Bringing a Dress to Life

Step 2: Sketching

It was in my first year of high school during Art class that I realized I couldn’t draw.

My ideas always translated better when they weren’t, well, translated.

They were clearer to me before I muddled them up with my lackluster drawing skills. When I was sketching dress designs –even back then — I always focused more on making the shoulder more proportionate to the rib cage than I did on deciding on which neckline would best compliment the skirt of the dress.

For years I was stuck on this idea that if I wasn’t good at drawing, I would never be able to call myself a fashion designer without feeling the inevitable “imposter syndrome.”

Throughout high school, I was enamored with a mental image of me walking the streets of Paris, completely alone and completely content.

I held my sketchbook under my right arm, my charcoal pencils shifting around in my palms. I could feel their anticipation– they’re as excited as I am to bring my next idea to life.

To bring it one step closer to fruition by giving it a more permanent home than the one in my mind.

The breeze softly skips across the buildings surrounding me, shuffling my hair in its wake.

I hear car horns honking, with the occasional siren thrown in to offer its own attempt at melody.

I find a park bench in the middle of the sidewalk and begin to draw. The tip of my pencil methodically caresses the page.

The lines have become familiar.

Even though the human body is so unique to each person, it is fundamentally universal in its shape.

In my imagination, I was able to translate my ideas with flawless execution. Always.

It wasn’t until years later–my drawing improving only marginally– that I finally decided to forget the fashion designer stereotype I’d never fit into and just get.the.idea.down.on.paper. 

Whatever form that may be.

How I Do It

Sometimes, this is by way of a traditional full color sketch, although I use a generic body drawing for every sketch so I don’t have to fuss around with drawing the body.

I’m usually in a hurry, as if the dress I’m drawing will only make itself available to me for a limited time. I worry that if I’m too slow, the idea will just disappear. Almost as if it has a (rather impatient) life of its own.

Other times, it is a very basic outline of a sketch, with detailed written notes that will allow me to capture the essence of what I want to make.

Like little clues that will help me recall my original idea.

If I have a fabric in mind that I can’t wait to use, I’ll write that down too.

And sometimes, it’s just a Post-It note describing the idea, with a sad excuse of a sketch.

There are times when I have an abundance of ideas.

Because I make one style at a time, I usually have more ideas than I do time. I keep a folder for sketches that I can revisit later for future inspiration, and I immediately proceed with the one that I am most excited about, always keeping in mind the woman who will be wearing it.

There are times when I go through previous sketches and the magic of the idea will temporarily allude me. I won’t be able to remember what made this jump out at me.

This used to scare me.

But now I know that it’s fine, because in the future I may come across a fabric that’s dying to be used, and that once “unmagical” style will come alive with entirely new possibility.


Stay tuned for Part 3: Patternmaking.

Or, check out Part 1: Daydreaming.

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