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Vivian's Fashion Design Course Journal 2

By Vivian Mikhail with a short comment by

Pauline Weston Thomas for


Vivian's Fashion Design Course Journal 2


Saturday 23rd October

I decided to break from the pattern homework, and started to practice the design; erect female nude women.  I did the grid and began to draw women at front view.  At first, my hand started rusty, and I stared at the paper a bit.  It has been a long time since the design class.  I forgot from where to start.  But as I began with the head, everything that I took in the first design lesson began to pour out.  I drew the model narrow and the waist is wrong, so I drew another grid. In fact, I drew several other grids at both sides of the page to get them out of the way.  I began to fill them with models, but they seemed wrong.  Some are too flat, some are fat…..I began to loose my way.

Although they looked different and more real from my original way of drawing, they are too way out of the corrected ones from the design class.  I tried to remove the squares from the grid, only leaving marks at the outer grid boundry.  I drew one to see what was going wrong.  Perhaps those lines were obscuring the sketch.  The waist line seemed to be my problem, but the proportions and the symmetry seemed O.K.

Enough of that... I couldn't concentrate anymore.  One illustration takes a long time to draw, and requires a lot of concentration, and certainly a lot of rubbing.  At one point the paper thinned.  I should try it another day…..

Monday 25th October

After I finished my pattern homework I began to draw the design, with more concentration.  Hurray. I did it this time right.  So I drew another without the grid and that looked right too.  I shifted to the model at the back view.  Well, let me do that another day, having a fresh start at it.  It was wrong. TOO FLAT!

Tuesday 26th October

I decided to have a go at the model at the side view.  I guess I should delay the back view, because I was afraid when I obsess at something, I couldn't concentrate at it well enough.  I started some music, to sooth me while I drew.  It was a habit I started from my years at studying medicine.  Music also encourages my creativity, and I found out that music also influences the style of the garments that I draw.

I began analyzing the body of the model, comparing every curvature.  I began to draw.  This was the easiest, and it seemed O.k.  Except for some tummy protrusions.  I had some difficulty to perfect the slope of the back towards the neck at the shoulder level.  I tried correcting it, but I couldn't get it quite right.  I then shifted to the back view.  I did it O.k. too, but with some difficulty at the waist line going down the buttocks, and curving up the back.  The back sometimes felt too wide, and big in proportion to the rest of the body, and sometimes too narrow.  I frequently narrowed the curve of the buttocks, but eventually I began to reach the ideal illustration. 

At last I did several of those I am satisfied with.  I will leave it to that until I will show it to my design tutor to correct them.  I was afraid if I carried on practicing without tutoring, I might be getting used to drawing the wrong way.  My design tutor told me that plenty of practice will stamp in the sketches and the proportions in the brain, and at a point it will come out automatically and naturally.  Just like driving and swimming.  But I was afraid that the wrong thing sticks.  I will practice again when she corrects them.


Saturday 6th November

During the last month in the pattern class, I was taught a lot about darts and its types, and its manipulation. 

My tutor gave me a project to design and execute; it was a basic idea of a dress top bodice with darts.  I was so excited about my first design to be executed that I decided to be a little creative.  I made it very appealing, with a low waist line, and a very sexy back, and the front with the darts she wanted.  Only the darts were zigzag. 

It took me the whole day yesterday to do the pattern for it, as well the presentation work for my project. I began to trace them on the transparent vellum, only to discover that I couldn't manipulate and sew the darts with a low waist bodice!  I tried every way, and I discovered ways of changing the style of the bodice, but unfortunately not the way I can handle and needed from me.  I was taught to sew darts ending at the normal human waist (high waist line).

I became very frustrated, and I began to change the whole design, together with the pattern to the one required from me.  I prepared the design on fabric to be ready to sew next morning at the pattern class.  I slept that evening at 3a.m very tired and very frustrated. The only thing that was going on in my head was darts… darts…. Darts…DARTS!!!!.  Oh, I spend the last two days obsessing with the design.

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Sunday 7th November

I was proud to show her my drawings.  I showed her my initial illustration, and explained why I changed it.  She told me that to execute and plan the pattern for the garment at my level is to read the style and all the little details of it correctly.  At this point there are limitations to what I can do, and these limitations will recede as I go through the curriculum.  Well, it took the hell out of me in the last two days to certainly know that!

She did not like the zigzag darts. She told me that they will never work. But I was stubborn. But, what the heck? as long as the fabric is cut, why not try them? I began to sew one of them, at least to try.  She agreed as long as it was only one, not to waste the whole lesson.  I started, and believe me to manipulate the machine at those tight corners was very hard. It was my 4th time at the machine. It took me around half an hour at it.

My pattern tutor tried to open them out, cutting the darts loose at their back, but in no vain.  They looked like no darts, but looked like festoons with knobs in its midst. I thought to myself they looked great if I tried developing them more, but they weren't stable enough. I think I might work on the idea maybe later at home, in my spare time.  However, this was not what my tutor hoped for.  I changed the design into wavy darts, and had not time to sew them at that point. 

My disappointment was very much. What I ended with was nothing like what I intended to do. If anything I learned, is to not be very creative and stubborn. I should follow the experience of my tutor.

Thursday 11th November

Today, I began sewing those wavy darts. And what an experience that was. I do not recommend it for anyone who is a novice at sewing. I sew 6 darts the whole 3 hour lesson. Going the wavy line recommends very precise and delicate movement of the fabric.  Lose the concentration, or too slow to move the fabric, and the sewing shoots away from the dart.  I had to remove the thread and start all over again, only to discover that the ends of the darts that I have to sew do not reside on each other properly.  That means doing it all over again. Not mentioning the clenching of the machine.

Eventually I began to get frustrated and tired. Instead of redoing the whole dart again (because I was fed up from removing the thread from the fabric), I cheated a little, and just redo the sewing at the troubled part. Believe me, it did not look nice at all, and it stood out even more noticeable where the sewing lines changed, more than if it had not been corrected. The neck line fell into a complete chaos since the darts began at it, but the tutor told me that will be corrected by adding the facing. 

Well as I finished the sewing, I pitied the fabric. It looked very tatty…

Thursday 18th November

I finished sewing the rest of my project.  I was happy that it finished in peace, before it got me mad.  Yes, I was disappointed that it did not look at all as it was planned for it to be, but the back looked great.  That was the only thing left from the original design.  Adding the facing improved the look of it.  However, the wavy darts looked very chaotic, but at least they were wavy. It fitted well on me.  Oh, there was one little mistake, one of the shoulder slings was twisted!!  I was too tired, as was my tutor, to correct it. I will do it at home later (perhaps another bodice de novo), once I think my sewing had upgraded a little, and once I buy the sewing machine too….

I had a very long sleep that night, without obsessing at the darts…

Note from Pauline   My sincere thanks to Vivian Mikhail for her account to date of her fashion design experience.  This account is Viv's personal description of her course and feelings of excitement, jubilation and despair to date.  Viv forms part of's new section where Visitor's contribute to the fashion-era site.  This is the second account is of the first weeks of the Autumn 2004 session.

Pauline's Comment on This Second Page of Vivian's Journal

Dart Manipulation is initially a complex subject.   It's only after you have mastered it and can do it you wonder why it was ever difficult!  Your tutor would have known by looking at your idea that it might go awry.  Still we learn some of our best lessons not by what works, but by what does not work.  I think you have had the added stress of also operating the sewing machine which has been a big hurdle to master. It's all very well for those of us who can sew already.  Most of us will have forgotten how terrifying it can be when the machine just seems to run away with itself.

My advice is for you to keep using the machine so that you master it, rather than it master you.  That was the reason I decided to learn how to use both the PC and a computerised knitting machine Vivian. I liked much better the idea of having an element of control over both machines rather than either of them terrifying me.  After all, if others can master complex hardware, so with time and effort can any of us.

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