The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Why Designers Design?…..

…..or more succinctly how does the process work?  Why do we care?

The obvious answer is – because it’s there!  You know the smart aleck remark to why climb a mountain……because it’s there.  But really why do designers design and how do they design?

Most of the time it’s instinctual, but what can we learn from this process?  For the regular gal or guy it’s something mysterious that happens once in a while, and then it passes like a phase of our life.  And no more thought given to it.  But if you sit down and look at how artists create, it’s really not that mysterious.  A lot of it is practice, but also a lot of it is just awareness – looking around.  I recently took a trip on a plane and noticed how many people were in poorly fitted clothes (nore on that later), but jut the awareness to look, can not only tell you what not to wear, but what to wear.

Here’s a quick little article on the muses and inspiration some designers go though.  Some of this may hit you and be an inspiration and some may not, but what I hope it does is causes you to look where you haven’t before and be inspired to do something just a little different a little more challenging.

Click the pic below for the link:

OK – so the first thing you have to learn to do is just look!  After that the rest comes easily.  Notice, not only what you’re seeing, but why it seems to draw you or why you noticed it – it’s it because it’s so horribly wrong, but is there something terribly right.  What is it?…color?….design?….something new?  Be sure to notice it.  What I’m noticing a lot now, not so much on the street, but on the runway and particularly on the red carpet, is the beautiful and pretty styles and silhouettes that are coming back.  There’s still a little punk (Marc Jabobs, I know he’s talented but YIKES!), but mostly designers are turning to prettier clothes.

After you figure out what it is you’re drawn to – use it.  Pull that into your designs

  • Is it the color – use that in your next piece you make up….is it a color that you normally don’t use…work with the palette and see if you can get close to something that’s in your colors (you don’t know you’re colors?..uh-oh….then get them…have them done by a professional, or get the information-books and such- to find out).  For example…a red drew’ve got peaches ‘n cream skin, dart black hair – stick to a crimson or blue red;  you’ve got ruddy complexion with auburn hair – stick to a tomato red.  Both colors are “red” but varying it just slightly means that you can incorporate it into your palette and wear it safely.  Color also deals with color blocking which is a whole other thing that’s fun to work with.
  • Is it the design?….what makes the design worth your note?…style?…silhouette?…a tuck or treatment here or there, high/low waist, fitted/not-fitted bust, accentuated hip or not, portrait feature – start from the top and work down….I like to work through sections like this:  neckline/shoulders, bust, waist, hips, legs, back, silhouette.  You’re working from the most important to the least important but nevertheless important.  Most of the time a wrist treatment or knee treatment will be interesting but that’s about it….these other parts are the main parts of a garment.
  • Is it the whole look?….and if it is why?….how the parts are integrated?….how one stands out and another doesn’t?

Something to consider here is does it draw you cause it’s so awful?  This used to happen to me lots during the most recently deceased phase of grunge dressing (thank heavens!).  But there’s also other parts….a person can almost have it all together and then one thing takes away from it.  What I so recently notice on my little trip in the airport, was how many women wore their clothes off their shoulders.  And you know I don’t blame these women – this is ALL that’s available out there for them.  If there’s one thing I could tell them is that you do not have to have something off the shoulders just to have it fit!!!!

Here’s a perfectly good example of just how prevalent this trend is.  Why?  Cause to fit the bodice, the garment has been graded in all dimensions and measurements, so the wearer is relegated to XL or XXL just to fit one portion, when that’s not what’s needed….what’s needed is an FBA and then things fit right.   (This is part of the bad that might just glare out at you, but worth noting that sometimes bad things do offer visual pollution and yes, visual information about what not to do/wear!!!)

In case you think I’m looney and that only someone like me – a fitting expert – would notice this….look at these shots:

Even though this outfit was beyond frumpy and boring…the dang thing fit….see where Ms. Streep’s shoulder is and where the shoulder line is?….also notice that it fits around the bust and although it’s hard to see, there’s a side bust dart in there (black is tough to photograph)

This is a most dramatic example…Ms. Spenser’s bust is large but look where the shoulder line hits on her – on her shoulder – I know it’s a novel idea!!!  But the rest of the dress fits – it works because the shoulder line is on her shoulder.

Last one but makes my point…although she’s got her arms in the air, you can see that once they’re down, this jacket fits right on the exact place it supposed to.  But then Ms. Ross (or her stylist) did everything right here on this outfit, but the shoulders were a big part of this.

Why are the shoulders so important…because if you look at the last 3 pictures, you’ll see that it helps keep the side line (from the shoulder line to the waist) straight, clean and free from unnecessary wrinkles – and yes they are unnecessary and un-needed and un-wanted.  It’s amazing what happens when you clean up that silhouette area of the garment.


OK – got a little side-tracked, but noticing stuff (good and bad) is a part of noticing what’s going on around you, and noticing why they look bad and how to fix is also part of this process.

I’m going to post a lot about this, cause I really do want to push you into thinking outside your normal boundaries, and being aware of some of the inspiration very close!


  1. Last year I attended a small SciFi convention, on of a few I attend each year and visited the dealer’s room. There I perused the selection of T-shirts available for sale, admired some of the art work and clever sayings. I did not buy any. The three dealers sitting there( two young men, one young woman, all overweight and wearing their goods) tried to get me to purchase their shirts, but I remarked that I was past that phase, and the shirts were cut for men and for the most part universally unflattering. They are relegated to at home wear and bleach stains now. Maybe someday I will buy an extra-large, take it apart, and re-cut it, but I have no such plans right now. At the age of 67 and a little bit heavier than I used to be, I need to make an effort to make and wear clothes that fit.

  2. Ahh, Claire, you and I speak the same language! As a dressmaker for many years I agree that properly fitting clothes can “make” a woman and it does start with the shoulders.

  3. This dropped shoulder is a killer for women with rounded back. Harder
    to fit but well worth the extra time and effort to have a set in sleeve.

    • Margaret – exactly….and basically you can do the set-in sleeve at the correct shoulder placement and with the FBA to fit your bust, it looks really clean in the side bust, silhouette area which makes the whole thing look clean.

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