for matching the top. The third sketch is the lining, that has a dart to shape it. It is sewn totally free from the skirt shell. You need to develop the lining shape first, which then, on the dress form, is a base for stretching the bias of the shell in silk doupioni properly, by draping the pattern shape. Every different fabric has a different falling bias, and needs to be draped. This kind of shaping can never be accomplished flat on the table.

Interestingly, in one of Tess’s new shaped coats, I had her stretch the cross grain of wool at a high rise waist to accomplish something similar but much less sweep.

Let me know what you think, and if you can understand this in words. I’ve always done it by demo’s.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Inner Visualization of 3-D / 2-D Translations in Pattern Making

In 1980 I self-published a book, “Let’s Design A Dress”, and advertised it in Glamour Magazine. The book’s purpose was to present to young designers a new and far more efficient way to learn pattern making, especially for production. The system involved a set of nine Primitives (slopers) as a standardized base for all women’s clothing. For students, starting with a standard pattern with industry production information encoded, leaves the designer freer to create. In the late 1980’s these “primitives” became the basis of my National Science Foundation grants, and I took the book off the market.

The first graphic is a page from that book. The process of pattern making that I teach, as I taught myself as a teen, is first done by visualizing inside the mind, rather than follow a set of rules, drafting and measurements that stultify creativity. To train students to “see” in their minds, the 3D clothing style and translate to the 2D pattern pieces, I prepared various exercises. The chart of five everyday 3D objects, translated to their 2D pattern pieces, was one of those exercises. Study each one, then close your eyes, and visualize the 3D object unfolding to become the 2D pattern pieces. And then, start with the 2D pieces, close your eyes, and visualize how the pieces fold into the 3D shape. Do this over and over and its amazing how it trains the mind to begin making patterns inside, as great engineers are capable of.

About twice a year I teach a class, “Fashion/Pattern Design for Beginners” in which I use this chart, one of which I started last night. To my great surprise , the October 8th Boston Sunday Globe Magazine cover had a picture of the 5th object in the chart, a baseball unfolding. It was depicting the Red Sox falling apart. It is ideal for those that have difficulty with “spatial relations” of 3D – 2D translations.

(Note) Sarah, in a comment, asked about how I “stretched the bias” in “Creative Technical Solutions, 1960 Bias Shape”. In another day or two I will post a sketch explaining just how I did that. Remember, everyone who reads my posts, you can sign up to receive them in an email through FeedBlitz. And, I always love answering questions.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tess, Protégé, Producing in China

Mentoring individual designer/entrepreneurs and leaving my 57 years of expertise is my greatest satisfaction in life, especially now in my senior years. Tess, “Teresa Crowninshield”, is one of my “student/protégés”, of whom I am extremely proud. She went to China a few years ago to teach English! She couldn’t find nice clothing for herself, but she fell in love with China’s beautiful cashmere wool and silk brocades. So she went to a tailor and had him make her own ideas in these fabrics. With no formal training she sold some to others around her, and then began to bring some production lots back to Boston to sell at trunk shows and boutiques. The cashmere coat on the left, and the silk brocade jacket on the right are two examples from last year’s collection.

I met her about a year ago at the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup (see link in sidebar), for which I am Organizer. She had been doing the production for a few years utilizing beautiful trims on basic shapes, and now wanted to learn more about high fashion shape, motion and fit of coats and jackets. I took her on as a student/protégé, and she has blossomed into creating exquisite, exceptional styles, with her own unique designer identity – and with technical excellence. She worked with me about nine months, then went to China in September to produce her collection. In a telephone call a few days ago, she told me she needed to upgrade her factory in China, and is going to go bigger!! Hopefully in about a month, we may be able to see some photos of these beautiful new styles.

The important message for all the designer/entrepreneurs who read this, is how critical good communication is. I started Tess and others with a beginning study of “inner visualization” and “our standard set” of the meaning of terms so we could communicate well by phone. When she has a problem in pattern making or production, she has even called from China, and we discuss it, and solve the problem. There are some basic “principles” that I teach (never rules – as Frank Gehry, one of the world’s great architects says: “Beauty Without Rules”). In other words most technical fashion problems have the best results when creating the solution. I teach only one class as a group, “Fashion/Pattern Design for Beginners”. Learning to SEE Is the primary focus, so thereafter the class, you can learn to create your own solutions.

I am also Organizer for another fashion meetup, “Fashion Product Development Meetup” (see sidebar for link), that I am trying to figure out a way to take “virtual” and link to this Fashion Solutions blog. That is, have all the members (even around the world) meet online at a certain day and time, to discuss, and solve problems for designer/entrepreneurs. If anyone can help me with this (maybe chats?) I would really appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Creative Technical Design Solutions, 1960 Bias Shaping

Many have been asking for more stories on my past creative technical solutions. When you are intensely creative then you also desire to create different ways to solve technical problems, while making the style even more beautiful in shape for the ultimate consumer. In my early collections in the late 1950s and early 1960s I did a lot of bias cuts, which I love. As I played with the bias I realzed that you could do some masterful tailoring by manipulating the bias in various ways.

Here, in this silk doupioni dress, the skirt section was bias cut, and I "stretched" the bias at the empire line seam, and the fall over the body and indenting at the waist was superbly feminine, with it's gentle waving at the hem. The top was a series of tiny box pleats, with the pleated frill a separately sewn piece. It was easy in the 50s and 60s for a young designer to get small lots of this pleating done. The model is Jo Summers, who today, owns the Copley Seven Model Agency, and owns some of my past styles. In fact, I sold this model quite well, directly to consumers from fashion shows.

If any of you want to know more about this creative technical bias cutting, please email me and I will do some diagrams to show you.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Pattern History of Fashion Apparel Industry

The textile industry was brought to America in the 19th century from England. But the apparel industry is an American creation at the turn of the 20th century in the Greater Boston area by Jewish tailors, who engineered dressmaker patterns into patterns for mass production . Prior to their efforts, in the 19th century, garments were made individually for each woman by dressmakers who went to each woman’s home. These Jewish tailors became aware of some commonalty in the shaping, fitting and making of garments, and production pattern making was born, one pattern to fit more than one woman. They developed a mathematical sizing system to accommodate most women with very few patterns. As businessmen, interested in lowering costs, they continued developing these patterns to become paper “information systems” engineered to control quantities of exact reproductions in cutting and stitching clothing in mass production systems.

The apparel industry grew from these tailors/businessmen, as they built manufacturing factories for production, which pattern engineering accommodated. The chart above was drawn for my National Science Foundation grant report, 1991, “A 3D-4D Computerized Model for Human-Machine Integration in Apparel Manufacturing Engineering”, to show the “Fragmentation of Designer and Maker Skills, Distancing Them Further and Further from the Consumer”. Pattern engineering grew a great industry in the early and mid-20th century. But, by the end of the century, our great American apparel manufacturing industry began to fade. My personal belief is that it was much less, going south and then overseas for production, and rather these “old hat” manufacturers inability to change. They were stuck on both style and production sameness, the foundation of mass production, in order to keep costs low. As a result, they never knew, nor listened to consumers for any of their needs, and consumers are less satisfied. My grants researched ways to do “mass-produced” custom (and later “mass-customization”), computer technologies that could make consumers an integral part of a “future fashion apparel industry system”. Unfortunately, I was ahead of my time in the early 90s, and even the apparel industry’s CAD-CAM vendors, took parts of my ideas, but they too, were unwilling to change. (Perhaps I will tell some interesting stories about these vendors, later.)

Pattern making was first taught to “apprentices” who were called “designers” in the Boston area. Creative designers of styles in America didn’t exist in the early 20th century. Americans were “copyists” or interpreters of the creative ideas coming from Paris ever since the 18th century. Later some designers created booklets for teaching these systems mathematically – that came to be called “pattern drafting”. In the 1940s, when 16, I was old enough to work in these factories as a stitcher on sportswear, and met some of these pattern designers, whose information was passed to them by the old apprenticeship system. I also learned first hand about mass production systems that made America, and Boston area specifically, so famous for quality/quantity production – a system that in the second half of the century we taught to the rest of the world. (Another story later of my experiences in the 1960s that validates this.)

It was in the 1950’s, graduating from college and working in the design rooms of New York, that I learned a sad truth about fashion schools and colleges. Teachers were primarily “dressmakers” and emulated the Paris couture system – and they taught this to other teachers, becoming a narrowing circle of knowledge and experience. So, an even more extreme distancing from the consumer was taking place in the education of young designers for the industry. All workers hired in design rooms were taught in these schools, not as an apprentice in manufacturing, experience that taught critical production knowledge. I easily excelled way beyond them with a technical pattern expertise learned from my own experiments as a teenager coupled with the knowledge of stitching in production. Creators of high fashion styles today make “First Patterns”, which they spend endless time redoing for quality, but never preparing for production. While creating high fashion styles my First Patterns were “Engineered Patterns” to immediately reproduce creations into ready made garments for cost-effective manufacturing. A positive effect from these fashion schools is that America began producing more creative designers, but the negative effect is an ever widening gap between creative design and pattern engineering. (Click the “Wall Between Design and Manufacturing”) By combining great creativity with unequaled technical expertise, I became extremely successful as a designer and manufacturer of high quality designer clothing at low cost, selling nationally to all the top retailers from the 1960s to the early 1980s. . One driving point I continue to make in my grants and to students is that decisions of marketing and production, costs and quality must be made at the “Point of Design” (P.O.D., another chart I will post soon).

Friday, September 29, 2006

My Successful Chemise, 1957, Fad to Present Market Theory

In 1957, when working as a designer for a moderate dress house in Boston, I was inspired by the famous Balenciaga's "chemise" dress, and designed my own unique version with a bow on the back, for me to wear. It is a great story I have told hundreds of times since - "How fads are created, die, and sometimes reincarnated with a new name or form."

Before 1957, the only mass market styles that had sold for a couple of decades were all based on the "shirt-maker dress", with a tightly belted waist. When Balenciaga, Paris, designed the chemise (a term from 1920s of a straight hanging dress) I fell in love with it, and designed a version for myself. My boss was intrigued, and suggested I design one for our line of moderate-priced dresses - $11.75 wholesale, $22 retail. The one in the photo is an exact replica I did for a recent fashion show.

We sent it to the New York showroom, where buyers laughed at it, so it was put on a rack to come back to Boston. A buyer from J. L. Hudson's in Detroit saw it, and exclaimed: "Is this a chemise? I'll buy it for an ad – if you cut it." We put it back on the line, and sold very few, about 200. We decided to cut it – just to order - that is, not cutting the many extras to prepare for reorders. When it hit the stores – it astounded us all – it sold out so fast, and reordered so many tmes that we were completely producing only chemise dresses for two years. SECONDS IN TIMING AND I WOULDN'T HAVE HAD THIS GREAT SUCCESS - THE 2nd HOTTEST CHEMISE DRESS IN THE MARKET.

After two years, the chemise died. It took research and time to discover why. Every buyer said don't even mention the name chemise. "We're stuck with a whole bunch of them in inventory. Fortunately for us, our chemise dress sold out, but the "bad ones" were like bad apples and poisoned ours as well. Why were they bad? Most dress manufacturers saw the chemise as a "golden apple", took their shirtmaker dress patterns, let out the darts and let them "hang". They were horrible on the body. Ours was beautiful because I had "shaped" the chemise as a beautiful form, emulating Balenciaga's great sculpture in my unique styling. FADS DIE BECAUSE EVERYONE GETS IN ON THEM AND FLOODS THE MARKET WITH POOR VERSIONS.

It was years later that I began noticing the chemise in stores again, but never called the chemise. It was now called the SHIFT. It sells to this day as the shift dress, and has become a commodity item for women's house dresses, and occasionally higher styling. Interestingly, as I monitor technology as well as fashion, I saw a similar event replicated in robots, and more recently in the "dot,coms". It all comes down to "quality". When everyone gets into a big selling item and makes it, and does it, poorly, the item dies, and it's called a fad. But, those that continue to do it right, or study how to do it right, reincarnate the item, but it always becomes quieter, without any market hype. That is happening with robotics, and the dot,coms, today. In my engineering design papers I explain this as my "Chemise Theory". It's a fun story, and I've told it at many seminars.

Please, readers, let me know some comments, even if it's just to tell me you read it. Then I'll keep the stories coming. I have many to tell. Thanks

"Technical Design?" & Wall Between Design & Manufacturing

Kathleen at Fashion Incubator had an excellent blog today on the confusion of "what Technical Designers do". I said that I will only add more confusion, because the "concept of technical design" has become a "buzzword" for so many aspects of the industry, used by those who don't know very much about the technical aspects.

As the organizer for the Boston fashion Industry Meetup, I meet a few members who work as technical designers. Almost all of them work for retail chains in product development departments, who produce lots of design "samenesses" overseas. None of them truly know pattern making, but blindly follow a bunch of "specs" that I have found to be pretty silly to accomplish anything worthwhile. Measurements and CAD will never get beautiful "shape", which a really good pattern maker is able to do.

I have watched the apparel industry change over six decades. In the 1940s & 1950s, pattern makers for manufacturers in the Boston area were called "designers". The word "design" means "making a plan", so the concept of "technical" was assumed. A "pattern", to me, is an information system (IT, today)) for producing one or many same garment styles. Anyone who created were "sketchers", and pretty meaningless. It was the fashion schools in New York in the 50s and 60s that began the tremendous confusion. The teachers were all dressmakers that taught pattern making from their knowledge of home patterns, not production on factory floors. To this day I have yet to see any fashion school teach what I call "production pattern making" or "pattern engineering".

As the manufacturers left the northeast and went south, and then overseas, the great apprenticeship system for learning production pattern making died. And then the schools, with teachers who didn't know it, produced a wave of pattern makers that could only follow rules that were established before them. When I first went to work in New York fashion rooms in the 1950s, I was shocked that none knew anything about production in patterns or stitching. ( I started as a stitcher in factories as a teenager in the 1940s.)

In one of my National Science Foundation grants on engineering design (1988, "Apparel-Textile Codification & Image Communication technology"), I drew a graphic I called the "Wall Between Design and Manufacturing", to show the critical problems, and "fighting conflicts" between the socalled "fashion designers" in the New York showrooms and the production pattern makers at the manufacturers factory. I said I would, and I did, put up this graphic here above.

How do we answer this problem of less and less expert knowledge on pattern making for production, and more and more confusion of terms for DEs, such as "technical design". I don't know. Maybe we need to talk more about the "future"? How can we change the way things are to something better? Kathleen is certainly helping with her book and this blog. Thanks. How about you readers? Have any ideas? Please make some comments, or ask some questions.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Famous Suede Evening Gown #2

Some are asking me: What made this gown famous? (yesterday's post) Besides the great selling record, and some famous people who bought it, there are a couple of other events. In the late 1980s & early 1990s I won a series of engineering design grants from National Science Foundation, and began being accepted at engineering design conferences along with university professors all over the world. I explained the gown in all of my papers.
At one of them: American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Design & Manufacturing Conference at the University of Illinois, Chicago, 1991, I showed the gown and explained it. This group of mechanical engineers from many industries (auto, Kodak, Boeing, etc.) all stood up and cheered me for what I accomplished in this gown, and aked for some graphics that showed some ways they could use the production information.
In January, 2004, MIT asked me to represent the American fashion apparel industry in a workshop, comparing design practices between industries. Again I showed the suede gown to explain my intense creativity in engineering production systems. They all loved it, and the vice president of Ford automobile refered to it as he gave his presentation.
In other words, the gown is famous in many different circles, from national agencies to industies to some universities' mechanical engineering departments.

Keep the questions coming! Thanks.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

My Famous Suede Evening Gown

This gown, in a very soft lambskin suede, has probably become the greatest highlight of my career: as a creative haute couture design, as an elegant FASHION SOLUTION IN ENGINEERING DESIGN and PRODUCTION, and as a very financially successful fashion business product. As you can see. I am most proud of the engineering design solution, and it has a fascinating story that has helped many young designers in recent years through mentoring them.

It was one piece from my 1971 suede and leather collection, that I had been selling successfully to many top designer stores, e.g. Neiman Marcus, Bonwit Teller, Bloomingdales, Bullocks Wilshire, Saks Fifth Ave,, and many others along with smaller boutiques. The original purpose for designing the gown, was to show my uniqueness as a publicity promotion. No one had done a gown in suede before me, and I never dreamed it would sell. I first showed it to the Bonwit Teller buyer, and she almost bowed, calling me a great artist! It became a great selling success, and was in their Christmas catalog.

It was good that I had someone from the fashion world to advise me. With my background of being poor, and learning by stitching in the moderate price garment factories, I calculated the price by the ACTUAL costs. This woman told me no, I had to up the price to what it should be in the market for this kind of garment.

If you note the way the pieces were cut, in swirling circles with the 3-D body shaping within them, that no production system that had ever been designed could do it. So, I had to CREATE a totally new production system to accommodate the way these pieces were cut. There are some interesting methods I designed for the matching of notches in order to have the suede pieces OVERLAP at the seams, but the most unique creation was how I set it up at the machine for the stitchers, My pattern would have letters and numbers, which the cutters would mark on the wrong side. They would bundle the sections of the gown as you see in the drawing above, and I drew these pictures for the stitchers at their machines. All my stitchers had such great fun, calling it “sew by numbers”. But the greatest accomplishment was that it took them only 15 minutes to sew together the shell of the gown. And because I could not sell it that cheap, I made 60% PROFIT on each one!!

I do hope there will be some young designers who see this blog, and will ask me questions. I want you all to realize that “production systems” and “pattern engineering” can be CREATED as well as the garments themselves. Engineering design is my greatest joy. I hope to help many others through my mentoring.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Over the past 25 years since I sold my high fashion design & manufacturing business, I taught occasionally some evening classes in fashion, one called “Fashion As A Business”, & another “Fashion/Pattern Design”, Most students were women in their 30s & 40s, who had gone to work after college in fields such as real estate, computers, administration, education, biology & health – none of which tapped their human ability & NEED TO CREATE. Fashion clothing & crafts offered them this opportunity, not only to create and build something with their hands, but also – they believed – to continue to make a good income. Some were satisfied to keep their fashion creativity as a part-time hobby, while many others dreamed of starting a fashion business.

Unfortunately, most would fail they did not accept the necessity today for developing pattern & production engineering skills, nor for learning business concepts in marketing & production. No fashion school in the country truly teaches these important skills. Many are still coming to see me today, almost demanding that I should find them the pattern & production engineers, & even salespeople to do everything for them, so they can JUST CREATE! There are so very few that have learned these skills in engineering, or that want to sell for any beginners’ fashions. However, a few over the years have been persistent and realized they can learn & CREATE the technical & engineering solutions for their own creative designs. Some of these have become my protégés, and I’m very proud of them.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I. ENGINEERING DESIGN, 3. Engineering a pattern “rub-off”.

Diane made a comment on my first post (Sept. 2), when I was still baffled by blogging. She said: “Claire McCardell learned pattern making by taking apart RTW and sewing it back together. I'm doing the same. If there is a better way I'd love to see it!” I replied that there IS a better way that I designed in the 1980s. Today I will explain it, but words may not give the best understanding, but I will try. I have always done this by a demonstration that students could visually follow. Perhaps I’ll have pictures later.

When Claire McCardell was designing, every designer, pattern maker and manufacturer copied another’s pattern design by ripping apart the garment. This would always make for a loss of quality information, especially if the garment had been worn with the fabric stretched out in places. My method is similar to draping a technical pattern on the dress form, and I call it “RUB-OFFS”.

1. Prepare a piece of muslin fabric that would accommodate the area, plus some extra, of the first pattern piece you want of the garment. Accurately draw four-inch squares, making sure the lengthwise ones are parallel to the selvage.
2. Get the entire pattern area to copy (rub-off) as flat as possible – over an ironing board is good. Study the grain lines in the garment and start by pinning one grainline of the muslin to the grainline on the garment. Carefully smooth the other grainlines until reaching the “edges” or “seams” of the pattern area of the garment.
3. Clip and cut away excess in order to get an accurate edge. You can use a dark color wax chalk to mark the seam edges in some areas but a sharp pencil is good for accuracy. You can also use the wax chalk to rub-off some pockets or other details.
4. The most important observation is to study any easing or stretching that was done by the maker of the garment, and include it. A dart (shaping within one pattern piece) needs to be put in exactly as in the garment. If you make sure of plenty of notches on each seam of the area, you can have accuracy as you rub-off the matching seam in the next area.
5. Once you have rubbed off all lines, details, etc.. then take out the pins. After every pattern piece is rubbed off, then “true the pattern pieces, by making sure the lines are smooth, and all notches are matching, unless you know the reason why, such as ease or stretching.

For anyone who reads this I would really like to know if it is understandable. Please comment and let me know, so I can see how I might improve it.

Thanks for reading

Friday, September 15, 2006

I. ENGINEERING DESIGN, 2. Improving Engineering Education

A forum, “Literacy in Technology”, that will take place September 21, 2006 at the Museum of Science in Boston, sparked today’s post. The Boston Globe, one of the sponsors for the event, doesn’t go as far as I do with engineering as American culture, but says: “In today’s human-made world, technology and engineering are a part of everything we touch. The National Center for Technology Literacy (NCTL) at the Museum of Science is designed to work with educators, government and industry leadersTO INTEGRATE ENGINEERING AS A NEW DISCIPLINE AS EARLY AS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and continue it through high school, college and beyond.” Bernard M. Gordon, who is funding the Center with $20 million, says: “Engineering education has become too specialized … graduates can’t see the big picture. [And] American students are shifting away from engineering.” From my experiences for a decade working on engineering design grants in fashion from the National Science Foundation, I learned that these are some sad truths.

I am attending the forum to offer to play a part repeating some creative seminars I did in the 1990s, “HAT ENGINEERING PROJECT” for 140 seventh grade students , and later 40 third grade students. The motivation for math and geometry to understand the 2-D & 3-D translations in pattern engineering of hats – WAS AMAZING! Interesting, especially for the boys, was that I started with the 2-D & 3-D translations in a few sports balls, e.g. basketball, volley ball and baseball. When you make it a big picture, such as some fun history of hats, the relationship to the shapes of boats and airplanes, how 2-D flats (patterns) and 3-D fashion shapes need the x, y, z, coordinates for doing the engineering in computers (for 7th graders only), they loved the experiences of learning about engineering. Of course, they also loved creating and designing their own hats, which I call “engineering design”. If I get some response of interest, I could post some of the things I did in the Hat Engineering Project.

In yesterday’s post I talked about the sad decline of the fashion industry in America, BECAUSE DESIGNERS LACKED ENGINEERING PRINCIPLES IN THEIR EDUCATION. The fashion apparel industry desperately needs, not just technical designers who follow outdated rules, but creative designers who can also design and engineer their fashions to enable efficient production. To present engineering design principles related to fashion, at an early age, especially for girls, could truly help the future of fashion in America, as well as help motivate engineering as more fun and fulfilling as a career path.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I. ENGINEERING DESIGN: A. American Culture; 1. Engineering design in the fashion industry.

As we become more global and multicultural, we learn about all the cultures of the world. I asked what is America’s culture? We have given many things to the world, but I believe they all boil down to fundamentally two concepts: ENGINEERING and CAPITALISM. My simple definition of engineering is “the planning for building or producing a product or a system”. Designing by itself is “the planning for the realization of an idea, whether an original idea or the implementation of an existing idea.” Together, engineering design, involves the planning, building or producing of an innovative idea into a product or a system, within specific industries.
The fashion clothing industry has undergone both revolutionary and evolutionary changes in the 19th and 20th centuries. I would call every beginning of each part of the industry, engineering design. An interesting validation of clothing engineering is in the history of jeans, an American icon. When they were first designed they were engineered for rugged wearability by western cowboys. After many evolutionary changes, they are now the highest fashion in their shape and fit for all consumers, all over the world - & durability of little importance.
Since the early 90’s the fashion industry has become associated with the entertainment industry of fashion shows and Paris couture. The result is glamorizing market presentations, making designers appear romantically like movie stars, & their fashions created for art’s sake. Fashion schools all over the world promote this glamour to get a flood of students with stars in their eyes to attend. A few years after graduation and after a few frustrating business attempts, 95% fade away and change industries in order to make an income. Their education never included “engineering” for patterns & production, that would have prepared them for jobs that desperately need to be filled, nor business training to prepare them for entrepreneurship.
For most of the 20th century – before fashion school glamour – there was an “apprenticeship system”, primarily in Boston (first half of 20th century), where the apparel industry first started. The pattern engineers who shaped & planned patterns for production, e.g., cutting, stitching & pressing, were called “designers”. Those who first stitched in the industry were tailors & dressmakers, who learned their trade by apprenticeship – as I did in the 1940’s as a teenager. Ideas were a “dime a dozen”, copied from Paris, and engineered on each manufacturer’s own basic bodies (called slopers). For more apparel industry history, see

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A. Glossary

The glossary is for the purpose of simplification, and for communicating what I truly mean with as little misinterpretation as possible. There are such wide diversities of meanings today with arguments about who’s right, when words only serve the purpose of communicating one’s meaning. Some humor on Pluto as a “planet” in the Boston Globe yesterday, from the father of a 6-year-old. She asked him: “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a sheep have? He answered, “Well, five, I guess”, and she replied, “No, silly, a sheep has four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one!”

B. Engineering Design

Engineering design is the most important conideration in this blog, and encompasses all the technical aspects of the fashion industry, pattern making/engineering, production, etc.