A Real Fashion Designer: Fashion Tools

The Fashion Student's Supplies
As we've discussed before, I'm a fashion designer, and that's how I spend the vast majority of my time. As such, it contributes to - and potentially exacerbates - my spinsterhood. So, as fashion is intrinsically connected to  my spinsterhood, this week, I'd like to talk about the fashion industry and what it's really like. So, hold on to your hats!

When I was at FIT, I carried around a giant tote with assorted rulers, hip curves, french curves, rolls of pattern paper and oaktag that were taller than I am, T-pins, thread, and all manner of other things I needed to actually make a pattern, drape a garment, or stitch a seam. The schlepping was just part of my day. But, when I got my first job in an actual fashion company, I was delighted to find out there was little-to-no hefting involved. Well, not, at least, from home to work.

In the real fashion industry, I have never had to make a pattern or drape a dress. I'v never needed a hip curve, but I have definitely used plenty of T-pins. Below you'll find a list of the necessities for this real fashion designer.

1. A Mac with a giant screen: At home I work on a laptop computer so I can sit anywhere in my apartment (re: the bed or the couch) and watch Hulu or stalk people's online profiles. In the office, though, I like a nice, big desktop Mac. The bigger the screen is, the happier I am. As a fashion designer, I do a lot of computer drawing, so it is really important for me to be able to see things in great detail. As for the Mac platform, that's just my personal preference. I have worked at a couple of companies who only use the PC platform as their IT guys are much better versed in those systems. Additionally, the entire office is on a network server, and all other jobs besides design require PC computers. IT is always saying how the Mac's mess everything up, but I think they're just so much nicer.

2. A Wacom Tablet: I don't know what I would do without my Wacom tablet. For those of you who have never used a tablet to interface with your computer, I highly recommend it. It has a much more intuitive feeling and motion that works with movements you already use daily to actually write or draw. Once you work on one for a day or so, your hand-eye coordination will adjust so that you would so much rather use a tablet than a mouse any day.

My tablet is important because I draw so much on my computer, and in drawing, say, a ruffle, sometimes I need a freer movement than a mouse will readily allow. I find that the pen-to-tablet combo allows my drawings to look more natural and less stiff.

3. Adobe Creative Suite: Currently at work I have to work on CS3, and it's really upsetting. CS3 doesn't allow for multiple artboards in the same illustrator file, which makes formatting a little annoying. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The parts of Creative Suite you will need and use on a daily basis as a fashion designer are the following:

      - Adobe Illustrator: This is, by far, my favorite part of Creative Suite, and it's the one I use the most. Fashion designers use this program to make flat sketches and technical diagrams to send to the factories. It's also useful in rendering graphic prints, and pretty much anything else you can think of that should be graphic or vector-based. I think this program is pretty amazing, and I love when I get to sit down and do a bunch of sketches for a couple of days in a row. It's calming.

     - Adobe Photoshop: In truth, fashion designers probably don't really use this program that much any more. There are some people who are really into using photoshop to recolor things or render them, but this practice is seen as a little old-fashioned as with a Photoshop file, your dimensions can only be as large as you originally defined them upon first saving the file. With the need for extra-large printouts in fashion, this can be a bit of an obstacle.

     - Adobe Bridge: I love Bridge. It's a great way to look at files without opening them. In CS4 and above, you can select a thumbnail of the file you'd like to see, press the spacebar, and it will become full-screen without your even having to open it. I really miss that function now that I'm back down to CS3.

     - Adobe InDesign: I try to use this as little as possible. I know it's probably really useful, but I never learned it in school, and it doesn't really bear a direct relationship to the functionality of Photoshop and Illustrator. However, it's good for making documents, I'm told, though I'd just rather make mine in Illustrator and export them as a multi-page pdf.

4. T-Pins: You weren't expecting that one, were you? For some reason, in all the fashion design offices in which I've worked, the pin of choice is a #16 T-pin. This is the smallest size of pin, and to see a large, fat one is cause for a freak-out from our boss. All your pins must be uniform in size and shape. Fashion designers use them to pin pictures to boards.

5. Foam Core Boards: There never seem to be enough of the largest foam core boards. I think they're 48" x 36". Whatever they are, they're just shy of being as tall as I am, and they're wide enough to be awkward to carry. Most fashion companies like to use these for presentations and cover them in some sort of fabric for whatever reason. I always wonder why they don't just buy black boards and be done with it. But this is what you use the T-pins for.

4. A Clear Plastic Grid Ruler: This is much more important than I ever would have thought. I had never seen these rulers until I went to FIT, but once I got one, I was hooked. My personal preference here is the C-Thru Grid ruler with red lines in the 2" x 18" size. These are perfect for measuring just about anything you need to measure. I highly recommend them.

Well, friends, those are the essential tools to be a fashion designer. Check back tomorrow for another peek into the real world of fashion!

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