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.