Back in the day

I don’t really do throwback Thursday, but what the Hell…

I’ve had a few friends ask me about how I got my start making clothes and so I thought it was time to tell my tale.

Gather ‘round children, this could take a while.

I actually have my sister to blame for my introduction to the world of fashion. When she was in high school (2 years ahead of me), she started picking up fashion magazines, like Vogue and Harpers; luckily, this was during the glory days of the early 90’s when fashion mags put supermodels on their covers, rather than the celebrity du jour, so I received a brilliant education on what I thought fashion was supposed to be.

Every now and then, the magazines would have designers submit sketches from their collections. I think I pulled every sketch from every magazine I could find. I’ve always been a fan of comic book character art, and fashion sketches seemed like a natural evolution of that idea; well, to me at least. There was something about the gesture and spontaneity about those sketches that drew me in (pun fully intended) so I started practicing my technique and skills. By this time, my sister had moved on from fashion (she was a dabbler back in the day), but I was having fun with sketching, so I stuck with it.

Then, on an unassuming day during the summer break in between my freshmen and sophomore years in high school, Funny Face came on TV and I fell in love with the idea of being a fashion designer. If you haven’t seen this movie – shame on you! If you have, you know the magic it conjures. Yes, it’s a bit over-the-top, but the brightness and glamour that poured out of the TV screen that afternoon seduced me.

I did what I could to get more information on current design by watching shows like Fashion Television, Style and House of Style. It was also about this time that I learned how to sew. My first projects were disasters. I distinctly remember my first pair of pants not being wearable, as my sister demonstrated to my chagrin and guffaws. I also remember making a robe from some red polyester double knit that my Grandmother had given me. Oh yeah, I was stylin’.

Throughout the rest of high school, I really honed my sewing skills and readied myself to go to one of the fashion design schools in New York. I had no idea what to expect and I knew it was going to be expensive, so the fear that I would hate it and/or get over it kinda terrified me. I wanted to try it out first, but had no idea where to start.

After I graduated high school and still directionless,  I took some basic art classes at a local community college, just to try to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. (At one point, I really wanted to go into art history and museum curating. I got over that idea, but I still love the classical art world and constantly reference it in my work.)

About that time, I was on a first name basis with the staff at my local Cloth World and there was a young lady who worked there that always seemed to help me at the cutting table. One visit, we were talking about the fashion industry and me wanting to go to school. She casually mentioned that she had taken some fashion classes at Houston Community College. I had no idea they offered anything, so I called up to the school, got some info and enrolled the next semester in some introduction classes.

I guess it was some kind of bizarre synergy because I happen to meet some amazing students and teachers while I was taking classes there. I learned how to pattern, drape, sew and present clothes in a professional capacity. I entered and won a few design contests and really tried to perfect my skills. One of the contests allowed me to travel to Paris to show my work at the Louvre. I got to see the staircase that Audrey is walking down in that scene. I hate traveling, but that was kind of cool.

It was during this time that I really became a design nerd. The way that a comic book geek would absorb any and all info about a superhero, I learned all I could about designers, design and fashion history. I can bore people to death talking about an obscure, French fashion show from 1997, then start all over about the history of a design house. To this day, I love poring over old magazines and articles about design and trying to assimilate those notions and thoughts into my own ideas and garments.

While I was learning how to do all of these things, I started to question what I really wanted out of the industry and by the time I graduated, I was certain that tossing myself into the hurly-burly of the fashion cycle really wasn’t what I wanted.

After I got my associates degree, I was asked to teach at HCC. I ended up teaching there for about six years.  Towards the end, a dear friend of mine who was also a former student and then, teacher, was accepted as a designer to the Bernina Fashion Show. I really liked the pageantry and spectacle of it, so I tossed my hat into the ring and submitted my portfolio. I was accepted in 2007 and for two years, designed outfits for them.  I really enjoyed working though a couture-type piece with lots of embellishments and handwork. It’s always a challenge making any garment, but making clothes with classical techniques has always felt more comfortable to me.

When the Bernina Show folded, I decided to take a chance and enter the wearable art competition at the Houston Quilt Festival. The first thing I entered won first place and I felt like I belonged. Shortly after, I taught my first class at Quilt Fest and really got to connect with some wonderful people and students.

I’ve been making clothes for about twenty two years now and every time I start a pattern or sit at the sewing machine, I find myself challenged by the task ahead. I think that’s why I stay interested in it. If it was too easy, I’d get bored and move on, but for now, I love learning new techniques and skills I can incorporate into my work.

After all this time, I still don’t know where I want to go in design, but I like the road I’ve taken so far.

Here are some picture from my school days. I’ll put in as much description as possible. Remember, some of these are scans of pictures or scans of scans, so the quality ain’t all there.

Any questions? Ask away in the comments section.

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