verbal croquis

sparkle part trois

Posted in events,my work,side projects by verbalcroquis on March 25, 2006

The more I look at the photos of my project, the more I’m dismayed at the poor quality. I should have scanned everything, but I was just so ready to drop. I hope they return the boards to me intact. *crosses fingers, legs and eyes* The line quality of the dark pencil faded, the overall paint, especially the charcoal, faded and the white pencils glows thicker than what’s actually there. But you get the idea.

Several of you loyal readers have asked about my design process. Some day, I’ll write a post on my design process at the day job, but this one will be devoted to how I like to work, without the restrictions of the office.

I start by developing mini-groups. I design a concept outfit to embody the feel of each group, even if they never make it to my final edit. I develop color stories, fabric stories, design themes, a customer profile and a girl’s physical look for each group. I tend to start with 3 or 4 of these groups, about 5-6 sketches each group to start.

My concept outfit for this project never made the final edit, but an earlier version of this dress later replaced the original CO, as I drove the look to a more aggressive feel.

The earlier version of the Dissolving Bows Dress (which ironically, turned out a better illustration than the final, also because I scanned this one, as opposed to photographing. grr.):


The final (I actually go back and forth as to which version I like better. Thoughts?):
dissolvingdress.jpg dissolvingflat.jpg

After I’ve developed the groups, I narrow it down to the 2 strongest groups and continue to sketch for those, devoloping about 20 designs for each group. Sometimes I’ll design a silhouette for one group that later gets incorporated into the other instead, such as this one:

cinderella.jpg cinderellaflat.jpg

One of my other groups was to use various gem cuts as stylelines. The original stylelines for this corset mimicked a truncated marquis cut.

With the way my brain works, I dump everything onto paper–good ideas and bad. I end up with sometimes hundreds of sketches for a 20-pc project. After I’ve fully developed the 2 groups, rethought my colors and fabrics, I pick one to follow through on. I start with some practice renderings, like the first image of this post. I use this method of simultaneously editing and expanding and evolving and editing some more, trying to tighten up the group. I don’t like designing 10 pieces if 6 or 7 will do.

Some of these outfits are direct reflections on my personal design aesthetic, that shows strongly regardless of direction.

My affinity for incorporating menswear elements, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, like this cargo skirt in a men’s suiting, but covered in rhinestones in a chain print:

teapartylook.jpg teapartyflat.jpg

I also love to look at period pieces and morph them into something thoroughly modern, like the jabot on this little number:

belldress.jpg bellflat.jpg

I also love to make things in an unpredictable material, like these chain link suspenders done in twisted ropes of silk crepe (also a nod to the nautical look that I think is becoming more classic than trendy):

boysclublook.jpg pantflat.jpg

While developing the designs, I also develop fabric treatments. If I’m designing something on my own (as in not for a specific client or explicit design direction), I will always try to mix up textures, distress or refinish, *something*, like the charcoal pinstripe I turned into a subtle check with metallic gold and silver threads. So like I’ve said in a previous post, I revisit colors and fabrics continuously, as they are so important to the design, how it looks, how it fits, how it moves.

In that same post, I mentioned how important it was to not fall in love so much with something that it hinders your decision making. Just so you know I follow my own preaching, I designed this 3/4 ball skirt that was just so pretty I could die. I wanted one of my own so bad. It killed me, but I had to drop it–it just didn’t work with the rest of the group–not aggro enough, too many ruffles (on trend, not forward).

Questions and comments welcome, as usual. Post on what I thought I did well and what I wish I had done better to follow.


5 Responses to 'sparkle part trois'

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  1. Danielle said,

    I’ve just got to say that I find the quality of this presentation very inspiring, VC… I love the neatness of your little notes and arrows. I admire the confidence required when using marker and pen directly (no going back with that media) instead of laying out and cleaning up in photoshop and illustrator which is way easier.

    I like the skirt with the pleats better than the first version, although that illustration is extremely convincing, I still think the pleats just look great. That illustration, is it marker or painted, I can’t really tell?

    It always bothers me when the inside of trains on skirts short enough to show the back of the train is lined, or somehow ignored as the “inside” despite the fact it is visible. So I prefer the technical where the inside pleats are visible instead of being hidden by a lining. The darker lining doesn’t do it for me, perhaps that’s just my own design aesthetic.

    “Some of these outfits are direct reflections on my personal design aesthetic, that shows strongly regardless of direction.”

    Does this mean that your aesthetic shows strongly in your other projects as well? I seem to notice design biases in myself no matter what I’m designing for. Like, feel like I can design for anyone, different ages, different markets, as long as they never want a jewel neckline or a bowtie or whatever it is that I just inexplicably hate. I guess when working on other’s projects I would be willing to make allowances, but for myself I wouldn’t even want to sign my name to anything with a bow.

  2. henri-v said,

    I like version of the Dissolving Bow dress with the pleated underskirt; I had somewhat of the same opinion as Danielle — that the inside of the of the trained back would be distracting as is on the scanned illustration. Plus, I just like pleats. They give a bit of school-marm/school-girl charm to the dress … a bit of Lady of the Manor + 20s party dress. I never see enough pleats and smocking used in innovative ways …

    Another thing: awesome front pocket placement on the trousers. I hate hate hate side-seam pockets on trousers. Keck keck keck unless the pants are full and generous through the hips or fit extremely well if slim. Yours won’t cause pocket-pucker after a day of sitting at your desk.

    Silly question: Is the gathered hem of the puff dress adjustable? Like with one of those pinchy slider contraptions you have on bottom elastic band of fleece jackets (to be hidden on the inside of the bubble)? Wondering about ride-up as you walk … I’m just paranoid about such things.

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your design methodology. Liked the mention of gemstone cuts as line influences. LOTS of sketching involved, Zoe!

  3. It’s actually really soft pencil and marker for the flats. (Although, you can’t really erase that dark a pencil, so same thing…) I find that I can manipulate the line better using a soft pencil instead of pen. The little notes are sooo indicative of my type A borderline OCD personality. Heh.

    Doing illustrations in Illustrator present a whole different set of challenges, so I wouldn’t necessarily say easier—but it is easier to edit.
    I work about 75% of the time in gouache for final illustrations. I use markers mainly for croquis. Number one reason being I can mix the exact color I want.

    Note to self: work on rendering the back of dresses as seen from the front better—and it sucks that it doesn’t show well on this particular dress, especially since that dress takes up so much visual space on the page.

    I have a personal and professional opinion about everything. Prime example: I hate purple. Don’t ask me why. I just hate it. But sometimes it works. So I like to use the least amount of purple as possible, but sometimes, I’ll look at a sketch or a swatch and think “Dammit, I think this would look really good in a deep aubergine. ICK ICK ICK ICK ICK! Gah. Okay, no really, I think it’s for the best.?

  4. I guess the pleats win. I’m glad I thought of it. Heehee.

    And yeah, the pant pocket thing. My opinion is that on pants, pockets just make it or break it. You can cut it in the perfect fabric and have everything fit perfectly, but if the pockets break funny when you sit or walk, or they make your butt look big but flat, the pants are ruined.

    The hem of the bell dress is covered with a very loose elastic, so when standing straight, the hem barely hovers away from your legs, but as you walk it expands, but it’s not hard to stretch, like supertight elastics can be. Because it’s still bigger than the total circumference of your thighs, the elastic will relax and the hem will fall again before your next step. Does that make sense?

    Yeah, the thing is, I always come up with more ideas than I can use. I do think I’ll take that gemstone cuts ideas and develop it later on. It had a really stylish Jackie O vibe, but not quite as genteel.

  5. Christine said,

    That is a really neat look inside a fashion designer’s mind. I can’t figure out though how the designs go from sketches on paper to patterns the seamstress can use? Do you do that too or does someone else figure out how to get the design to being sewn?

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