I will admit, this last year I had little bout of career envy. For the first time in a long time, my husband and I decided to have paid television programming in our home. We used to not have any form of streaming or television programming that was too accessible to us because in the past when I had it, I Netflixed binged and would stay up way too late watching episode after episode. We believed it helped us have more room in our mind for our own creative work, and it did, but it also lead to us never chilling out. As our lives got really busy this year, it was nice to have a way to just sit still together for an hour or two.
However, this lead me to be exposed to other people’s lifestyles and career choices. And I fell in love with HGTV- especially all of the renovation shows. I used to help my dad renovate houses before flipping was a thing. I installed tile, scraped paint, painted, removed drywall. It was really fun to transform run down structures into new and improved homes.
I don’t do this anymore, nor do I remember the tools and skills that my father showed me. I was actually really young when we were renovating, probably 11 or 12 years old. As I watched the interior architects and designers transform homes, I wished I had their skill! It seems like so much fun to arrange existing, new, and repurposed materials into amazing homes.
I don’t have the same relationship with space and homes, or those kinds of materials the way I do with pattern, cloth, and the body. And this month, as I’ve been reflecting over the last year of 2016, I recognize, I’m truly happy with the expertise I have and how I’m using it right now. Instead of experiencing career envy, I can actually see how renovating a house is a lot like renovating a fashion collection, or your own wardrobe.
For Fashion Designers
I intend to have a lot more availability of fashion classes for Fair Fit in the coming year. However, I want to set a distinction right from the get go- the reason why I am always advocating that you learn how to design for yourself first and why I write so much about wardrobe building, is that it will help you learn how another person will live in the garments that you design. By wearing the clothing that you make for yourself, you will really understand what it feels like to wear it.
Good design starts with you. Determine what is missing from your closet first, what is missing from the stores, from the availability of what’s out there, and that’s how you start to define your own voice. If you want to get a jump start in fashion design, the clothing you make for yourself will get you intimately familiar with your own perspective into fashion design and what you want to share with other people.
So if you are building a wardrobe, or building a collection, they are the same thing. And its really interesting to explore the relationship between how we design the homes we live in and how we design the clothing we wear.
Back to HGTV…
How are interior architects and designers creating remarkable homes, and how does it relate to fashion design in your own life? In this article, let's explore the similarities between the design of home, lifestyle, and interior space and how it can inspire your own clothing design practice and bring fashion design to your daily life and creative practice.
1. They start with good bones.
The first thing designers do on the renovation shows is take the existing structure and rip into the layout. A lot of the homes have walls where its ridiculous to have separation, or they have sacrificed open space in order to have more bedrooms and bathrooms to raise the value of the home. By tearing out the walls and reconfiguring the space, they build a new structure to enhance the beauty of the materials they are about to install.
This relates to how we use or draft a sewing pattern. You can start your design practice by learning how to use sewing patterns in creative ways, like I teach in Basic Patterns. If you don’t know how to maximize an already existing pattern, then jumping into drafting your own is going to be a real challenge. Like the interior architects, they take a structure or layout and transform it. You can do this with a sewing pattern by cutting into it. Remove features you don’t like.
For instance, I’m always removing excessive fullness. Lots of patterns are designed for ease of wear for as many bodies as possible. But often some of the panels of the body are just not refined enough. When you have the guts to hack into your pattern- that’s when the design happens to make your garment as beautiful as the spaces the interior experts are designing.
Also- are you working with good patterns? There are so many options out there now. If a pattern company is letting you down, if you are having to create too many alterations, then toss them and try a new designer to experiment. I go more in-depth on this topic in this article 8 Lessons Learned from Building a Self Sewn Wardrobe in 2016.
2. When they have the layout and structure built, then the materials are enhanced.
If you get your pattern right, then the fabric chosen will only be that much more enhanced. I am designing my 2017 wardrobe with a very specific and focused process. I am looking at it as a collection as a whole, as a fashion designer would, and planning it the way I used to plan one of my runway shows.
One of the first things I did was swatch out my fabrics, and apply them to each pattern I am making. I check for cohesion, color coordination, and whether or not its telling a consistent story for the woman who will wear it- in this case it’s me. But this is how I plan a collection, which will lead to a more refined collection of garments that are focused, and pair well with each other. This will also help minimize the risk of fails.
3. They repurpose
Are you finding ways to reuse, remake, and repurpose what already exists? I adore Joanna Gaines’s obsession with shiplap. Whenever they find shiplap in a home, unused, and usually layered under drywall and wallpaper from the 70’s and 80’s, she and her husband incorporate it into the new design.
I used to do this a lot when I was creating garments in Chicago. I was obsessed with repurposing men’s clothing into feminine dresses, like this piece below that I designed from that time. I am planning on incorporating a lot more repurposing in 2017 designs simply because of how much character it brings to new garments that we sew.
Instead of thinking about the garment from start to finish as all new materials, how can you incorporate elements of existing garments and fabric to avoid the cookie cutter look? A problem with most quick and contemporary architecture is its the same layout, same materials, same colors- no distinction. Its important to step outside and work with the limits of materials that are already in form, because it will definitely add character and your own perspective to the garment.
4. They accessorize
I love how in the final minutes of the show the rooms all come together with fantastic furniture, ornamentation, and designed objects. Something I have failed to do in the last year was engage fashion styling in my closet design, mostly because after all the sewing I've done, the final accessories come as an afterthought.
This year I’m going to pay extra close attention to the other elements I add to the looks I design, and this is a great way to incorporate other designer’s ideas and work into your collection and closet. It could be fun to photograph the garments you have sewn, pairing them up in multiple ways and documenting it in a photo gallery so that you have a cohesive look for each item you have taken so much care to sew.
5. They have a repeatable process
Finally, these designers and interior architects aren’t starting from scratch with every single home renovation they plan. They have a repeatable process that they go through, likely choosing homes with similar layouts and structures that they know they can get a good result in a specific amount of time. Their time is precious, if they go over schedule, that means they go over budget, and they have developed a process to analyze their investment of time, materials, money, and energy to ensure a beautiful final product.
You time is just as precious. When there’s a garment fail, which does occur to everybody, there is a cost of time, money, and materials. How can you start to establish a repeatable process in your design that gets you the great result you are hoping to achieve? Like the home designers, it will take a few projects under your belt to know what works and what doesn’t, but when you start finding the winning patterns, materials, and finishing in your sewn details, repeat them.
Keep an archive of the kinds of fabric work best for you. When you analyze a new pattern, think about how the elements of the design relate to other successful sews from your past. If you are taking on a challenge, what aspects of your previous process do you know work, even if it means going outside of the recommended construction? That’s how you bring your own design to a pattern you are using.
When its all said and done, I’m actually glad that we were exposed to some television this year, because it’s given me the opportunity to be exposed to other creative lifestyle processes. What are the ways you see homes and clothing relating to each other? Do you think you might try some of these processes?