Rejected but still RESPECTED: HUFS Design Showcase

It’s been a few weeks since the Her Universe Fashion Show finalists were announced. Every year, more and more designers apply, so it gets harder to make it into the show. I don’t envy the jobs of the initial judges at Her Universe who must select only twenty-some finalists from several hundred designs!

My 2016 rejected design, Harley Quant inspired by Harley Quinn

My 2016 rejected design, Harley Quant inspired by Harley Quinn

In 2016, which would have been my second year in the competition, I didn’t make the cut. My 2015 experience was so energizing and inspiring, I found myself pretty devastated that I didn’t get in the following year. Looking back at my entries, I definitely played it safe in my designs, and see that my illustration needed work. However, not getting in definitely lit a fire in me for the following year, and after a year of fashion school I was so thrilled to be selected for 2017. I then assessed my look after the competition and tried to determine what separated me from the top looks in the next year (I worked on my construction and fit hardcore). This introspection, I believe, lead to my win in 2018. I can see how much growth I have had as a designer between 2015 and now, punctuated by my design submissions each year. We all have to start somewhere to get where we’re going, and growth is inevitable if not necessary.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the fashion show on this blog, so I wanted to take some time to recognize a few designers that didn’t get in this year. Watch out for them next year and following years! There are some truly bold and fun designs (and great illustrations) in this bunch. I hope those of you who didn’t get in this year keep trying next year, and consider making their entries anyway! The absolute best way to get better is by practicing. And the HUFS stage isn’t the only place to showcase your work! Get out there my nerds!

What better way to start than with Star Wars? I adore Vivian’s illustration style SO MUCH. Both of her looks are incredibly dynamic in her presentation. Next, we’ve got Jodi’s Rey gown with great detailing - I love the texture in this drawing. Also included here is one of Candice’s crochet yarn designs that she is working on to wear to the show. Check her out on social media to see her progress on building this design strand by strand.

On My Command inspired by Captain Phasma - Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Vivien Lee

On My Command inspired by Captain Phasma - Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Vivien Lee

Sartorial Praetorian inspired by the Praetorian Guards from Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Vivian Lee

Sartorial Praetorian inspired by the Praetorian Guards from Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Vivian Lee

Rey of Hope inspired by Star Wars The Force Awakens by Jodi Carpenter

Rey of Hope inspired by Star Wars The Force Awakens by Jodi Carpenter

Clone Wars Couture: The Family you Choose inspired by Ahsoka Tano by Candice Miller

Clone Wars Couture: The Family you Choose inspired by Ahsoka Tano by Candice Miller

Another popular entry this year was Spider-Gwen from the Spiderman franchise. I can see why; I recently watched Into the Spiderverse and I was enamored with it! In fact, stay tuned, because my judging look this year will likely be based on this movie. Brittany’s look includes this super interesting web skirt which I would LOVE to see made! Jennifer’s take has a very clever use of sunglasses as an accessory to denote the mask.

Into the Fashionverse inspired by Spider-Gwen - Spiderman by Brittany Lowe

Into the Fashionverse inspired by Spider-Gwen - Spiderman by Brittany Lowe

Red Carpet Spider-Gwen inspired by Spiderman by Jennifer Biladeau

Red Carpet Spider-Gwen inspired by Spiderman by Jennifer Biladeau

Animated movies were very popular this year! I received quite a few How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World submissions, which makes me want to go see it since it has inspired so many designs! Emily’s look gives me Toothless, while Brittany gives me Light Fury! And Candice (another yarn concept) does both.

There Were Once Dragons by Emily Gilmer

There Were Once Dragons by Emily Gilmer

Light Fury inspired by How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World by Jennifer Biladeau

Light Fury inspired by How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World by Jennifer Biladeau

Nightlight, Night Bright inspired by How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World by Candice Miller

Nightlight, Night Bright inspired by How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World by Candice Miller

Studio Ghibli is always a theme-rich set of animated movies to pull inspiration from. Brittany’s Haku design reminds me a lot of the the How to Train Your Dragon designs since it is inspired by another white dragon from Spirited Away. The swatch examples on this design really bring it to life for me; love the paneling for the capelet! Her Howl’s Moving Castle design is another edgy look with some interesting accessories. I also kinda need that gray mohawk in my life.

Kohaku River - Haku inspired by Spirited Away by Brittany Halestrom

Kohaku River - Haku inspired by Spirited Away by Brittany Halestrom

Howl’s Castle inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle by Brittany Halestrom

Howl’s Castle inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle by Brittany Halestrom

Disney movies are such a core part of many of our childhoods, it’s hard not to get ideas from them. I love Chatam’s poison apple look inspired by Snow White, and he is working on bringing a version of it to life which I’m so ready for. Jennifer created a Pegasus inspired design, which she is also constructing despite not being a finalist. I’ve seen that feather earpiece on Instagram! Chanelle’s Ursula in royalty look reminds me of my 1920s rejected version from 2016. Ursula is such an interesting character, and she absolutely lends herself to fancy couture designs. Emily used the whole Disney castle and fireworks show as her gown concept! I especially like the colorful firework halo crown on this design.

Poison Apple inspired by Snow White by Chatam Smith

Poison Apple inspired by Snow White by Chatam Smith

Pegasus inspired by Disney’s Clash of the Titans by Jennifer Biladeau

Pegasus inspired by Disney’s Clash of the Titans by Jennifer Biladeau

Ursula in Royalty inspired by The Little Mermaid by Chanelle Childers

Ursula in Royalty inspired by The Little Mermaid by Chanelle Childers

My 2016 Rejected design, Old Hollywood Sea Witch inspired by The Little Mermaid

My 2016 Rejected design, Old Hollywood Sea Witch inspired by The Little Mermaid

Dreamers of All Ages inspired by the Disney Castle by Emily Gilmer

Dreamers of All Ages inspired by the Disney Castle by Emily Gilmer

Speaking of animated inspirations, this year’s theme for the junior competition is Cartoon Network’s Stephen Universe. Kaylea M. put together two fashion looks, complete with shoes and accessories! I love her use of color, especially in the blue skirt. I would absolutely wear either of these looks any day, so keep up the good work Kaylea! I can’t wait to see how your fashion career progresses.

Junior Designer Kaylea M.’s Stephen Universe design

Junior Designer Kaylea M.’s Stephen Universe design

Junior Designer Kaylea M.’s Stephen Universe design

Junior Designer Kaylea M.’s Stephen Universe design

I can’t talk about Disney without mentioning Pixar. Here are a couple excellent submissions that encompass Monster’s Inc. and Up. Jodi’s layered door skirt is something I’d love to see in person! Christine’s Up look is an excellent design, I enjoy the halter top roof tiles.

She’s Not Afraid Anymore inspired by Monsters Inc. by Jodi Carpenter

She’s Not Afraid Anymore inspired by Monsters Inc. by Jodi Carpenter

Pick Me Up inspired by Pixar’s Up by Christine Geiger

Pick Me Up inspired by Pixar’s Up by Christine Geiger

The Batman universe has another wealth of characters with interesting looks and backgrounds that are ripe inspiration for the competition. Poison Ivy is one that has endless plant possibilities as seen in Pixiegift Fashion’s Isley look. Candice’s third entry is an art deco inspired suit (again, all crochet) based on Mask of the Phantasm.

Isley inspired by Poison Ivy - Batman by Pixiegift Fashions

Isley inspired by Poison Ivy - Batman by Pixiegift Fashions

Vengeful Warrior inspired by Batman - Mask of the Phantasm by Candice Miller

Vengeful Warrior inspired by Batman - Mask of the Phantasm by Candice Miller

Pixiegift Fashions jumped into the anime world with a Sailor Moon design as well as Digimon look. I especially like the use of the Digimon alphabet in the skirt becauses I’m partial to graphic lettering on a couture design.

Serenity inspired by Sailor Moon by Pixiegift Fashions

Serenity inspired by Sailor Moon by Pixiegift Fashions

Guardian of Light inspired by Angewomon - Digimon by Pixiegift Fashions

Guardian of Light inspired by Angewomon - Digimon by Pixiegift Fashions

Movies and television aren’t the only inspirations out there! Video games are sources of great imagination in the fashion realm. Brittany was inspired by Sora from Kingdom Hearts with this coat and bodysuit combo. I love the leg details and use of color on this look. Caroline did two variations of a Handsome Jack look from the Borderlands franchise. If you saw my look from last year, you know I like the color yellow as well as floor length jackets, so I’m living for it. Also, Caroline’s illustrations are always luscious with detail.

My Friends are My Power inspired by Sora from Kingdom Hearts by Brittany Halestrom

My Friends are My Power inspired by Sora from Kingdom Hearts by Brittany Halestrom

Handsome Jack Variation inspired by Borderlands by Caroline Liu

Handsome Jack Variation inspired by Borderlands by Caroline Liu

Handsome Jack detail inspired by Borderlands by Caroline Liu

Handsome Jack detail inspired by Borderlands by Caroline Liu

Handsome Jack inspired by Borderlands by Caroline Liu

Handsome Jack inspired by Borderlands by Caroline Liu

With the release of Avengers: Endgame this year, the Marvel universe is fresh on everyone’s mind right around the submission period. Brittany had a couple Marvel submissions including Captain Marvel and Loki. I love how she shows us many different angles of these looks. I’m also pretty partial to the Infinity Gauntlet after working on looks based on Thanos with Hot Topic, so I of course loved this mini dress by Christine.

Set Free inspired by Captain Marvel by Brittany Lowe

Set Free inspired by Captain Marvel by Brittany Lowe

Goddess of Mischief inspired by Loki by Brittany Lowe

Goddess of Mischief inspired by Loki by Brittany Lowe

Stone Cold inspired by the Infinity Gauntlet by Christine Geiger

Stone Cold inspired by the Infinity Gauntlet by Christine Geiger

Some fandoms are eternal, so it’s always a surprise if these popular sci-fi icons aren’t included. Farscape, Doctor Who, and Pirates of the Caribbean are such great series, and all the Emilys came out to represent! Emily Blake has both a Farscape look as well as a Doctor Who design with nice illustration and great callouts for explaining the look. Emily Gilmer’s Black Pearl inspired look is giving me Sheer Lace Realness, and I especially like the ship hat!

Mama Leviathan inspired by Farscape by Emily Blake

Mama Leviathan inspired by Farscape by Emily Blake

Rebel Time Lady inspired by Dr. Who by Emily Blake

Rebel Time Lady inspired by Dr. Who by Emily Blake

Hoist the Colors inspired by The Black Pearl by Emily Gilmer

Hoist the Colors inspired by The Black Pearl by Emily Gilmer

I saved my favorite category type for the end: SCARY STUFF! Each year my personal submissions have been related to the bad guys somehow; from the Empire from Star Wars in 2015, Harley Quinn and Ursula in 2016, The Upside Down from Stranger things in 2017, and finally, Aliens in 2018. It was never intentional, but I guess I like what I like! *shrug emoji*
Chatam’s American Psycho look is made from newspaper and clear vinyl, to emulate the raincoat worn by Christian Bale. I love the non-traditional material approach, as well as details like the snap buttons on the back of the dress. Angela gives us two Jurassic World inspired looks based on two different dinosaurs in the films, the Indorapter as well as Blue the velociraptor. These looks are very well thought through and the illustration is fantastic. The “hand” bag made me lol because COME ON.

Psycho by Chatam Smith

Psycho by Chatam Smith

Indoraptor inspired by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom by Angela Gleason

Indoraptor inspired by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom by Angela Gleason

Blue is the New Black inspired by something by Angela Gleason

Blue is the New Black inspired by something by Angela Gleason

Well there you have it! A great roundup of designs submitted to the Her Universe Fashion show. Everyone who submitted should be proud of their accomplishments in simply entering! Getting looks together on paper is a great way to define your skills as an artist. I hope my nerds out there get super inspired by these designs, and those of you who didn’t make it in this year, MAKE THEM ANYWAY! If you make your look, even if you aren’t showcased here, I’d love to see it and include it on a future post! Friend me on Instagram or Facebook, or shoot me a message at kristisiedowthompson@gmail!

Her Universe Fashion Show Applications Now Open!

Hey hey hey my nerd fashionistas/os and designers! The Her Universe Fashion Show registration period is NOW OPEN OMG!! Check out the application HERE!

Myself, Jane Burson, and Cynthia Kirkland had such a blast meeting some of you last weekend at Wondercon on the floor and after our panel. You can see our collection on the Hot Topic site here, the Her Universe site here, and in Hot Topic stores!

Are you interested in entering the competition this year? Dude, you totally should. It literally changed my life, and it could change yours too! It’s open to all levels and abilities, and the friendship potential is out of this world! Don’t let that artist imposter syndrome get the best of you - apply!

If you want the most ridiculously in-depth look at this competition, please check out my 7 part series called So You Think You Can HUFS. Here’s a summary:

So You Think You Can HUFS: Series Introduction
The first blog in this series gives an overview of what to expect from both the competition and upcoming blogs in the series.

Creating A Concept Part 1: Push the Drama
How do you even begin to design? This section will provide tips on brainstorming a concept based on a fandom, choosing or inventing a unique silhouette, and making it fashion.

Creating A Concept Part 2: Submitting Your Design
As you design for the Her Universe Fashion Show, you may wonder how to best to fit the criteria of the competition and still showcase yourself as a designer. Highlights include presentation tips, competition strategy, and how to design to GET IN.

Getting in: Construction, Execution, and Project Management
So you have the perfect design! This section covers tips on bringing your ideas to life in a professional way through construction and execution, planning your time, and planning and raising funds for you trip.

HUFS Cost Saving & Fundraising Strategies
Originally this was going to be part of the blog above, but it’s important enough to be broken out into its own entry! I’ll talk about ways to save money on your design, ways to raise it, and planning your San Diego trip.

Presentation: The Runway Experience
Many designers have never exhibited on the runway until the show. This blog will cover bringing the complete look to life on stage, as well as what to expect when you step in front of the judges.

HUFS Winners Round Table
Past winners of HUFS will tell you what they looked for when judging the finalists, and will also tell you what NOT to do! Interviews with nearly every past show winner.

So You Think You Can HUFS:  An Insider Guide to the Her Universe Fashion Show

The Her Universe Geek Couture fashion show is an incredible fashion design competition that has literally changed my life.

Her-Universe-Fashion-Show-logo.jpg

As stated on the official Her Universe website: The Her Universe Fashion Show is the epicenter of the geek fashion movement as designers compete with their original “geek couture” designs to win the ultimate prize – the opportunity to design a Her Universe fashion collection with Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein for Hot Topic. 

My 2015 entry, the Empire’s Style’s Back, inspired by the Empire from the original Star Wars trilogy.

My 2015 entry, the Empire’s Style’s Back, inspired by the Empire from the original Star Wars trilogy.

Designers from all over the country compete on the first night of San Diego Comic Con, bringing fandom fashion concepts to the runway for what Rolling Stone has deemed one of their top 25 things to see at SDCC for 3 years running!

I started from the bottom. Literally, in 2015 when I first entered I was so self taught, I had no idea what I was doing! My mom is a seamstress by trade, so I grew up sewing, but I never had any technical training. I just figured it out as I went. I made a great look that year, the best thing I had made at the time, but it wasn’t a top look by any means. 

My 2017 entry, The Upside Down Dress inspired by Stranger Things. Photo by Brian Sims

My 2017 entry, The Upside Down Dress inspired by Stranger Things. Photo by Brian Sims

In 2016, I had the burn of defeat when I didn’t get selected as a finalist. But I brushed myself off and applied again in 2017, after finishing a fast track year of fashion school at the Fashion Institute of Technology (which I was inspired to attend after my first year in HUFS). I designed the hardest most out-of-the box piece I could think of at the time. I did the very best I could to create it with my busy schedule that summer. It wasn’t perfect and I was finishing it hours before it hit the runway, but it was a great accomplishment for me after not getting in the preceding year. I am proud at my growth that year.

Finally, in 2018 I set goals at the beginning of the year for my look. I came up with my concept in December and began work and research at the beginning of the year. I watched Aliens over and over again to absorb the visual style of the film as I designed. I made 3 full muslins of my jacket before starting on the final. I practiced my sewing techniques over and over to make my piece the best constructed thing I had ever made. Looking at the previous year’s winners, I knew that I not only needed a great concept, but impeccable execution. And it sure paid off, because I WON.

My 2018 winning design based on Ripley in the Power Loader from the movie Aliens.

My 2018 winning design based on Ripley in the Power Loader from the movie Aliens.

Now I want to give back. Winning was incredible, but just being PART of this event is wonderful on its own. I want to help other designers in their journey to SDCC. Therefore…

Welcome to the first of a seven part blog series covering the HUFS experience from all angles!

What to Expect:

Every single person that makes it as a finalist for Her Universe Fashion Show puts in their blood, sweat, dollars and tears into their looks. 

Like any competition, if you have more time, energy, and financial freedom, you may have an advantage. But not always! There have been winners who have literally put their looks together within a month, for less than a few hundred dollars in materials, or in a hotel room while on set for another project. There’s no perfect formula. That said…

Competing in the show is a lot of work. Ask anyone who has participated: you will be putting a lot of hours in perfecting your design. Many designers have sleepless nights coming up on the deadlines in order to fully achieve their visions. Some work full time while working on their looks in the evenings, weekends, and days off. I personally was able to work on my piece full time for most of the construction period, but I usually worked full days on weekends too. 

Competing in this show is expensive. You may spend a few hundred dollars, or over a thousand *cough*, depending on what your look entails. Be prepared for it. Creating a look for this show and attending San Diego Comic Con can be a financial burden for some! Staying in San Diego during this week is also very expensive. However, never fear, there are definitely ways to cut costs and/or raise funds for your look and trip which I will cover in a future blog. 

Remember that if you get into the show that it is a privilege to participate. Many more people submit than walk the runway (over 300 entries were submitted last year and only 24 finalist selected). The money you spend or the hours you put in do NOT guarantee a win. Also, you may make something that is literally the best thing you’ve ever done and still not win. There are no guarantees. But for me it was an amazing way to measure my growth year over year as a designer, and I encourage other designers to do the same.

Community

The greatest part of this show for me has been the community! Check out The Workshop group on Facebook. Created in 2018, the group is an awesome way to meet other hopeful designers and to share ideas, designs, and inspirations as you work on your looks. It is a safe space for critique as well. Veterans to the show can answer questions about pretty much anything! Some former winners are also open for one-on-one critiques. As far as networking, this group is incredible. I would say at least half of my major connections in the last several years have traced back to someone I met while competing in the Her Universe Fashion Show.

I hope this introduction has gotten you excited for your HUFS application this year! 

But WAIT! There’s more where that came from. In the coming weeks, I’ll take you on a journey of pushing your design concepts and strategy to the max. I love this competition and by sharing my knowledge I hope to help you push yourself to places you didn’t think were possible.

SO LET’S DIVE DEEP, MY NERDS! 

Upcoming Blogs:

Creating A Concept Part 1: Push the Drama
How do you even begin to design? This section will provide tips on brainstorming a concept based on a fandom, choosing or inventing a unique silhouette, and making it fashion.

Creating A Concept Part 2: Submitting Your Design
As you design for the Her Universe Fashion Show, you may wonder how to best to fit the criteria of the competition and still showcase yourself as a designer. Highlights include presentation tips, competition strategy, and how to design to GET IN.

Getting in: Construction, Execution, and Project Management
So you have the perfect design! This section covers tips on bringing your ideas to life in a professional way through construction and execution, planning your time, and planning and raising funds for you trip.

Presentation: The Runway Experience
Many designers have never exhibited on the runway until the show. This blog will cover bringing the complete look to life on stage, as well as what to expect when you step in front of the judges.

Photo by Mike Edwards

Photo by Mike Edwards

SoYouThinkYouCanHufs-image.jpg

Living in Gratitude

It’s been a bit since I’ve updated my blog, and about 100,000 things have happened since then! One of my goals for 2019 is to update more regularly, so I thought I’d start by aggregating a few facebook posts about what I am thankful for going into 2019.

#1
I am super thankful for my core girls that I have been friends with since 1996 (22 years WHAT) and a little buggy app called Voxer. Ashley Cloutier, Meghan Scott Molin, Vanessa Pekelo, and I have been sharing our lives across several states daily for a couple of years now. As we have time, we record audio messages for each other, like a constant voice IM group. We share our struggles, our wins, our daily thoughts and silly ideas. It has provided support for all of us to feel heard at all times even if we aren't being heard in our personal lives or careers, as well as a place to share new surprises, secrets, and reflect on ourselves as individuals.

I feel so supported with this group since we know each other SO well from growing up together. We call each other out for being too hard on ourselves, and cheer each other on for the big accomplishments as well as the small ones.

Anyway, love you girls so much. So thankful for you!

#2
I am so very thankful for Her Universe and Ashley Eckstein for providing a platform for both community and for personal measured growth through the Geek Couture Fashion Show at San Diego Comic Con.

I applied for the show in 2015 on a whim after getting involved with a geek fashion show at the Phoenix Comic Con. I didn't expect to get in, but when I did it changed my life. Less than a month after returning from competing in the show, my company dissolved and I was laid off. Because of Her Universe I was encouraged to change my career to fashion. I moved to NYC and fast tracked fashion school within a year!

Fast forward to 2019, I began planning my look for the competition in January. I proved to myself that I can reach my goals and push myself if I set my mind to it. Winning the competition gave me validation, sure, but DOING the work for those 7 months had already validated me. This show allowed me to set goals to reach the success I want in my career. I literally gave everything I had to the show this year, and it gave back in a big way.

Almost better than the win has been the community developed from this competition. So many of my friends made in the last few years can be rooted back to Her Universe. Leetal Platt, and Laura Cristina Ortiz you ladies have provided me sooo much in the way of friendships as well as connecting me with other amazing people (ahem Brianne Lindsay and Kat Eves by way of Laura). Cynthia Kirkland, you and I were truly the comeback kids this year, and I know we would have been close even if we hadn't won together! Jane Burson it was so special to connect with you before the competition and so incredible to share the win together! There are so many other amazing people that are part of this network of HUFS talent that I feel so lucky to be a part of forever.

So Ashley, thank you for what you have done for the world of fashion design. You've brought us all together, and continue to change lives. I know you've certainly changed mine.

#3

I have had a lot of ups and downs with my health this year - I started 2018 with a pretty severe hip problem that a few doctors were recommending surgery for. I am thankful for my general practice doctor Phylicia Baird at Mt. Sinai Hospital for always really listening to me and really working to find the best treatment plan available for me. Huge shout out to my physical therapists at Millenium PT in Astoria for being the 4th office I scheduled an appt with that was finally covered by my insurance and also not terrible (ask me about how bad the other one who WAS covered ended up being). You convinced me that surgery was NOT needed! After 3 months of PT we got it under control.

I tried really hard to get my body together in 2018 by transforming my eating habits, so am totally thankful for the app Noom which was a huge part of my year. No longer doing that program but I do recommend it (it’s just a little pricey and I feel like I have learned everything I can from it).

I am SUPER thankful for my trainer Katie Kluth for helping me last year begin my journey to GET RIPPED, but also really getting how life happens and understanding that fitness couldn’t always be a priority. Very stoked to get back to training as my new physical therapist and I work toward eliminating my back pain for good. Katie works with me remotely (and also has worked with the amazingly ripped Miss Hannah Lees Kent which is how I found her) so let me know if I can put you in touch with her! YOU CAN BE RIPPED TOO!

Finally, so happy to have been finally able to see Nicholas at Function Enhancing Physical Therapy. I think he is going to change my life you guys - only 2 appointments in and my back/hip feels better than it has since before I fell and screwed everything up in November. He thinks we can fix this issue for good.

So here’s to a healthy self in 2019!!

#4

I turned my back on graphic design after a pretty less-than-successful 10 years of grinding away at it. I look at back at how hard it always seemed to be - I never really felt valued completely at any job I had. No one was ever interested in investing in my growth, and time after time I saw others (men) given more money and better titles for less work. It was always a struggle and I never had real creative control. I was never trusted in my expertise.

I don’t do graphic design projects for hire anymore unless it is VERY special because I burned myself out so hard on it.

HOWEVER

This year I found validation on a few projects that I did end up taking. It reminded me that I was super good at graphic design, even if the situations I was in when it was my career never gave me the true validation that I deserved.

Shout out to Kristi Krings, Aric Johnson, Marguerite Endsley, Laura Cristina Ortiz, Katy Vaughn, and Iman Woods for reminding me that I really do know what I am doing when it comes to digital art and creative direction. Thank you for loving my work and reminding me how fun branding can be when it’s for people and businesses that I care about.

Those are just a few of the people and things that have really made my 2018 amazing, here’s to another full year of amazingness!

Forever a Chromat Babe

My last day at Chromat was Thursday.

This was always the plan as my internship was 3 months plus a few weeks so I could see through a full design cycle and participate in fashion week. We all kind of lost track of time so it felt very abrupt; when we finally realized it was my last day, it was already half over so it was a bit difficult to process.

Myself and the amazing Becca McCharen-Tran during fashion week. She is the incredible founder and force behind Chromat.

Myself and the amazing Becca McCharen-Tran during fashion week. She is the incredible founder and force behind Chromat.

In a perfect world, I would have been able stay at Chromat forever. However, a company breaking all the rules can't necessarily make expanding the team a priority.

I hope to be involved in the future in any way I can, but I have to remind myself that I am not yet done learning. But I will forever be a #Chromatbabe.

I can honestly say I learned as much about fashion in 3 months with Chromat as I did in a full semester at FIT. I now understand so much about the day-to-day business of a small label, as well as how you can produce both a product AND a message! Chromat's message is everything I stand for: Female empowerment. Diversity. Fashion for EVERYONE.

The Chromat top I constructed, worn by Jordyn Woods on the runway. Design by Chromat.

The Chromat top I constructed, worn by Jordyn Woods on the runway. Design by Chromat.

I was lucky enough to construct a few pieces for fashion week, which was such an amazing honor (even during those long nights where we all were ready to break). I had to step up my sewing game a lot and I am proud to say that my skills are twice what they were upon graduation from FIT. I started my journey towards perfection, and Chromat pushed me the way I needed to begin getting there.

I also got to utilize many of my skills from those graphic design roots I worked so hard to perfect in the last decade. It's nice to know that my Adobe skills are advantageous in the fashion world, not to mention that the projects are way more fun!

Leaving Chromat made me very sad. I felt such a connection to this company. I found myself pretty emotional on Thursday and Friday.

I have given myself time to reflect and have been thinking about how much my life has changed. And only because I decided to change it. Change can be so hard, especially if we aren't expecting or ready for it.

But change has struck again and it is up to me and only me to decide the path I take next.

Friday morning in my sad state, I sent a single email to a contact about another opportunity I was pursuing before I walked into a Chromat sample sale in May with my portfolio and asked for an internship.

I patterned and sewed this denim bustier using upcycled denim. Design by Chromat.

I patterned and sewed this denim bustier using upcycled denim. Design by Chromat.

The universe is again aligning, and I have a meeting set up with my contact tonight as soon as I fly home from North Carolina.

This possible opportunity, if it works out, will have been created just for me. Of course, nothing is set in stone yet, but it's the reminder I needed. The career I am creating isn't the career I left behind. Seeds that I have been sowing are still growing.

On top of that, I look forward to assisting and learning from my friend Leetal Platt as I help her with her amazing line and some of her commission work. Us Her Universe ladies have to stick together!

I have learned that you can sit and wait for things to happen for you, or you can go out and get them. I don't sit around anymore.

Thank you Chromat for the amazing 3.5 month gift! I hope I can share the things I learned from you everywhere I go, and slowly start changing the fashion industry to a more inclusive and diverse world.


 

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Supermodel Emme sporting the Chromat cage I worked on. I built the bra and all the denim casing. Design by Chromat. 

Reflections on the College Experience as a 30-Something Student

I originally wrote up this blog within a week of graduation from the Fashion Institute of Technology in May. However, I ended up losing the majority of the post before I could publish it.

I was super bummed about the loss and hadn't built up the motivation to rewrite it for a while. However, a few weeks ago, I finally got my diploma in the mail. I think what I wrote was worth reading, and I was finally motivated to rewrite it!

"Proof" I graduated  

"Proof" I graduated  

Plus, today marks a kind of special point in history. Two years ago today marked the first time I was ever unemployed. I have had a job since I was a teenager, and always moved to the next job with no break in between. I was laid off (everyone was) and instead of looking for something new I started looking at what my next chapter could be. It was the closing of a door.

Fast forward, one year ago today was my first day of school at The Fashion Institute of Technology. Amazing coincidence really, as this was a brand new door of my life that was opening.

And today, one year later, certainly didn't disappoint. I went into my dream job this morning and finished one of the hardest sewing projects I have ever done, and then took it to a New York fashion week casting call for plus sized models. Several pieces I constructed will be on the runway (designed by Chromat of course). Literally, I am living my dreams. I could never have imagined I'd be here a year ago, or especially two years ago. It's proof that you can change everything at anytime in your life.

So with that introduction, may I present:

What I Learned in the Last Year

It was a full, fast, and intense year with so much learning and growing, both technically and personally.

I came to FIT with the goal of learning the basics of making clothing. I wanted official sewing lessons. I wanted to learn how to drape and pattern. I needed technique. Looking back on the year, I know I got the education I was seeking. I am very proud of the work I put into this short 9 month program!

First semester I felt fully immersed in the technical skills I set out to gather. It was a no-nonsense semester. It was a thrilling kickstart into the fashion world.

Second semester was difficult for me, but not necessarily because of the curriculum. I began to see that there were people in my personal life who were taking over too many of my thoughts and emotions. From there, I became extra sensitive to students and teachers at school who spread negativity or built themselves up by tearing others down.

Despite that, I learned a TON, and am inspired to list out the top experiences and quirks from this school year.

On FIT:

I’m a digital girl. Through the years I have gone almost paperless, save for some sketching and list making. In school, or at least at FIT, it’s impossible to do. Physical note writing is hard to beat when you are in a classroom situation. I went back to a paper planner for my assignments because it was still the easiest way to see all my assignments in one place. Still, I found many things in the education system that are very far behind when it comes to technology.

Pattern making is taught old-school. You use a ton of paper and it is pretty tedious. It is a concept which basics could so easily be completed by a computer program that it is crazy to me that there is no digital pattern making education to complement the hand-drawn work. I feel like learning the long way has major value, but I wish I could have also seen what new technologies are out there.

Additionally, FIT focuses on hand-done illustration almost exclusively. I was flabbergasted that more emphasis was not placed on digital illustration. And even then, the percentage of education spent on drawing croquis (the technical name for drawings of clothing on a figure) is disproportionate to what you will actually do in the industry as a fashion designer. As an intern I have done zero drawings like this.

A beautiful portfolio may help you get hired, but unless you are a fashion illustrator, these skills aren't important in the long run.

Some More Random Facts, According to Me:

It doesn't matter how clean the FIT women’s bathrooms are at the start of the day, they will always be disgusting by 3pm. And I mean every single women’s bathroom on campus. The toilet paper they use is literally not even 1-ply. I would be interested in a study to determine whether they are actually saving money by buying it because you waste so much in order to get a proper usable amount. Yes, I have thought about this in detail.

5 classes in one semester is the perfect amount to make sure you can get everything done and put everything you have into it (I had 5 classes 1st semester. I had 7 classes 2nd semester).

That said, EVERY class is important. There are no blowoff classes. If you think a class is a blowoff, it's because the teacher isn't doing their job or you aren't looking at it hard enough. There was a class that I heard a number of students complain about; it was called Faces and Places in Fashion, and each week a different person from the industry would come speak to our class. In my opinion this was the *most* important class, as this was a way to make connections in the industry before graduation, which is key in finding opportunities. I walked away from this class with half a dozen connections in the industry who are actual influencers. I had several internship offers through them, and even got to tour the wardrobe of the tv show Sneaky Pete because of it.

It is okay to fail. It is okay to fail a test or a project or a class. It does not make YOU a failure. FIT is one of the top 3 fashion schools in the WORLD. If you fail a project it really is okay. I didn’t complete my pattern making final and it devastated me. However, by failing to complete this assignment, it didn’t mean that I learned any less than if I had the time to complete it.

It reminds me of something my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Lundt, told me once. I had gotten a 65% on a test and was upset. But he told me "this means you understood over half of the material! This is difficult stuff." That really stuck with me to this day, and is totally applicable today.

School and fashion programs have terrible interface design. The student intranet (MyFIT), PLM ( a program for creating tech packs to inform manufacturers how to make your garments), and Blackboard are all amazingly non-intuitive and obviously cobbled together continually. The Blackboard app hasn’t been updated in several years, which is an eternity in app design. I get it though, because money isn't usually there to update these interfaces. Most schools don't have a budget to update these systems.

On Sewing:

Basting may seem like a waste of time. It's not.

Pin the crap out of everything before you sew it. It makes a difference. I never pinned much stuff because I didn’t realize how much it helps in garment construction. My mom has been sewing for a jillion years so she never pinned things the way I have found is necessary for clothing. Growing up, I learned to sew from my mom so I just did what she did, except I didn't have the experience she did.

The type of thread you use matters. If you are dying a piece, use the same material of thread as your fabric, unless you want it to dye differently. If you sew a thick material, you need stronger thread.

An invisible zipper foot on an industrial machine is MAGIC.

Don't be afraid to rip out stitches and do something again if it isn't perfect. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 or 10 times to get it right.

Having a good sewing machine repair place is so important. I thought there was something wrong with the way I was sewing, but it turns out my machines all needed tune-ups.

I am also on the lookout for an industrial machine for my home studio. It makes a huge difference in how you sew.

On Students:

Sometimes you should ask fellow students questions about how something is constructed or why the sewing machine isn’t working. Sometimes the students know more than the teachers. HOWEVER..It’s usually better to ask the the teacher first.

If you think you are too good for the school, you probably aren't.

Fashion students have huge egos.

The students who act like they know everything are the least likely to help you.

There are still mean girls. Some of them are boys.

If you spend a lot of time making fun of other people, you might be a mean girl.

There’s no advantage to being an asshole.

On Teaching:

Being a good teacher demands empathy and listening skills. Never assume you know someone's question before they ask it.

Just because you have achieved success as a designer in the industry does not mean you are a good teacher. Teaching, like anything, takes practice. Listen to feedback from students.

Fashion teachers also can have big egos.

Most of the teachers at FIT are great but I did have a couple of really bad ones. Know the difference between bad teaching and bad student work ethic.

On the Experience as a Whole:

Being in your 30s and being in your 20s are very different.

People act like high fashion and costume design are very different. They aren't.

Fashion is very subjective.

Some people work for charities to elevate their own status, not because they want to help people.

Chipotle isn't as good in New York as it is in Colorado.

Sometimes people need validation. Give it.

Sometimes you need validation. Seek it.

Sometimes the things that are most important to learn aren't the ones you get grades for.

We are all learning every day. Assuming that you know it all is dangerous. I don't care what schools you've been to and who you have worked with, there is always more to learn.

In the end, this experience was what I needed to take me to the next level. I am already setting new goals for this year, knowing I can always improve in every aspect. As with anything, learning goes on after formal schooling, and I would argue that you can learn MORE in your first year post degree than you did in your college curriculum.

In 3 months at my internship, I have learned almost as much as in a full semester of coursework, and much more of it is real-world applicable.

It was an intense year, but it's the start of something beautiful for me. I am absolutely thrilled at seeing where the fashion world and New York takes me.

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Old Lady Kristi Goes Back To School: The Finale

I graduate on Thursday you guys. WOAH! I have another post I'm working on which will be full of all the things I've learned, but for now, I wanted to aggregate all of my #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool posts that I have put up over the past year. They've been pretty popular with the people. So here you go, all the unedited posts with this now famous (within my circle) hashtag:


Back in my day, college students didn't have smart phones. NOBODY had smart phones because THEY DIDN'T EXIST! #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, you had to turn in a piece of paper to sign up for classes #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, we only had Photoshop 10, none of this CC business. Indesign was version 2.0 and illustrator was version 7 #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, teachers never gave you their email address because calling their land line was the best way to reach them #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, phones didn't take pictures and you the photo industry hadn't switched to digital yet. My wedding photos are on film with negatives #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, all homework was turned in on thinly pressed pieces of cellulose pulp, called paper #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, there was no Facebook (it only came around my graduation) #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day I had to transfer files by way of a Zip drive that I had to carry around with me and giant Zip disks. If you saw one you'd see why they didn't catch on  #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, the iPod was brand new #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, students didn't need a "no phone" policy in class because we used them for calls only #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, only a few select students had laptops in class to take notes. If you were one you had rich parents or a real nice grandma #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, if you were meeting people online through a dating service it was creepy #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, if you were wearing clothes from the 90s you were *out* of style #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool #ISawAScrunchieToday#AlsoDenimOveralls #AlsoWhiteShirtsUnderDresses

Back in my day, when you wrote a paper, you could only use one Internet reference. #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, I didn't dress like I was going to da club urry day #ohwaityesIdid #teens #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, water bottles had to be awkwardly held under faucets or drinking fountains to be filled and it would take forever. #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, we used mirrors to check our makeup because you couldn't do it on cell phones. They were for phone calls. #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Back in my day, there was no such thing as an online class #oldladykristigoesbacktoschool

Back in my day, you had to buy text books in a bookstore and if they were out of stock you were sol #oldladykristigoesbacktoschool

Back in my day, Blackboard was an actual slate board a teacher wrote on with chalk, not a program for online classes #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool

Semester in Review: Part 2

An example of haute couture: Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Spring Summer 2011

An example of haute couture: Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Spring Summer 2011

My last blog went into detail about the education I have gained in my semester at FIT. I have learned so much technically about designing and building clothing, but there is so much more I’ve absorbed while here in New York. I think the most interesting part of being here is learning about and understanding the machine that is the Fashion Industry.

Let’s talk Haute Couture versus Ready to Wear clothing.

Haute Couture translates from French to mean to literally mean “high dressmaking”. It is defined as "expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading fashion houses.” So all those cool, expensive, edgy fashion week pieces you see on Pinterest are generally Haute Couture. They are constructed for the exact model who is wearing them and are one of a kind. Designers use these as a baseline to create custom pieces for potential buyers who have a lot of money to spend.

Haute Couture shows are very flashy and the pieces are worth thousands upon thousands of dollars, which is really fun and cool for an artist creating them. But the actual customers for that type of work are, well, rich people. The cheapest pieces usually cost only as low as $10,000. The highest priced items maybe upwards of $100,000 depending on the detailing and construction. 

There is also another type of fashion called Ready-to-Wear, which means that they garments are created to be available in many sizes in storefronts or online. Generally the price point of ready-to-wear is much more affordable. Anything with a size on it can be considered ready-to-wear.

I always thought I wanted to do fancy avant garde runway pieces per the haute couture style. I adore Alexander McQueen (although what fashion student doesn’t?) and some of the really bold and daring concepts of other designers such as Iris Von Herpin or John Paul Gaultier.

After spending a semester in New York I realized that I want to make clothes that are accessible to everyone, in every way. I want everyone to have the opportunity to look amazing. In that way, I realized haute couture is not for me in the long run.

My true calling in life is to fight for those who don’t have as many (if any) options to be fashionable. When I told people I was going to fashion school, it was amazing to me how many people brought it to a personal level: “You should design a pair of jeans that fit like this!” “I’d love to have a shirt that works with my body type that is low here and high here.” “I want a skirt that I can put on for work that fits like this so it won’t ever be too short,” and the list goes on and on.

I wrote a blog back in the middle of the semester about my serendipitous meeting with The Art of Dressing Curves author Susan Moses. She inspired me to question the status quo and make my own journey. There are plenty of celebs like Tim Gunn out there being quite vocal about the size discrepancies in fashion. I can’t tell you how often people share his statements or videos of him talking about sizing with me.

However, after this semester, my response is always the same.

How is it is the designer's fault when the education system isn't teaching plus sizing in regular curriculum? It’s easy to go after designers who have made it in the fashion world as it is. It’s easy to get frustrated at them for not being inclusive in sizing. However, how are designers supposed to be inclusive when the very institutions that teach them how to design are so stuck in the past?

I had to go see the amazing Susan Moses again when she did a book signing during the holidays. She's my hero!

I had to go see the amazing Susan Moses again when she did a book signing during the holidays. She's my hero!

I currently go to one of the top 3 fashion schools in the WORLD, and yet, I only have the option of learning to drape on a size 6-8 dress form. My background creating custom fashions for people of all shapes and sizes has taught me that draping on a model that is a 10 or greater takes different technique and a different eye. So how are designers supposed to *know* magically how to design for curvier ladies if we never learn? Especially in a top school?

After meeting Susan, I decided that I needed to take my education into my own hands and bend the rules to integrate bigger sizes.

I found some teachers were very supportive of me pursuing plus size fashion, while others were quite lukewarm about it. Not that I blame them; they have made their careers on doing fashion as it is right now. And old habits die hard. I find it somewhat like the world of ballet, opera, or other "high art" forms. People want to do things the way that they have always done them, and innovation makes people uncomfortable sometimes. Especially if they have made their mark on the world in the current structure of the artform. When I sang in the opera, I always had a hard time because it was just so rigid. I served on the board of directors for Opera Fort Collins for two years, and I found most of my suggestions on how to bring younger people in were not something people wanted to consider. Opera was always this price, and these shows, and that was that. However, as we have seen in the world of Opera, lack of innovation does eventually lead to downfall. 

So how do we move forward? How do we innovate? If more students and teachers decide to push the envelope and work towards teaching both model as well as average American sizing, we can create a new normal. And not just sizing up from a size 6 - actually creating garments made for our curves from the get go, not as an afterthought. By the way, that’s why so many clothes look super cute on a size 4, but do not work for a size 12. As women gain sizes they also have curves that extend in different ways, not the way a smaller size does. Just adding ease into sizing as it goes up only works to a certain point, and then ends up looking boxy because it doesn’t compliment a woman’s curves. That's why it is important to break the standard and start actually designing clothes at different sizes.

This semester, this is what I did to fight for women like me: 

I requested to create plus size fashion illustration in my fashion design class. I was met with opposition from my teacher, so I started doing my own research on beautiful plus size illustrations. I want to work on my personal illustration style, and you can bet that although I didn’t do plus size for my projects, I will be working on it independently and pushing for this semester’s teacher to allow me some leeway.

In my sewing class, our last project was to sew a pair of pants from a size 8 pattern that was provided. I requested to make a pair of pants that would actually fit my own body. My teacher showed me how to take an existing pair that fit me and make a pattern from it (an awesome skill to know anyway). So I made a custom size 12/14 pair of corduroys rather than the normal size 8.

My term garment from draping class

My term garment from draping class

In my soft silhouette draping class, my teacher allowed me to pad my dress form up in order to make it size 12 for our final project. I used 2 sets of Fabulous Fit dress form pads to recreate my body measurements for my term garment. My final dress turned out amazingly, and FITS ME. My professor was very encouraging and super helpful throughout the process. He brought in other teachers to look at my work, and even pointed my final to the department chair on grading day. Unfortunately she didn’t seem very impressed, but again I have found this kind of apathy is deeply rooted in the industry.

All of my effort required extra energy and time. For me, this is a cause that is worth fighting for. But I understand why any other student, especially younger students, wouldn’t pursue such a path in school. But I am going to continue challenging myself and my teachers for another semester so that I can truly earn the education I am aspiring to have.

I'll keep looking for opportunities to innovate my own design during school to make it more plus size/normal size friendly. I’ll keep fighting the system that wants to stay in the past to help ease it into the future. I'll keep hoping to make a difference

Let’s work together to create a new normal in fashion. Here's to the Spring semester!

Semester in Review, Part 1

I’ve been meaning to write about my first semester for a while, but just didn’t get to it until now. In fact, I have thoughts about a few different things just dying to be published so I hope I can make time before school starts up again to blog a little more!

Even though we’re almost a month out now, I still *just* completed my first semester at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s one year program in Fashion Design. I can’t believe I’m halfway through already!

I knew that my program was pretty elite, but I found out that only 50 new students are admitted to the program in fall semester, and only 25 new students in the Spring. Considering FIT has a 44% acceptance rate (compared to my alma mater CSU at 81%), that means it’s even more difficult to get into the program as only a fraction of fashion design students are admitted into it. I feel pretty awesome that, with no formal training, I managed to be in the top 50.

When I started the semester it was a little rough. Being surrounded by students that were 10-15 years younger than myself was kind of a trip. Thus, the #OldLadyKristiGoesBackToSchool hashtag began on Facebook. When I was in my late teens and early 20s I couldn’t fathom the life experience, job experience, and professional experience I would gain in the next 10 years of my life. Having a job and knowing *how* to have a job is so crucial in job success. And unless you’ve been there and done the time, it’s impossible to explain to to a younger person, as I am sure it would be impossible for me to understand what it’s like to be 40, 50, or beyond.

But I digress. Let’s get down to what I have learned about myself in these last 6 months.

Going into the program I thought I was an excellent illustrator and an okay seamstress. I have learned I am an okay illustrator in comparison to my peers. However, I am an excellent seamstress in comparison to my peers. Surprise!

Is this driving you crazy yet?

Is this driving you crazy yet?

Translating concepts from my head into fabric usually gets me a product that is 90% of what I imagined. However, when I illustrate I only get about 60-70% there. Interestingly enough, I feel like my career in graphic design was this 60-70% as well. Mind you, it’s not that my designs were not to my liking, they were just only essence of the original idea I pictured. 

Next semester my goal is to really find myself as a fashion illustrator. The teacher I had was very good at showing us how to apply her personal techniques, but I find that I need to find my own “voice” as an illustrator. I want my work to really say who I am and not who my teacher was. As my illustration grows, I want to my designs to also grow exponentially.

When I compare my own sewing skills to that of my classmates, I find that practice does indeed make perfect. I have sewn miles and miles of fabric in the last few years as I did freelance for all sorts of interesting people. Having a little guidance has offered me so much more than I could have learned on my own. Being comfortable with different fabric types and how to work with them also has made a huge difference in this educational experience. 

It’s interesting to see that some of my classmates will create a beautiful design on paper, and then choose a fabric that doesn’t flow or lay like what they have drawn. My background and experience allows me to not even think about this, I just KNOW it. I never had a teacher question my fabric choice, whereas I witnessed most of the other students having to alter their design around the chosen fabric, or have to select a different fabric all together.

Learning little tricks and stitching strategies have helped me majorly in my own designs, as well as the newly learned knowledge that fabric grains will change how fabric lays on the body. These techniques weren’t on my radar at all, but once you know about them, it’s impossible to go back. In addition, having the will to throw all the standards out the window is an important skill. Sometimes my instinct produces a finer looking product than the instructed version.

I have learned that I am very good at time management. I thought school would take a lot more undivided time. It definitely is no cakewalk and requires commitment, but not nearly as much as I anticipated. I really want to work on my projects outside of class, so that excitement made things feel less like traditional homework. I am constantly thinking about my designs as well as new designs; I sometimes have to write down concepts before bed because I am worried about forgetting some new idea my brain just cooked up.

The week before finals I had to miss 3 full days of school and 4 full classes because of illness. I was worried that I would suddenly be very behind and would need to work overtime to complete my projects. However, I actually caught up very quickly because my time management throughout the semester had been excellent. I had unknowingly built up a huge buffer. I didn't feel stressed to finish, and my work turned out almost exactly how I anticipated. Because I had put in the time beforehand, I was able to submit my best work rather than make compromises based on time limits. 

Many of my fellow students worked several all-nighters to complete their projects. Others worked very quickly and were ahead of the game, but the quality of their final projects was on a lower end. Time management would help both of these extremes. I can’t figure out how the students that were very behind got there when some of them had very simple designs. I personally made my work very complicated and yet still finished with time to spare. And even then, although not perfect, I found my sewing technique was far beyond a lot of my classmates.

I am not trying to say that my work is the best or anything, but it was very interesting to compare myself to this younger generation. At the beginning of the semester I would have rated myself as being one of the least talented designers in the program. 10-15 years ago I would have been the one who finished everything early but the the quality would have been less than desireable. I've always been an ideas girl, not necessarily an application girl. As I've grown up, I've discovered the value of taking things a little more slowly in order to produce that optimum product. I've found taking time to understand a concept is important before you try to do it your own way (although I don't know if I'll ever fully embrace this). At the end of the semester, just seeing all the skills I have brought to the table (specifically that time management part) I do feel I am more at the top of my class than the bottom. But I have an advantage at my age as I have been through the ringer of college once before, as well as having more than ten years of creative industry experience under my belt.

Overall FIT has been an incredible and perfect choice for me. This education pathway is teaching me everything I desired to know about the fashion world and how to construct beautiful clothing. Plus, I only have to sacrifice a year (not 2 or 4) to get the education required to start a new career. I have learned so much about clothing design and production, but also about the industry as a whole.

I have a whole other blog’s worth of thoughts on the fashion industry, so I think I’ll stop here for now. But I am truly thankful of the support from friends and family near and far, and I know that I am exactly where I need to be to find my truest happiness.

 

I Am Not A Circle-Shaped Woman

"What are your thoughts on plus size?" I ask my fashion design professor this afternoon. It was the end of the class hour. Only myself and a couple other students remain, going over our work one by one with her for an extra critique.  

"I wouldn't do it," she says with a frown.

"You mean I should master this figure first?" I reply, thinking that perhaps we were focusing on the generally accepted fashion figure, and then later we could expand into a fuller female style if we so chose. That has been my assumption all along, and I was looking forward to finding out how to alter my designs for all the bigger gals out there.

"I know Tim Gunn just put out that piece criticizing the fashion industry for ignoring plus size," my teacher lamented, "but that's just not how it's done." Plus size should be a subset of a collection, she explained, not the collection itself. It should be based on a "normal" size.

I was dumbstruck. I further clarified, did she mean for my portfolio or for everything?

"I wouldn't put it in your portfolio unless you were applying for a particular job that required it." She replied. A lump grew in my throat.

Keep in mind, I have an incredible respect for this professor. She is not only an exceptional teacher and artist, but she knows the ins and the outs of the fashion industry from the time she was barely old enough to understand them to now, a seasoned influencer. She was born and raised in this industry, and I don't take advice like this with a grain of salt. She's been there. She knows. She tells me this because this is the way things have been done for decades and decades, and maybe times are changing, but change is hard. She's plus size herself. I trust her. She's telling me this because she wants me to succeed. She isn't to blame.

But I also know from hands-on experience that you simply cannot take a garment designed for a size 2 and make it work for a size 18. The lines are different. The shapes are different. In order to make a really flattering piece, you should design for that size from the get-go. 

Fashion is weird because it seems so cutting edge, yet in many ways it's so behind the times. I am shocked that design flats are not entirely done on computer at this point. The requirements of students in the computer lab has only been increased and required for the degree itinerary THIS YEAR. This surprised me. Most rendering is still done completely by hand. And yet, somehow it's still 2016.

The "fashion figure" is a tall slender drawing of a model that is used to help design an outfit or collection of clothing. I have an entire class that is dedicated to learning how to draw this type of figure (by hand) and use it to design fashion. "Croquis" is another term to describe this exaggerated figure with long legs and only slight hips and bustline.

At FIT, top student work is displayed on many of the fashion-focused floors behind glass and on bulletin boards. Not a single one is a plus sized figure. Not. One. 

On top of that, nearly every dress form in the entire school is a size 4-6. There are a few rogue 8s and one or two 10s, but generally they are out of date. When choosing my form assignments for the semester I immediately went for size 10s. I want to work on as close to my own size as possible. My dress form is a 1995 vintage and my pants form (a full size body with legs for draping pants) a '97. I would also probably estimate them to be closer to an 8 in today's standard sizes. But it's the best I could get. 

I thought perhaps this size differential was a perception. That there WAS education available for those interested in different sizing, it just wasn't talked about or used as widely.

I am devastated to know that it isn't a perception, that it just isn't there. The resources don't exist.

I am studying fashion because I want to design for myself. I want to design for "me" kinds of women. I want to prove that any woman above a size 10 isn't shaped like a circle. That we DESERVE to feel sexy right now, not when we gain or lose however many pounds. That having goals for our health should not be mutually exclusive to what we are wearing right at this moment.

Why does fashion have to be for the elitist figures? Is my girlfriend who is 6'4" and wears a size 18 jeans (which still makes her quite thin for her proportion) somehow less worthy of having a great dress because she was not born to be a size 6?

Why does plus size, curves, or height have to be an afterthought? Why does it have to be "special" when Ashley Graham is on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Why is this not a norm already?

And then.

I met Susan Moses.

Last week I found myself at Mood Fabrics perusing the aisles for fabrics when I saw a book on the counter that jumped out at me: The Art of Dressing Curves.

The photo I took on my phone that day at Mood Fabrics

The photo I took on my phone that day at Mood Fabrics

I stopped and took a photo of the book thinking I'd order it later on Amazon because it looked interesting. Lo and behold, only 2 days later, I see a flyer at FIT telling me the author would be doing a talk and a book signing the next week. Which happened to be today, exactly 10 minutes after said conversation with my professor. 

The world works in mysterious ways.

This woman, stylist for Queen Latifah & Kathy Bates, among others, immediately restored the faith I needed. I won't go into too much about her talk as this blog is already long enough, but when I told her about my experience in design class she assured me that it was wrong. That changing the world starts with students like me. With designers like me willing to challenge the norm.

"I've never met a woman who says 'Put me in a potato sack, I want to look horrible,'" Susan joked during her talk. 

I plan on reading this book immediately and absorbing as much knowledge as I can from this intelligent and beautiful woman. Susan, if you somehow read this, you totally took a moment today that could have really troubled me and turned it inside out immediately. Your encouragement was very inspirational. You have provided me with at least one resource in a barren landscape.

I hope I can be a crusader in the fight for equality in women's wear. Because I don't personally think fashion should be an elite thing only for size 4-6 and the rest of us are out of luck. The world needs to change, and if we keep doing things the way they've always been done, we'll never achieve equality.

I'll end with one of the best things Susan told us tonight:

"We don't need to all look alike to be inspired by each other."

 

Susan Moses, Goddess and Stylist, with me, Fashion Student and Greaseball

Susan Moses, Goddess and Stylist, with me, Fashion Student and Greaseball

As Demi Lovato once said, what's wrong with being confident?

The girl across the table from me had drawn a line on the wrong side of her garment. Her friend, next to her (and roommate in the dorm) attempted to explain to her what was wrong with it in a kind way. I could see the girl immediately shut down as the instructions were making no sense to her. "I don't get it," she said simply. The tone of frustration was prevalent. 

 

"Hey, you've almost got it!" I interject, trying to give her a little confidence. The dynamic between these two students is interesting. It seems to me that student A feels like she will never be as "good" as student B. So I'm sure when B gives her instruction can be a little frustrating emotionally for her. In another class, I recall A saying something along the lines of "never put my work next to her's! It makes mine look so bad."

 

We've all been there. We've all felt like our best will never quite match up to this other person or in general. I think as you navigate through your mid to late 20s you realize, hey, there is ALWAYS someone better so all you should focus on is YOUR best. And honestly, what does it matter if someone sews better than you? Maybe your designs are better and someday she'll end up working for you. Maybe it's not about drawing skills, but about the idea and emotion of your piece. Maybe it's about starting somewhere and moving upwards, and in that case it doesn't matter where you start.

 

One thing I feel confident knowing and feel it necessary to remind some of my younger students is that we are Here To Learn. If you already knew it all you wouldn't be in school.

 

I try to explain the issue in another way to A and she remains quiet, flipping her sample over and staring at it. "Maybe you should ask the professor." I suggest. B agrees, "Yeah, maybe she can explain it better than we can."

 

A just looks down at her fabric, defeated. Silent. I exchange a glance with B and we let her alone to her frustrations.

 

I have learned through the years that you cannot be afraid to ask for help. This particular teacher seems to intimidate some of the younger students, but I love her. She is clear and concise. I think my advantage is that I see her as more of a peer than some of the other students so I am not afraid of her. It's crazy what a 10-15 year difference will make when you are young. As you get older, it doesn't seem to matter as much. And as a woman especially, it can be hard to say "oh hey, I don't get it." But once you can and do, you'll learn so much more!

 

In the end Student A ended up figuring it out on her own and moved along to the next part. I am curious if she would do better on her own rather than always comparing herself to student B. I hope she gets there.

First First Day of School in 14 Years

My actual first day of preschool in 1988. I had not yet mastered the backpack. I had, however, mastered pigtails.

My actual first day of preschool in 1988. I had not yet mastered the backpack. I had, however, mastered pigtails.

Today was the first day of class. I got countless messages from people wishing me a good day, so thank you all for that. I wish I could say I had a blast, but the truth is that the day was varied. It started off pretty anxiety-ridden but ended on a positive note. 

I was emailed by 4 different professors in the last week about the syllabus and class lists. Plus we had a meeting last Thursday in orientation for fashion design incoming students which included the "standard" lists for the first day of classes. On top of that, I got my first class of the day's list last night. So many supplies, some overlapping, some specified in certain lists and generalized in others, all syllabi in different format and media. Trying to piece everything together has been somewhat stressful.

Yesterday I was shopping at Michael's for the art-focused supplies and literally just started having a panic attack, the kind where my chest gets tight, and I sweat A LOT. I suppose it makes sense with the cluster that was list deciphering, but I wasn't expecting to feel anxiety this late in the game about school.

But I guess it's real now. Mentally I am ready but my body is still catching up.

Then this morning I arrived early to buy a few sewing items for my first class. I ordered a backpack on Amazon last night and I am excited for its arrival. I have so much stuff to truck from class to class and I feel like a pack mule or something. I had an 18x24 newsprint pad today (for which I got a carrying case for as I remember from art school 14 years ago that the pages will get trampled in my commute). I also got pattern paper which is 45" and super awkward when you are also carrying a huge flat rectangle around.

Because of the 70 lists I had, of course somehow I didn't have the right materials for the first class. It wasn't my fault. The list said #1 muslin and plain pattern paper, which I purchased this morning. Then it turned out we needed #3 muslin and dotted pattern paper. There wasn't enough time for me to pick up the new supplies and get back to class before it ended either, so I still haven't threaded an industrial machine yet.

I *can* work on this at home but it won't give me the practice on the industrial machine. So my body panicked about this silly thing that I will certainly catch up on easily.

I had about 2 hours between classes and my body just continued to stew and panic. It didn't feel great. I know it's a temporary thing, worrying about supplies, and I am prone to panic attacks. It's okay. I just found a quiet corner in a Starbucks and tried to catch up with my thoughts.

My 2nd class of the day, and my only evening class, is figure drawing. May I just say this, thank the goddesses for Mary-Ann Kokaska. She was this tiny soft-spoken teacher at Colorado State who taught the summer course of figure drawing, and she was known for being one of the toughest teachers at the school of art. BUT if you really listened to her and worked hard, you would come out so much better at the end of the semester. I improved leaps and bounds in her class and hoped that I would remember her teachings.

Tonight my teacher kept coming up behind me and telling me how beautiful my work was looking. I know that towards the end of class she was parked behind me for a while, and I think she was watching how I worked. She pulled me aside at the end and asked me what my major was. I told her I was a one-year student and she basically implied that my technique was excellent and I mentioned I took a figure class 13 years ago (hoo boy) when I got my bachelor's degree originally. She was like "Ah, that explains it!"

It made me feel awesome. After a kind of up and down day, it was a reminder that I am not starting over, no matter how I feel on the first day. I am only adding on to the knowledge that I already have, as well as the life skills and confidence I've worked so hard to build up in the last 10 years. It was a nice ego boost to have a teacher personally remind me that I belong here and I'm going to kick ass here.

Here's to the rest of the week!