University of Fashion Blog

Posts by: Kara Laricks

Kara Laricks is a regular contributor to the University of Fashion. She’s also a New York based women's wear and accessories designer. As the first winner of NBC's Fashion Star, Kara has designed collections for H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Her masculine meets feminine line, Kara Laricks, debuted at New York Fashion Week in 2012 and her S/S 2013 collection sold exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. Kara's designs have been featured on the Today Show and HBO's True Blood as well as covered in Women's Wear Daily and on Style.com. Kara holds Master's degrees in both Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas and in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. An educator turned designer, Kara is dedicated to supporting emerging designers and inspiring others to follow where dreams lead.

The Women Behind the Accessories

- - Women in Fashion

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

Thanks to the Academy Award-winning film, Hidden Figures, these names are now synonymous with launching NASA’s astronauts safely into space.

But did you know that the fashion industry has many hidden figures of its own? Strong, powerful, talented women who are the creatives forces behind brands such as Gucci, Valentino and Marc Jacobs? And like the love of math was the thread that tied Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson together, accessory design is the common tie between the three female powerhouses in the fashion industry you’re about to meet. Read More

Decades of Women Who Have Made Designers Household Names

- - Women in Fashion

Ask any designer to rattle off a few famous women in fashion, and you’ll likely hear Vionnet…Chanel…perhaps Diane von Furstenberg or Donna Karan. We know their designs, and quite often their career paths and even life stories, as well.

But what about the women working tirelessly behind the scenes to promote the designers we call by name and design?

This week, we take the opportunity to feature influential women throughout history who made their careers in fashion journalism. Though many of these women have careers that span decades, notice the significant contributions they’ve made, decade by decade. Read More

Women Who Inspire: Change-makers in History

The surge of woman-power we’ve witnessed over the past few months is nothing short of inspiring. With an estimated 4 million people (in the US alone) joining the Women’s March on January 22, the impact of girls, women and their supporters working together cannot be denied.

In the fashion industry, the story may be lesser known, but the impact women have made on unfair practices is no different. Read More

Cozy Up to London Fashion Week Trends

- - Fashion Shows, Trends

Fashion week in London has wrapped up for another season. Much like many of the wrapped-up models that walked the runways, the trends veered toward cozy, roomy and bundled-up in yards of luxurious fabrics. From stripes to plaids to polka dots and neutrals to neons, London offered a little something for everybody for Fall 2017. Read More

Wedge, column, pear and hourglass: 4 body types to know

- - Trends

The “real woman” challenge on Project Runway draws a distinctive line between designers who are adept at working with actual clients and those who design on a standard size 6 dress form. Often design students, through no fault of their own, spend their design education creating on a dress form, which does not necessarily reflect the “real” woman they will one day dress.

For emerging designers who have yet to make their passion a business, it is important to consider who your client will be and how your designs will fit her body type. Or, if you are designing for only a specific body type, it is important to consider how that might affect your business’ bottom line.

At latest report, the average American woman is 5’4”, 166 pounds and has a waist size of 37.5 inches. This is a stark contrast in size to the typical size 6 or 8 dress form most fashion design students use to design. But these are important statistics to take into account when it comes to selling your designs and making sure the women who want to wear your clothes can.

BodyShapes

Regardless of height and weight, standard sizing or plus size, there are four body types designers should be familiar with: the wedge, column, pear and hourglass. Over the course of fashion history, there are many examples of designers who have been known for specific silhouettes that mirror these four body types. Take a look at the following:

Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler, famed French designers of the 1980s, were well known for their broad-shouldered silhouettes. Notice how this silhouette gives the appearance of the wedge body type and a great silhouette to minimize the waist and hips by broadening the shoulders.

Look no further than the 1920s to find designers who embraced the column silhouette, as in the Paul Poiret illustration above. Other designers to research include Madeleine Vionnet and Madame Grés. This silhouette is great for women who don’t have a defined waistline and whose shape is less curvy.

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Yves Saint Laurent’s trapeze silhouette of the late 1950s is a good example of a silhouette that follows the shape of the pear body type. Narrow at the shoulder and more voluminous at the hip, this silhouette was also made popular by Pierre Cardin and Rudi Gernreich in the 1960s. This silhouette is popular with girls whose waists and hips are larger than their bust.

And most famous for the hourglass silhouette is Christian Dior and his New Look, as seen above. Nipped in at the waist, and balanced at the shoulder and the hip, many designers have worked to achieve this ideal including Charles Frederick Worth, Azzedine Alaia and of course, Alexander McQueen. Girls with this body shape, accentuate the appearance of a smaller waistline with belts and body contoured clothing.

Understanding the four body types is just the tip of the iceberg for designers today. As the market shifts to accommodate a growing plus sized industry, many designers are shifting their offerings to support both their clients and their businesses. As recent as 2014, the British design collective of Clements Riberio, Giles Deacon, Hema Kaul, Jamie Wei Huang, Lulu Liu and Vita Gottlieb, were the first plus-size brands to show at London Fashion Week.

There has been a growing body positivity movement for some time. In 2004, Dove created their Campaign for Real Beauty which fostered conversations on female self-confidence and self-esteem issues, no matter her size, shape or race. Dove beauty ads featured plus-size women as the “real beautiful.”

However, as recent as last summer, Leslie Jones, star of SNL and Ghostbusters, struggled to find a designer who would design for her due to her size. She took her story to Twitter and her exchange with Christian Siriano made headline news. Siriano, a long time champion of dressing women with diverse body sizes was honored to step up to the plate. Siriano says of his collection in general, “We want to make sure that the collection feels cohesive, but we want to make sure that the models and the women wearing it are just as different as the women that shop in a store.” In fact, Siriano included plus-sized models in his fashion show last September to prove his point. In addition, many designers including Siriano and Isabel and Ruben Toledo, have partnered with plus-size retailer Lane Bryant as a way to make their designs accessible to all women.

We know this is a lot to consider as you are just learning to drape, draw and sew. However, we are dedicated to helping you navigate the fashion industry and its quickly changing trends. Take a look at our recently posted video for more information on body types and the plus-sized market.

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Field trip: Sydney and Melbourne

- - Field Trip

Escape the bone-chilling temps and the uneasy political climate in the U.S. for a ten day sunny stay in Australia? Count. Me. In.

Sunny Australian summer laneway

Sunny Australian summer laneway

Although it took me a bit to wrap my head around the time difference (subtract 7ish hours from the current time in the states, go back one day and you have a successful switch to Australian time), Sydney and Melbourne have always been on my list of cities to experience. What I found in the land down under was an eclectic design culture where local designers are thriving. I visited outdoor markets and perused laneways and arcades (gorgeous hidden strips of shops, each with their own personality and vibe) and marveled at the ease with which local artisans described doing business in Australia. What I did not find in terms of fashion was a signature Australian style – unless of course I count the easy, colorful beachwear and bikinis necessary for time spent on Australia’s beautiful beaches.

Sydney Opera House

I started my stay in Sydney where I quickly got the impression Sydney is to Manhattan as Melbourne may be to Brooklyn? Much like Manhattan’s Empire State Building, there’s no mistaking the Sydney Opera House skyline silhouette. I took the opportunity to see the opera house up close and was surprised by the textile inspiration I found in the tiled patterns that simply cannot be conveyed from far away. As for shopping, Sydney is home to all of the usual suspects in terms of Topshop, Uniqlo and H&M in addition to luxury designer boutiques. However, I was on the hunt for the local scene.

Bondi Beach Market

Beachwear at Bondi Market

Convinced that I would discover a signature Australian design aesthetic, I headed to one of the Paddington Markets as well as Bondi Market located just off the beautiful Bondi Beach. In addition to the many sections of beachwear and jewelry, I was surprised to find influences from the world over – particularly Scandinavia and Japan. In talking with vendors, it seemed local production was very manageable and that taking one’s business from local markets to an independent boutique was not an uncommon route for designers. Yoshi Jones is an Australian designer that encompasses all that I observed. A well-known Sydney designer, she is heavily influenced by Japanese design and fabrics and has made her way from the Paddington and Bondi markets to an independent boutique.

Summertime at Bondi Market

Summertime at Bondi Market

For me, the fresh flowers, the colorful hand printed souvenirs and gorgeous food were standouts in Sydney. Edible flowers seemed to accompany every dish, and if ever I were to find design inspiration in food, Sydney and Melbourne would be front runners in terms of places to visit. Speaking of Melbourne, my initial analogy proved to be true. Just as Brooklyn is packed with emerging artists and creative inspiration, Melbourne boasts a similar feel. A visit to the suburb of Fitzroy will have you roaming in and out of shops for days.

Inside E.S.S.

Inside ESS. Laboratory

Again, no aesthetic specific to Melbourne or even Australia, but you will find a wealth of locally made goods influenced by worldwide design. One of my favorite shops was ESS. Laboratory – started by a Japanese designer who now makes Melbourne her home, studio and place of production.

Overall Wall at American Vintage

Overall Wall at American Vintage

Another shock to my retail system was the amount of vintage I found in Melbourne. Take a look at the WALL of overalls I found at aptly named American Vintage Clothing Company on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. This hidden goldmine was packed wall to wall with denim and classic Americana staples from American flags to Future Farmers of America jackets from each of the Midwestern states.

As a blogger for the University of Fashion, I understand you are looking for fashion-related tips (and field trips), however, I have to mention once again Australian food and drink – the coffee was the best I’ve sipped and just take a look at this Vegemite avocado toast, complete with edible flowers from Fika.

Vegemite avocado toast at Fika

Vegemite avocado toast at Fika

This slice of heaven was located an hour train ride outside of Melbourne in Ballarat. Should you make the long trek to Melbourne, tack a quick trip on to Ballarat for not only the food and coffee at Fika, but the stylie baristas who will serve you. Questions/comments about the land down under? Feel free to leave them in the the comments below. Cheers, mate!

X marks the spot at Fika

X marks the spot at Fika