I recently enrolled in a fitting analysis course as part of a patternmaking certificate program. So far I have loved the two patternmaking classes that I have taken. I learned how to draft a basic bodice, a flared skirt, a blouse, and a pair of pants for starters. For each pattern, I had to create a sample, which was a tremendous amount of work.
Hand-drawing a spec design creates a new
appreciation for how clothing is made.
But these classes in no way prepared me for fitting analysis. Let me be up front from the beginning–I have no intention of ever working in the fashion industry, and especially not as a patternmaker. But I love learning all of these things, which I find very useful as the editor of a sewing magazine.
My classes are filled with diligent and talented people from the industry, for whom this work is as natural as breathing. I usually fall in the middle of the pack, but I can keep up.
That's until I walked into a technical design class that was filled with experts. Our first task was to create a technical sketch from a sample. Whoa! Everyone sat down at their computers and whipped up digitial reproductions faster than the blink of an eye. I was definitely way out of my league.. I got out my tracing paper and a mechanical pencil (all the better to erase with) and did my best to keep up.
The next class involved memorizing technical design abbreviations and taking a quiz. Apparently the abbreviations are an international language, like DNTS (double needle top stitch) or ZIP (you guessed it, zipper!). When you are sending a technical design halfway across the world, you want to make sure they understand exactly what you are asking, because do-overs cost big bucks.
Memorization? I just like making pretty outfits! But memorize I did. Next I had to memorize all the silhouettes, from leg-o'-mutton sleeve to trumpet skirt. And I was quizzed on that!
Then we learned how to spec out a sample that had returned from overseas. Before you iron, steam it, or put in on a dress form, you must lay it flat fresh out of the package and measure all the valid specs, and trust me, on any garment, there are many.
Apparently, technical designers make a good living. And I can understand why, because it is back-breaking, detailed work.
I thought I was going to be learning how to get a good fit on a garment, but I entered a whole new world of the ready-to-wear industry. It boggles my mind to know what goes into making every garment that appears on the racks at the local department store. My appreciation of ready to wear is increased, and it also makes me so happy that I know how to sit down at a sewing machine and make my own clothes.
For lots of industry tips and techniques on making clothes, check out The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques: Essential Step by Step Techniques for Professional Results in the Sew Daily Shop.
Have you ever worked in the fashion industry? Do you know anything about how clothing is made? What did you learn? We would love to know!
Fashion designer and expert sewist Lynda Maynard makes professional sewing and finishing techniques accessible to ...