And in the beginning there was Burger King: a long a** look at my design history

*disclaimer* this got a little lot long, but it is the kind of thing you only write once. It’s good to reflect on where you come from sometimes, and remember why you are who you are.

When I was about 13, I inherited a beautiful sewing machine, easily from the first half of the 20th century. I didn’t know what to do with the thing, but was mesmerized by the sparkly, mint-green lacquer and the sturdy curvature of the body. I started taking sewing lessons from an old lady named Elizabeth in the basement of her home. We did the basics. A pincushion. An apron. Decorative pillows. Then high school happened, I started finding less time until I attended the annual fashion show at a place downtown I’d not really heard of before called “Central Campus.” Turns out, it was a Des Moines Public School hub for high school students with trade/technician education, advanced placement courses, childcare education, and fashion design. I went with my good friend Laura and I think I drooled my braces off.

There were bright colors, loud music, creative outfits, and cool older girls modeling their own designs!

Yes, please!

My mom helped me find out how to get into the 2 year program, I interviewed, and was accepted.

I vacillated for a couple weeks, realizing I would be facing giving up my one true love of show choir for all of my junior year…

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Check out that pouf, y’all. #glorydays

I digress! Anyways, I said a sorrowful “see ya later” to my sparkles and heels and I went for it, and never looked back.

I was the only one from my high school, which sits on a comfortable part of town. At Central Campus, I was attending with students from all over the Des Moines metro area. My class was entirely girls, which was fun, and I got to know some incredible talent and genuinely warm personalities. Half the day, everyday, we would sew, listen to top 40 or country music, cuss like sailors, and laugh for hours.  (Cuss like sailors? I didn’t say that, I’m a lady…) 

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I learned how to sew clothes. We started with the basics: boxer shorts and standard shirts, dresses, and pants. My patience has always been a problem, and the learning curve is steep, but I got the ability to at least produce things to prevent myself from getting public nudity charges.

During the first year, we worked from patterns, and showed off an item of each category at the year-end fashion show. Categories were casual wear, evening wear, sleep/loungewear, children’s wear, avante garde, and one other category I am totally forgetting right now.  Many pics have been lost from the first fashion show, but here the only pics worth your time:

Ill-fitting funeral wear:

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Awkward prom:

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And, my favorite, BK Loungewear:

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Senior year was when the real fun began. We were given more challenging projects such as working with a partner (which anyone working in design knows takes extra effort) to take ugly fabric and manipulate it to make it look decent:

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(The only way out was to make our own pattern on top of the nasty floral. You can’t even see it…haha)

Deconstructing an awful old dress and making it into something new:

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(I’m heartbroken I don’t have the picture of this transformation, but it began as a poofy-sleeves eighties short dress that was black with a fluffy skirt and spits of pink, turquoise, and purple meshy netting. The collar was my favorite part, and you can’t really tell but the back is a whole bunch of 4 petaled flowers simply tacked in the center. The edges were left raw for texture.)

The most exciting part of the program came at the end of year two: senior collections. So skipping ahead 12 months, I presented my collection: Personal Day Couture.

Inspired by sunny days, femininity, natural fibers, and a touch of elegance, I developed a collection designed for a style-loving lady breathing in the fresh, spring air.

The requirements:

Must create 5 looks, and draw them on croquis figures

Must have designed and constructed one garment for each look. (Some items were aloud to be purchased for the sake of time and cost. Before you are less impressed, keep in mind these are high schoolers with extra curriculars, home school requirements, jobs, and varying incomes. Plus most designers don’t make their own stuff!)

Develop patterns

Create cost reports

Find coordinating music for their show

Recording a video talking about the collection

and select models (from the class)

I give you the highlights- complete with hammed-up commentary:

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Wouldn’t be complete w/o high school hair…

Here we have the lovely Alexandra wearing a lightweight seersucker button-down tank with elastic at the bottom hem to give it that “bubble” look. Belt made of a cotton khaki-colored fabric with sparkles to give it that “couture” pow. 

**A note on those buttons. There is/was (I’m not sure) extremely cool and very small button shop in downtown Chicago that my mom and I stumbled upon during one trip. I found a 3 inch diameter wooden button that screamed of flair and bought a couple for the hell of it. They were part of my inspiration for my collection, and my fashion peer and friend, Shelby’s, grandfather heard I was looking for more and volunteered his time to make me a whole bunch to use! They were perfect and absolutely beautiful!! My mom wants them but I’m saving them for my next collection  ;)**

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Next the ultra-chic Alyssa wearing a tailored tube dress with pre-frayed hem and floral neckcessory complete with custom wooden buttons. Vintage shoes, but she’s makin’ em look fuh-reshhhh.

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Monet is looking sassy in these lightweight sparkle khaki shorts. The drawstring, deep pockets, and elastic, bubble hem on these bottoms makes Monet look ready for a playdate in the sun. Shirt was an awful denim mens shirt I altered for this outfit. Shoes from her personal wardrobe.

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Here’s Rachel, and that stance means business. Unfortunately, this is probably one of my better pieces in the collection, but you can’t really see it. It was a navy blue sweater/jacket made from a stretchy knit. Again, it had the bubble bottom but was not fastened in the front and was lined with the same material. Sleeves also had elastic so she could wear it anywhere on her arm. The pearls gave a little polish to this unstructured garment.

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There’s Mel! I love this sassy lady. She is werkin’ a skirt made of the same material as the sweater above. It had tucks in addition to the bubble skirt to give it extra body. Her button is on the back of the custom hat band.

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And here I am! The designers always came out in their final outfits, and it was typically their “baby” of the collection. This two-piece motif is a white stretch tube dress underneath a denim over-dress (is that what it’s called? like an overcoat but it’s a dress? still don’t know) I used differing shades of denim to maintain the relaxed feel of the collection and gave it an edge with an exposed zipper. This outfit is ideal for picnics that involve caviar.

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Always one to love back detailing, I lined the spine with the signature wooden buttons.

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And there you have it! I was awarded “Most Cohesive Collection” for my consistence in shape, color, and texture. I’m quite critical of it, but for what tools I was given, I think it is an immense jump start, at least, to using my mind.

That’s where I left off.

I moved halfway across the country from my sewing machine and had some living to do. I took a break from fashion, not feeling that I was competitive enough to make it in the industry. I wasn’t mentally dedicated or prepared enough to spend umpteenthousand dollars on art school. So I did some things on my bucket list:

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You know… life stuff.

I did get my hands on a sewing machine once to design a Lady Gaga costume for a sorority sister in a fraternity spoof pageant:

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(she won, of course 😉 teehee)

But other than that, life took off. I didn’t sew. My closet over this period of time consisted of windbreakers, college sweats, overly-mature business attire, and some sparkly pageant gowns. All of these are wonderful on any given occasion, but were worn with the intention of fitting a bill; meeting a requirement.

The turning point happened this last winter. In cold, snowy Iowa over Christmas break, I was back with my beautiful green sewing machine. It looked so pristine next to the window against the white backdrop that it screamed “COME PLAY!” I needed an outfit to wear out on a special night out with friends, and nothing in my wardrobe or in stores was satisfying my style appetite. So I got to work; running to the fabric store, looking up outfits I wanted to recreate, draping, cutting, pinning. I was caught in a time warp, and had melted into my project. I felt great— no. I felt electric.

The inspirations:

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The result:

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This, which boasted faulty construction, raw edges on the inside, a slightly askew zipper and makeshift cups to contour. Not to mention an unforecasted red velvet snowfall all over my bedroom.

Wearing it was a total blast. It was mine, it was an expression of my inspiration and not just something from the mall that sort of captured my ideas. I had, as Oprah would say, an “ah-ha!” moment. I realized I hadn’t been exercising my creativity muscles. I missed the touch of the fabric, the whirr of the machine, and the first breath of fresh air when a project is completed. What I loved the most was the pressure of integrity; I knew what measures I had to take to make the physical creation as thorough as my concept, and that takes perseverance.

Now, I’m taking a few steps back, but already feel like I’ve taken twice that many leaps forward.  I’ve got a new machine, am taking new classes, am meeting people with shared interests, and I hope to meet more. I’m reaching out to share an experience that I’m ecstatic to jump into. I’m retracing my steps under new guidance to fill gaps in my knowledge, and to patch together my skill sets so that I can continue to reap these ideas I continually sew(oh no not a pun! , even if that means making yet another introductory pair of pajama pants…

And now we’re back at the beginning. We are back where I found you, and back where I welcomed you to my journey. Perhaps it makes more sense now why I have chosen to spend my time on a “fashion” blog. I’ve had to ask myself: in a sea of trend-seeking, aspiring e-starlets, what’s one more blog with pictures? And this is why I chose to write this long a$$ blog post. (Pardon my French.. s’il vous plait) I needed to answer that question for myself, and I wanted to share my diary pages, as promised.

I’m going inside, looking at my own mismatched seams and raw edges, and saying

ah-ha!

For now, they are right where they belong.

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2 thoughts on “And in the beginning there was Burger King: a long a** look at my design history

  1. Pingback: Tears on my Crayola 64 pack – Dorky Chick in Lipstick

  2. Pingback: READER FEATURE: Meet Laura! | Dorky Chick in Lipstick

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