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Tag Archives: fitting garment

Couturier ‘String Theory’ – not just a Fable!

Most of the Students at Ecole Holt Couture have heard me tell a similar version of this Fable….

Once upon a time there was a very rich man and his wife spending some quality time together on their private south pacific island. Even with its remoteness it had every modern convenience. Solar panels for electricity, running water, and even 4G Internet access. Everything you could possibly need was there. A beautiful house, airstrip, dock, boat house, deep-sea fishing boat, and several guest cottages on its beaches.

He arrived following several strenuous business trips with his wife, who had completed a major shopping spree from Paris, Milan, London, to Tokyo. There was nothing that the couple could not buy. His wife had just procured lengths of the most elaborately hand-embroidered French silk, the softest Kashmir wool, the most luxurious Italian silk velvet, and the finest English worsted. The best that could be made, very expensive and all quite unique.

Because this man was also very generous he regularly invited friends and relatives to his island, but he also invited strangers from time to time to share in his good fortune. This time he invited three young, and very promising, fashion designers to the island as a reward for their contribution to one of the many charities he supported.

Each of the three individuals saw this opportunity differently. One was very ambitious and viewed each day as potential for new business and so brought an iPhone, laptop, latest look-book, and a few new design ideas to present, just in case. The other viewed this as a good time to get on with a project or two without distractions, and so managed to pack a compact sewing machine, sewing kit (thread, pins and scissors), and some new patterns but decided to investigate locally made materials on the island to experiment with. The third accepted this, as a time to relax and not worry about anything. To absorb, and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

While on the island, which was very tiny indeed, it became apparent just how remote it was from civilization. The owners of the island were very hospitable and made time to visit with each of their guests, making sure that everyone was quite comfortable. One night they invited the three young people to dinner at the big house. Nothing but the finest was offered, the freshest fish caught just hours earlier, the best quality vegetables and most exotic fruit flown in from the nearest islands, and the finest wines.

The conversation turned to each guest to find out what their hopes and aspirations were for the future. One was confident that someday they would become world famous, so that everyone would want to own one of their designs. The other was hopeful, that with experience and some help, they would be able to manufacture highly popular collections selling around the world. The third confessed to wanting to be creative every day, to being content, and wanting to make other people happy. The others all sniggered at the third’s response, and privately thought how impractical and unrealistic that would be.

Curiously, the rich man’s wife asked more questions about why this would be a considered career choice. After all, doesn’t one need a lot of money to be able to have everything one’s heart desires? “For instance, we have everything one could possibly want, a good income, good health, and access to the best of everything. This doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice of course”. All had to agree, and continued to enjoy a pleasant evening of good food, conversation and exchange of ideas.

Later, the rich man’s wife was delighted to show the three young people her exquisite fabric finds, knowing they would share in her excitement. As expected, all three were indeed thrilled. Also, as an almost instant reaction, they offered to design something for her using these fabrics. “Oh, but, I couldn’t just let anyone touch these precious fabrics, only someone with considerable experience”. They asked who she knew, that had such experience. “Well, I don’t really. I’m a bit hesitant about asking anyone!”

The first young designer offered to create the most fashion-forward designs, and would start on it straight away. The second, began to research the latest trends to present. Meanwhile, the third asked questions about what the rich man’s wife dreamed for herself, what were her requirements for the coming year, and what type of things she loves to wear. “This is all wonderful, but it still leaves the dilemma of who will make these amazing designs for me?”

Not to worry the first designer said, “I have some really good people behind me who will get it done right”, the second designer remarked, “I will make it myself, it won’t take long. I can usually run things up in a few hours, a couple of days at most!” The third’s reply was “I would love to make it for you, it will take some time. I want to make sure everything fits just right, and makes you look marvelous. Your fabrics will deserve the utmost attention, for the most part they will be hand-sewn”.

That night a tropical storm knocked out the 4G Internet access, the docks were damaged, and the airstrip was littered with debris from broken branches. Fuel supplies were so low that the generators couldn’t be run for more than just the bare essentials – such as pumping fresh water. Repairs would take some time.

The first designer conceded, “Well that pretty much finishes my plans, without the internet I can’t communicate with my team, my laptop battery is low and in need of recharging, but I can’t do it without electricity”. The second designer complained that without power the sewing machine was useless, and it was too late to order patterns on-line. The third said, “No problem. Let’s get started”.

In wonderment, the rich man’s wife asked how this is possible without any equipment! “I have my hands, I never travel without my emergency sewing kit, and if you have a ball of string somewhere, that’s all I need.” And so proceeded to take her measurements with the ball of string, sketched some ideas on paper for her approval, and drafted the patterns on old bed sheets. After assembling the mock-up designs, they were fitted exactly to her figure. Then used as the pattern to cut her prized fabrics.

During the following days, the rich man’s wife witnessed how the garments were being created piece by piece, all with the greatest care and attention to detail. Every pattern was skillfully matched at each seam. The garments were fitted a few times making sure they were comfortable and flattering to her figure. Then – one day the clothes were complete! “Oh my, I have never in my life seen such craftsmanship, such beauty, but mostly I have not felt so comfortable in my clothes, and felt so good about the way they make me look! I could see your joy while you worked, and why you love creating such wonderful things! How can I thank you enough for what you have done for me?” The young Couturier replied, “The opportunity you’ve given me has been priceless! Here is a detailed invoice of what you have received in exchange for my expertise.” The rich man’s wife never again wanted what everyone else could buy! Do you?

(Not The End) Just The Beginning – Cheers J

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IMG_0926After asking our students about topics for this blog, they immediately replied ‘what about what we do in class all day long!’ Other than our particular projects (which are pretty exciting in themselves) this is what happens.

At the moment we have 3 separate classes running at different levels, but at some point during the week all the students are together and interact with one another to share struggles, ideas, and insights (including their opinions on what they’ve seen featured on entertainment awards this spring). Here we strive to promote good communication as a key factor in effective mentoring as well as in learning (this is not unique).

On some days the class room and the studio at EHC can be a very quiet and serious place. You can literally hear a pin drop, and when it does, it can turn out to be a bothersome distraction to everyone.  As in professional haute couture or bespoke tailoring, only very rarely do you hear the constant chinking or motors buzzing from sewing machines; more commonly heard is the sound of a steam iron sighing and its thermostat switching on and off, and the tinkle of a pair of scissors coming to rest on a padded table.

On another day, if you were to drop in secretly like a fly on the wall, you may witness trivial chatter,  classical music, silly hilarity and occasionally the smell of coffee gone cold (from a quick well-deserved break) still all signs of productive creativity wrapped up as a combination of stressful cockup and victory, agony and ecstasy.

We usually start the day around the table altogether with a short informal meeting (and usually a hug) before new class material is presented. Classes are intensely concentrated, so this helps everyone to settle and prepare for the 5 hours of tuition ahead. It is courteous to allow everyone to become oriented, shift onto the same track, and make sure that everyone is ‘in’ on the latest updates.  But, it is also extremely productive to the rest of the day, and good management practice as it happens. If someone has experienced problems or unsettling events, sharing it usually soothes frayed emotions and provides support; on the other hand sharing reasons for high spirits makes everyone more cheerful and focused.

One of the 4 or 5 major areas of study in the program (other than design theory and history, pattern drafting, sewing and construction, and couture business essentials), is learning how to Fit a garment.

Fittings for each project module, which are made life size, are demonstrated on the student’s actual garments by the students under supervision. Everyone’s Body is unique and, we’ve found this to be the best way to teach methods and concepts to the art and science of achieving a perfect fit, rather than on mannequins.

Students learn by observing and doing fittings and are encouraged to ‘think out loud’ as they progress through the fittings, to express every little reaction or plan of action. All this can be extremely intimidating for the beginner (student and client alike), and so tactfulness and truthfulness are balanced by being patient and courteous (this helps a great deal), verbalizing the ‘ins and outs’ of the fitting process, and having knowledge of the intended outcome, all contribute to fully understanding what to do.

Open communication is also crucial when performing fittings on paying clients – a couturier or tailor not only needs to take mental note of their client’s reactions and comments, but at the same time should explain to their client ‘what’ and ‘why’ they are making a certain adjustment. This may seem ‘unprofessional’ to some, but most clients really appreciate being involved in the fitting to know that they are being taken seriously.

By the end of the school day, everyone is exhausted. Though it is challenging it is fulfilling at the same time. Some days your head just spins ridiculously with new ideas and plans, and other days seem to be dedicated to just jumping one hurdle and busting that terrifying mind block – but each new day, we really looking forward to doing it all again.

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Visit our new webpage called ‘couture sewing tips and secrets’ for a new video series on ‘how to’ sewing basics and some secrets…

 

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Design patterns and fittings

Design patterns and fittings

An integral part of a couturier’s expertise involves the fitting of a garment properly.

A good design may not necessarily be seen as a good design if it doesn’t fit properly and if it is unprofessionally finished. But almost everyone has come to accept ill-fitting clothing as being normal these days or is unaware of just how a well-fitting garment should look and feel.

For couturiers the matter of fitting a garment well on their actual client, who is the end user, is a crucial skill not only in terms of client satisfaction but ultimately in the couturier’s self-confidence.

This differs from designers creating garments to fit a ‘standard size’ for production as well as ‘made-to-measure’ which is produced to order from an adjusted block pattern. An inexperienced designer may well not realize a bad or impractical design until much later in the process – it might even be concealed until after a prototype has been invested in or until after an item has been produced.

No matter how many details of fit are considered for production line or readymade garments, they will never be a perfect fit for everyone or perhaps anyone. Production line specialists also do alter a design for its own efficiency consequently compromising what was originally planned.

Creating garments for any figure that has more than two dimensions (such as paper dolls), and specifically very curvy or atypical figures, requires much more thought and experience. Given that not every design will work with every figure, and I don’t mean hourglass versus columnar, I’m talking about the fact that some designs for curvy hour glass figures may not work as well for a more extreme hourglass figures.

Every seam, dart placement and easement affects how a pattern is cut. Making adjustments for a more extreme shaped figure is not just a matter of grading it up or down but reconfiguring the entire pattern shape.

Back to fit. Garments should neither fit too loosely or too tightly. Very loosely fitting clothing appears to have no fit at all and too tightly fitted clothing makes a person look overweight and awkward. Fabric should not bind, ruck, twist or buckle, should shape and hang and lie comfortably over the figure in designs with fullness of fabric or body skimming designs. Sleeves should be set in at the angle that the arm hangs – as everyone’s is different! The upper arm shouldn’t bulge in any sleeve. Trousers shouldn’t cut into the cheeks; they need to skim and slim front, back, around and underneath.

For women who have ample bust lines, it is particularly telling in wearing a ready-made suit jacket buttoned under the bust causing star burst shaped wrinkling fabric straining around the button (which it should never do) while the lapels reach away from the decolletage rather than caressing it. Most women have a larger set of measurements for the front half than the back half of the bodice – this is instinctive or obvious. However, if you lay a ready-made jacket flat out you will notice that the front and back panels are equally wide with some allowance for the bust curvature. Ladies, you should be able to button up a jacket and not provide excuses such as “Oh well, I just would leave it open anyway” Real power suits fit well and exude confidence not apologies. J…

 

 

Photos of YSL exhibit.

 

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