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!

 

 

Orienting at Orientation

Heeeere I am

Heeeere I am

Today was the first day of orientation at the Fashion Institute of Technology and I was very anxious about it. Which seems silly, but at the same time also completely rational. I'm making a huge life change by coming back to school in my 30s. Losing my job, applying for fashion school, finding an apartment, moving across the country; the whole last year of my life has led to this point. It *is* kind of a big deal. Today was the first day of the culmination of all the things I've been working for, and honestly, of me following the dreams I never knew I had.

Honestly, I've not been looking forward to orientation. So much of it seemed unnecessary to me personally, as I am not right out of high school, I'm not living on my own for the first time, this isn't the very beginning for me. As an 18 year old kid going to Colorado State University in 2002 I didn't really know what I was going to get out of my college experience. But now, in 2016, I know exactly what I want and need to accomplish here. 

Looking at the orientation schedule a few days ago I got somewhat flustered because it implied that I would need to be at the school from 9am to 11pm every day this week, which seemed super excessive to me. "I'm already oriented!" I proclaimed. "I already know how to student, just let me student!" "Look at these life skills I already have!" *Starts throwing out paperwork and business cards erratically.*

My life isn't without transition right now, but my transition is so much different than most of the other incoming students. The thing I am most anxious about was knowing how much time was necessary for this week's introduction to the school. The older I get, the more I realize how valuable my time really is. Especially since I have been making such an effort to limit the things I do in order to focus on the things I love. I didn't want to sit through lectures about how to be a college student. I know how to do that and did it for 4 years over 10 years ago.

The FIT president gave a fantastic welcoming speech to the incoming students.

The FIT president gave a fantastic welcoming speech to the incoming students.

This morning started with one line after another. I was in various lines from around 8:15 to around 11:45 and all I had to show for it was a catalogue, a t-shirt, and a student ID. Orientation is generally a student-run event, so because of this it was a little bit of a shitshow, I won't lie. It's probably like that at every university. This absolutely makes sense to me - these students haven't worked for years as event planners or speakers. They come up with ideas to bring a little school spirit into the new class coming in, not figuring out what the best way to flow students from one event to another. Running a fluid event is difficult, but with a little experience you learn stuff like how to figure out where your lines run, how to move large groups of people from space to space, why making people wait 45 minutes for crappy hamburgers in an unshaded sunspot can make them real crankypants, etc. These kids (and I can call them kids because I am 14 years older than some of them) can't have the life experience to know how to do that. BUT, they did have some amazing speakers lined up such as the dean of the school of art and design, the president of the university, and a professor sharing her knowledge about sustainable design. Interestingly enough, they were all women, which was super inspiring.

The students also had an activity where you could MAKE YOUR OWN STUFFED ANIMAL TIGER THING! I was super stoked. You actually were just given a deflated stuffed tiger that you got to fill with fiber which is *I guess* like build-a-bear but I have never done that so it's all new to this gal. I was PSYCHED. 

My tiger friend, Tilda Tiger. FIT's mascot is the tiger, probably.

My tiger friend, Tilda Tiger. FIT's mascot is the tiger, probably.

But I digress. For the most part, I felt like I did a lot of standing and waiting. Or sitting and waiting. But I did meet a few people, as I tend to do, and that was a positive experience. I didn't speak with any other fashion design majors today, but when I mentioned that I was one people always seemed impressed. "Oh, that is really hard here!" Most of the students were doing things like merchandising, marketing, or fine art. 

And like I said, I found the speakers very inspirational especially having been through school once before. I very much appreciated the things they said about how education is so important and how this time in your life really helps you learn who you are and who you can be. 

Earlier in the day, we played a game in one of the auditoriums called Interruptions. Basically, someone stands up and says "Hi I'm (person's name) and I am (interesting fact about them)" and as they describe themselves or their likes, another person will "interrupt" them and say "I also am (interesting fact about them)" and they continue on with other facts about themselves or their interests, as people continue to interrupt when they have something in common. At one point a girl got up and said "I'm (name) and I like theatre!" and there was a somewhat uncomfortable pause as no one immediately jumped in. Internally I was like "oh god here we go" so I of course stood up and said I liked theatre. Then I decided to put my biggest hangup right out there for everyone: "Hi, I'm Kristi and I'm 32 years old!" 

People. Freaking. Cheered. 

Not just a little. They screamed for me. It made my heart swell. It was so validating. 

I am confident in my age and the fact that I am a non-traditional student this time around. I'm confident period, which is something I noticed that was different about me versus the other students. I've earned confidence from experience. But I am aware that I have a baby face and could legitimately pass off as a 22 or 23 year old. In the right setting, such as orientation at FIT, I could probably even pass as a 18 year old. But I'm not. In the sea of baby faces, it was desperately important to me that people know that for some reason. I have been around the block and I am coming back to school because I am FOCUSED and I am following my dreams to educate myself in order to be the best designer I can be. That was the thing killing me - I felt like I needed to differentiate myself because this experience is one I have worked so hard for. I worked for it during my first bachelor's degree. I worked for it every time I had setbacks in my graphics career. I worked for it the day I could admit to myself I wasn't happy with design. I worked for it when I realized fashion design could be a viable career option for me. 

It may be a little irrational, but I accept that. It's okay to be irrational sometimes, but I hope I'm also being level-headed about my irrationality.

The rest of the week has a lot of programming I feel like I can skip out on. Thankfully there's no attendance taking or anything, so I feel comfortable picking and choosing the meetings that seem right for me. I had been really worried about this, as if someone would give me a demerit if I didn't attend the "How to be a college student" sessions. Tomorrow there are some events in the afternoon that sound interesting so I will probably go check them out. I'd also like to find all my classroom locations, and I have been slowly getting emails from professors with the class syllabi and supply lists. So a trip to various supply stores will be necessary as well. 

All in all, I am feeling way less nervous now that day one is complete. I am excited in a non-anxious way about classes starting next week, and am very much looking forward to jumping in purse first! I also think there will be plenty of time for mental preparation to start this journey officially a week from today.

Organizing Supplies & Organizing Dreams

Last night I couldn't sleep. I'm coming up on my first day school very soon; orientation starts a week from today. I have been so ready and excited, but the last few days have been filled with something I can't quite put my finger on. Anxiety...? Maybe in the way that people who don't have anxiety medication feel when something new like this comes up. Not overwhelming, but always in the back of your mind.

Today I spent a lot of time working on organizing my sewing studio. We were lucky enough to snag a relatively large sized apartment in Astoria (1000 square feet!) with not one, but two bedrooms. This way I will have a space that is completely my own for all my projects. In our old apartment(s) whenever I had a sewing project it would slowly escalate, taking over the entire house by the time I was done. The current plan is that everything will be very organized in my new space so that I can keep it out of the rest of the house/out of disarray.

The sewing studio, a work in progress.

The sewing studio, a work in progress.

Unfortunately, since I was pretty much depressed for the last two years, organization hasn't been on the top of my list. Stuff was EVERYWHERE. I spent almost a month before the move going through all my possessions and liquidating, reorganizing, and rehoming many things. Unfortunately this process was not completed before moving, so I had put a lot of things in "to be organized" boxes. I am finally getting through everything now, thank the goddesses. 

In this process I realized I had duplicates of lots of items because things were in so many different places. For example, I have 5 exacto knives and about 40 extra blades for them. I have about 10 rolls of quarter inch black elastic. And about 5 kajillion pens.

My husband and my houseguest were impressed with my progress today which makes me feel great. It's nice to see this creative space coming together. I still have a corner of things to go through, but I *should* have it all taken care of by next week.

A beautiful gift my friends signed when I left Colorado.

A beautiful gift my friends signed when I left Colorado.

It's been important to me to feel 100% moved in by the time I start school. We've been in NYC for officially 6 weeks, and you could say that I should have been done by now, but we all know that's not how it works when you move cross-country . I didn't want to rush getting used to living here either. But I have definitely had a little last minute panic about being mentally ready to start school (calm down Kristi, you still have 2 weeks). I don't want to have to worry about where things are in case I get slammed with schoolwork. Many times when working on freelance costuming I found that I only had time for commissions or organizing, not both. Part of the "New Kristi" is never feeling like I have to compromise on my work if I can help it. 

And that's the thing too; I have no idea what kind of after hours work I will have when I start school. I don't know if I will have some classes that will require as much homework outside of work as scheduled class hours, as was the case for many of my art studio classes my first time around in college, or if I will have free evenings and weekends. Or, maybe somewhere in the middle. I'm nervous about it. I don't like not knowing. I'm prepared to be swamped in schoolwork but would actually love to have a little personal time.

I have been purposefully not scheduling any other commitments for the duration of my school year. I have 2 commissions that will be taken care of likely by the end of August, but otherwise that is it. It's hard for me. I am usually juggling 5-6 things at a time, but often it turns out not so good on my stress levels. I am making an active effort to focus.

Speaking of extra activities, I have a few friends who have been auditioning for musicals back in Colorado in the last few days that have made me feel a little sad and nostalgic for my performing life. But one of the things I've been working on is to not continue beating the square peg into the round hole as it were. I am sad because I want to sing, I want to perform, but I know how much energy it requires and I simply cannot take that time potential away from a school schedule that I do not yet know.

Also I want my performance life to bring joy, not pain. And for the last year that I was doing theater productions, it brought me mostly pain. Emotional and physical. I met some amazing people no doubt, in fact, if I had not met my friend Garrett I probably wouldn't even be in New York right now. But the last 2 shows I performed in were far from fun. 

Of course, I was in that delightful cycle of being unhappy with my job, so I filled my life with things I was "supposed to" love. In the end I had so many things going on it felt like I didn't truly have enough time to savor the experience.  If a rehearsal felt like a waste of time I was immediately irritated because I had so little to spare in my personal life.

I also found in a particular group that setting high expectations for myself was not okay. Somehow, my experience level was used against me as people assumed that since I wanted bigger parts I was somehow a diva or a bitch, or had an "attitude". I get it, everyone is important in a show, but by feeling like I had to "earn" a spot was frustrating to me. I have been performing for 17 years, and I know my talent shows what it is. I am professional and have spent my life earning my spot as such. I am also realistic. I don't want to be ensemble. It doesn't bring me the joy that being center stage does. I can't believe how many lectures I got about not accepting ensemble. Ya'll, I had New York life waiting for me, I'm not going to stick around to just be a background character. I'm not passionate about that. Please give the part to someone who is passionate being on stage as an ensemble member.

I also think I am a good and nice person. And the last few times I have done theater it's made me feel like I'm not, that I am expecting too much, and that I am not nice and am a diva and should just give up.

And no matter how hard I tried to be in the clique I never was. I tried so hard to be accepted! I went to events, even tried to schedule an exclusive get together with this group (and not EVEN ONE PERSON rsvp'd). I found out after the fact at how many things I'd not been invited to, that were supposedly "known" events. I offered to volunteer services for events and was always met with a decline. I even offered services in sewing and fundraising and was never followed up with.

It's really stung and I've had a hard time getting over it. I've written and rewritten this blog a few times trying to process and organize my emotions. I am hurt because I was ready to jump over the moon at one point for this group. I don't think it was necessarily one person's fault and I don't want to point fingers, but I felt (and still feel) very excluded.  This set of people has focus on certain things that leaves people like me with nowhere to stand. It just sucks. And now I have a bitter taste in my mouth when it comes to performing. 

My next experience has got to be a joyful one, or I just can't do it anymore. I've gone over and over in my mind whether I sabotaged myself. Did I expect too much? And now, in retrospect, being here in New York and trying to follow a new dream, I say no. Set the expectations even higher, I say. Let go of those experiences that seem to bring more heartache than happiness. 

A year ago I decided to stop doing the status quo. Stop doing things I felt neutral about, just did because I could. I started taking on only things that not only felt right, but felt AWESOME. If I felt kinda meh about something, I decided not to do it. So because of that I literally have been doing zero freelance graphic design work. Because of that I took on doing costumes for New York Deaf Theater last year for their fall production. Because of that I fell in love with New York and visited FIT. Because of that, I am going to fashion school in 2 weeks.

Every step of my journey to become a fashion designer has been easy. Every. Single. Step.

Sure, I didn't get into the Her Universe Fashion Show at SDCC this year. That sucked. But seeing the designs this year I know I would not have won or come close. I played it safe with my submitted designs because I had to work within the bounds of moving and starting school so I knew my time would have been limited. That's not how you win that competition - you have to throw your balls to the wall 100% and come up with something freaking amazing. That wasn't going to be me this time around. And if I do the competition again, I want to try to give my very best winning work. Last year I had no expectations of winning, just to absorb the experience, which I think worked out wonderfully for me.

This is the only show juried show I haven't gotten into since I've started doing fashion design seriously. I really feel like I have some sort of magic in this field that I've never felt about anything except theater. But I can't seem to get the rewards for doing theater that I have even in a few short years doing fashion.

A friend of mine is currently fulfilling a rehearsal contract for a major performance company in NYC right now. 10 years ago she missed a shot with this company because of an injury, and so life is coming full circle allowing her the chance to pursue it again now. We were chatting the other day about performing and I mentioned some of my frustrations. She asked me if performing gave me the sort of happiness that made it worth continuing to try making it work. I told her that the highs were so high, but the lows were just too low to continue right now. My heart just can't take it. And she responded after thinking for a moment that her career as a performer has been somewhat easy. She pretty much has gotten into all the shows she ever wanted to do, save for the one she waited 10 years for. She hasn't had that let down that kills so many performer's confidence. She's a diamond in the rough for sure, that's not a common career path for a performer. 

It made me start thinking. Square peg, round hole. Or focusing on the passion that is taking me places.

Turning off the performer in me is not easy, but I know it's the right choice for now. The universe has other things in store for me. As I said earlier, it's taken me weeks to write this blog. I don't want anyone to be mad or feel like I'm bad-talking a company; it's what I feel and my experience with them. Please respect that and don't try to convince me that my feelings aren't valid. It's been on my mind so much I needed to set it free and let it out so that I can move on to what I'm here to do, which is start my life over and be passionate about everything I am putting my energy into.

And who knows, maybe there will be a little time for singing and dancing this year after all.

 

 

 

 

Busy Bee turned Creative Butterfly

I have a lot of time right now. A lot of time to be just with myself and ponder things. I have found myself actually BORED. I literally can't remember the last time I felt bored. 

It has bugged me lately (pre-move of course) when someone starts their conversation by saying "I know you're busy but..." 

I am not busy. I actually haven't really been busy for a while (save for about a week before we left Colorado. The Moving "Busys".) I have been making a concerted effort to stop the "busys". 

Those of you who really know me have likely heard of my great relationship with therapy in the last 8 months. After getting laid off last year, I thought "Well, I have so much time to do All the Things now!" So I signed on to do costumes for a company in New York, as well as committed myself to several freelance costume jobs, plus on top of that I agreed to do a juried runway show. I also was asked if I could increase my entries to said runway show from 1 to 3, since they were looking for an opening set of looks. "Of course!" I said, like someone who apparently doesn't know how to judge the time it takes to do things. I thought not having a day job would open me up to endless possibilities.

After I came back from NY the first time from measuring actors and sitting in on rehearsals, before I got super stressed, I realized I might need help delegating my time. Why did I always do this? It was all fine and good until something went wrong, and then there was absolutely no wiggle time to fix anything. I sensed I was following the same pattern, yet again. Not only that, there was no time for me to just BE, and not DO.

I have discovered about myself that if I am not happy with something in my life, I try to fill it to the brim with things that I love in order to counter balance. But instead of tipping the scales, sometimes everything just plain falls over. 

I finally took responsibility for this busy-ness complex and looked for a new therapist.  I have had several other great therapists in the past, but I've always had to find new ones because of circumstances that were out of my control, like moving. The last one I had was referred to me through a network by a therapist friend, but she discontinued her practice several years ago to pursue another career. 

Finding someone new can be mentally daunting. You want to find the right "fit" between patient and therapist, otherwise it can be not nearly as helpful. Just picking up the phone can sometimes take all the courage you have for the week. I knew that a move to NYC was likely in my future, and I also knew that I could potentially have an anxiety crapstorm if I didn't find a qualified professional to help me prepare and get through it.

Lucky for me, the universe was on my side and I found a wonderful fit through a mere google search! My friend who referred me to the last person even knew this new person and was so happy I found her. It seems so easy looking back now, but it took me a full 2 years to even try to find someone. It's hard.

One of the first things New Awesome Therapist had me do was to physically calendar out all the things I had planned for the spring. At that time, I was considering doing voice acting for an ASL play locally that had a 6 week run. I also was working on my portfolio for my fashion school application, plus about 7 other gigs I was asked to do or auditioning for. Plus many, many sewing commissions. TECHNICALLY YES, I could do all these things, but seeing it visually made me realize my life was following down the same path to destruction. Always doing things, never quite having enough time to put the quality effort into any of those things. Never allowing for mistakes or do-overs. 

Even when I had a day job, ESPECIALLY when I had one, I would overschedule myself all the time. This mostly happened when I was not enjoying the job anymore. I would just fill in all my time with things I knew I loved, hoping that somehow that would make up for it. Again, trying to tip the scale and instead having it fall over sideways.

I had to discover not only how to say "no" but when to say it. Which projects are worth doing? If I can do something, I usually say Sure! I have been doing that all my life. I always said "I can do graphic design, so I guess I will." I never stopped to check in with myself to see if I really wanted to do it anymore. This year I made a pact with myself to stop taking on things that I felt neutral about, and only take on projects that made my heart skip a beat, things that ignited my passion for creativity or that really MEAN something to me. 

And with that, gone were graphic design projects and freelance. Gone were clothing alterations. Gone were theater costuming gigs. Gone was the 8-5 corporate graphic design job. I really focused on things that are important to me, like fashion/costume design commissions, singing, dancing, and honestly, just chilling out.

I had gotten myself to the dreaded "Office Space" mantra of just wanting to do nothing for a while. I even doubted whether I really was ready for a new career - what if I started fashion design and felt the same old mental block? My husband assured me that if that happened it would still be okay. And he's right, you know. Putting myself out in the universe and seeing what sticks works best if you continue to do so when something doesn't stick.

But the funny thing is this: I don't think I've ever been as passionate about anything as I am about fashion design. I don't regret my path at all; I learned a lot as a graphic artist, and even more about business and marketing in general. I know what I need a business to look like for me to take part in it. I know the balance of "creative" vs "quality" vs "something that someone will actually buy". I know what it takes. 

Every time I felt unsure about my new path, something came along to reassure me that it was right. Every time I posted a new illustration or finished commission photo to social media, I got tons of positive feedback. I feel like my illustrations are fun to do and that I am fast at them. And the finished projects always look so much like my original vision. It's the first time that I've felt like I can capture a vision in an illustration and it is very similar from start to finish.

When I came back to NYC at the end of January this year, I noticed something else. If I went shopping, I always was very aware of new concepts and fabrics, or interesting patterns in fabric. I had to look at things to see how they were made. I have hundreds of photos and screenshots of clothing on my phone that I never buy, just concepts that I thought were cool. You should see my fabric collection or my pinterest fashion photos. I can spend 10 hours working on a sewing machine or cutting out fabric and piecing it together, and I still want to go back for more. I close my eyes at night and have some new magical runway concept that I have to draw up before I fall asleep so that I don't forget it. 

I never felt this way about graphic design. Or really anything other than musical theater. But the problem I have with musical theater is that the lows are much more common than the highs. I am just not cut out for all the rejection in that world.

In jobs, I gravitated towards the people and environments that made me happy. But I don't know if I was ever really passionate about branding, or business cards or websites. I got more excited about user interface design (basically the visuals that guide a user to navigate through an app or site in an intuitive way) than anything in my earlier career. But even then, it is nothing like the passion I have for making a unique dress.

My goal for the year is to really focus in on the things that matter. Fashion design is why I came to New York, so it is what I am focusing on. I am not taking any new commissions after August so that I can really get a feel for my class schedule and what is going to be required of my time. (Also, I have been fully booked since March through now, so if you haven't scheduled a project with me before then, I won't be able to accommodate you. I only say that because I have literally gotten 1-2 new commission requests every week since April that I've had to turn down.) I am not auditioning for shows or taking on extra projects. School will be it, and if I have a great feel for it and think I can spare any hours for other projects, only then will I take on other things.

My program at FIT is one year, and it is intense. I will be in class 7-8 hours a day Monday-Friday. I don't know what the workload will be like, but I'm prepared to spend all my time focusing on school and homework. I have never focused on just one thing before, so I think it will be an excellent exercise in self control. I feel like my therapist prepared me very well for this change.

Even though this was the furthest move I have ever made, I have felt so prepared for everything both mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sure, we were down to the wire in the last couple days before the movers came, but my stress level never got even close to what it's been. I am relaxed and excited to see what the immediate future brings.

My career has always been me the square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Everything about this new life seems easier and has been just falling into place in ways I could never have imagined. I am so thankful that I decided to let go and jump. 

 

 

 

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

Thanks Key and Peele for showing how I feel.

Thanks Key and Peele for showing how I feel.

Lately it's been very warm. I guess as soon as we got here, New York had the first heat wave of the summer. I have definitely been around hot weather before, but the humidity is so much higher here that it makes quite a difference. I mean, I knew it would, but experiencing it is something else. I even went out and bought a 2nd air conditioner for our apartment as well as a box fan to try and cool down our furnitureless abode. It sort of worked. 

On hot days I literally can't wear makeup because I sweat so much that it melts off pretty immediately when I go outside. I can't wear shorts as I have what all the fashionable ladies call "chub rub" where your thighs create friction when you walk (an amazingly uncomfortable feeling). By the way, my thighs have touched since I took my first steps so that fad is bull as far as I am concerned.

During the hot days I generally change my clothes 2-3 times during the day as they are soaked with sweat if I go outside for even 5 minutes. Waiting on a subway platform is the worst as the heat bounces off the concrete and into your soul, which is also sweating. It's amazing that the thermostat has only been in the 80s; however, experiencing 85% humidity when my skin has yet to figure out how to absorb moisture (thanks Colorado) it feels exactly like 91,000 degrees.

Me and that cool guy I married.

Me and that cool guy I married.

Thankfully, last night it rained pretty heavily giving us some relief. Today was cloudy and much cooler, a welcome reprieve. The husband and I made our way over to Gantry State Park, which is a short train ride away in Long Island City, just south of Astoria. The park is right on the East River where you can see the island of Manhattan and the amazing skyline. My friends Garrett and Damian took me there a few months back while I was visiting and I fell in love.

This is the park that several times a year the sunset will line up with the Manhattan east-west street grid in such a way that the sun sets between the buildings. People call in Manhattanhenge as it happens around the summer solstice. I *think* the next one is in a few days, so I hope we can make it over and the weather is clear. Sounds like a beautiful thing!

Today's view of Manhattan from Gantry Park

Today's view of Manhattan from Gantry Park

 

 

Here we are, finally.

Oh hey, I live here now. New York City. Well, actually, Astoria, which is a neighborhood in Queens. When people think of New York City they tend to think of Manhattan. Which strangely is only a few miles from me. But New York miles are so much different I have found out! But I'll get to that later. Just kidding! I'll get to it now. I don't know why, but it bugs me when people outwardly say "I'll get to that later" or "I'll cover that topic in a bit". You don't need to say it, just DO it!

Anyway, in New York, everything is seemingly closer and further apart all at once. Looking on a map and contemplating walking one location to another, distance is seemly more lengthy than actuality. The thing about living in a city is that there are tons of things happening on the street that make time move faster when you're out and about. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to walk to Astoria Park, a gorgeous park northwest of my apartment with tons of trees. My friend Courtney and I walked there a week ago when she was in town from helping us move the cats via plane. We both were so distracted by the sounds, sights, smells and activities of the neighborhood that there was little time to worry about how long it'd been since we'd left the apartment.

My commute to school will be about 35 minutes which includes the walk to and from the subway. The actual subway ride is only about 20 minutes so it breaks up the time pretty well. When I'm riding the subway it's hard to feel like it's taking a long time just because of the bustle of everything out here. However, the actual measured distance from home to school is barely 4 miles. My last job in Denver was 8 miles away and I could get there by car in 15 minutes when the traffic was good. In Fort Collins going 4 miles takes 10 minutes inside city limits. But with so many human beings living in NYC, it's hard to believe we can get around anywhere at all. The subway is the blood stream of everything. Without it, there's no way so many people could live here.

People have told me I may grow to hate the subway. I don't think I will, because my other alternative would be to drive and I HATE driving. I am not a good driver (I hit an RTD bus once, I'm not joking), and I definitely was very thankful to see our cars find new owners. About 4 years ago, I had a job in downtown Denver that didn't have on site parking, so they provided employees with an "Eco" pass. A New Yorker joked to me that only in Denver would public transit be declared Eco-friendly. But I digress.

I rode the city bus almost every day for 2 years. Phil picked me up on the way home only because by taking the bus the commute was nearly an hour each way. This was for a job that was 8 miles away. There are certainly negative things about public transit, but I ultimately loved spending the time relaxing before work. I would generally read or look at the news. Sometimes I'd just zone. But the best part was not having to worry about the traffic or things around me. And in the evening it was nice to have a ride together with my husband home where we could discuss our respective days.

The subway is a miraculous thing really. The infrastructure is amazing when you think about it, and the fact that millions of people that use it every day is truly mind boggling. I am excited about the prospect of commuter trains as well. Several months ago I visited the city to find an apartment, but stopped in Washington DC first to see my sister who was playing an audition out there. I took a train from DC to NYC and it was pretty awesome. I told a friend of mine in NY that I had never taken a train and he was surprised that I hadn't and I replied that in the west, if you want to go somewhere you just drive your car! Most commuter trains don't stop in all the places you'd want to go anyway, and it probably is less time and money to just drive yourself.

I am looking forward to traveling back to DC to see some of the great museums out there, particularly the first ladies' fashion exhibit my sister has told me about. We're planning a trip out to Philly to see my long lost friend Eileen at the end of the month. I'd also love to visit upstate NY in the fall to see their glorious changing trees. The possibilities are endless! As long as there's time, that is.

Everything starts a little later here, and everything also stays open later. Although we are 2 hours different than Colorado, I find myself keeping a similar schedule, just staying up later. When I start school it'll be nice as my earliest classes start at 9AM. I will be in school 8-9 hours a day every day starting August 29th, so I am really relishing the time I have now to relax and set my life up accordingly. 

 

 

View of the trees from Astoria Park

View of the trees from Astoria Park