The process of designing clothes is an intricate one that involves technique, material, art and inspiration. Anyone can create a clothing line, but not everyone can put in the work that goes into constructing one’s own garments. In any case, similar to art, clothing design is not created in a vacuum.
For Jah’Shar Hardy, a junior textiles, apparel and merchandising major at Indiana State University, her love for fashion dates back to when she was a little girl and would cut up her colorful socks to make clothes for her Barbie dolls. It wasn’t until her senior year of high school when she took a sewing class that she started thinking seriously about a career in fashion.
“I am particularly interested in being a fashion director or designer,” said Hardy. “I plan on working my way up the fashion chain after college by networking and exercising my design skills so that my name will already be known when I begin working on my own line.”
Hardy gets professional experience by working at David’s Bridal as a seamstress making alterations, hems and patterns. However, her involvement in the student organization Lights, Camera, Fashion gives her the opportunity to create entire clothing lines and execute full fashion shows.
“Lights, Camera, Fashion brings out the designer part of me because I pick out my models, collect my own fabrics and create a full clothing line,” said Hardy. “But it also targets the fashion director in me, as I help to choreograph the fashion show. I love being able to call the shots and arrange the models so the show flows seamlessly.”
Hardy’s textiles training at Indiana State teaches her that the creative process behind clothing lines start with a “spark of inspiration,” she said. “Similar to how art can stem from real-life situations, fashion can also be influenced by relationships, break-ups, travel, music and people.”
When Kanye West came out with his new post-apocalyptic fashion line, the world did not know how to perceive it, pundits say. He later disclosed that the inspiration behind his much-buzzed-about designs was his $4.5 million New York City apartment.
“For the most part, celebrities are not sitting down and creating their own clothes,” said Hardy. “They have someone do it for them and put their name on it. While it may stem from their own ideas, many of them do not actively participate in the creation of their own garments. For most celebrities, their brand and what they involve themselves in influences their designs and clothing lines.”
Fashion is undoubtedly influenced by music, art and culture. Since we view celebrities as trendsetters, they often can use their status and brand to crossover into the fashion industry. As consumers, we buy it because we try to purchase the lifestyle that we think comes with it, but that is not always the case. Non-celebrity designers construct clothing to fit the consumer.
Joanna Connors, a part-time lecturer of textiles, apparel and merchandising at Indiana State, says she believes both celebrities and non-celebrities have a place in the fashion industry and that it is up to the consumers to determine their success or failure.
“Technology has also allowed a person to design and post on social media; thus, creating name recognition and advertisement without any financial investment,” said Connors.
Connors, who teaches a class on evaluating ready-to-wear apparel and another on beginning clothing construction, trains her students on techniques that are useful to those who are interested in creating their own clothing lines.
“If they are designing, they definitely need to know how to construct the garments they have designed,” said Connors. “They need to know techniques for seams, seam finishes, closures, facings, interfacings and much more. In the evaluating ready-to-wear apparel class, students learn the process of developing a new garment line from concept design to retail sales. The course has many hands-on experiences preparing students for their profession in textiles, apparel and merchandising.”
Connors notes that her class highlights the creative process that occurs behind the creation of a clothing line and that there are various steps to the process.
Hardy mentioned that her creative process involves “getting inspiration, choosing a theme and a color scheme, gathering fabrics and my models, sketching out my ideas and sometimes making instructions for the construction process, pattern drafting, measurements, sewing, making alterations, trying them on my model, and then altering it again. After that, I just become very nitpicky until its perfect.”
“Designing clothing looks easy,” said Connors. “It is complex. A designer needs to know fibers characteristics, fabric construction, sewing techniques and basic principles of line, design and color.”
Michelle Souza, an assistant professor of costume design in the department of theater, teaches students how clothes are put together and pattern making. She is specifically working on cultivating a base of students who are interested in the design aspect of theater.
“Students who are interested in costume design know how to use fashion tools and garments, which they would use in the fashion industry, should they decide to go that route,” said Souza. “However, for theater folks, costume design is more about supplemental learning to help them understand what all goes into creating a play or musical.”
The creative process behind constructing these costumes involves reading the play, researching the fashion of its time period, meeting with the director and actors for their input and producing sketches and guidelines for the costume shop as a blueprint.
“While fashion trends are influenced by other trends in art and culture, costume design is based on the context of the play,” said Souza. “It is a collaborative process between director, actors, costume designer and other constituents.”
According to Souza, costume design is not about being pretty; it is about the character and context. Unlike fashion design, the goal of costume design is not about making pieces that people will want to buy and wear. “It involves asking ourselves: What can we build? What can we buy? What is available? What do we have time for?” noted Souza.