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.