Qa_faqs | I’m a beginner. Where should I start?

You can learn just about anything you need to know about fashion design from us. Here’s how we guide students who ask, “Where do I begin?

To become a good designer, you need to have a solid foundation in the disciplines of Draping, Pattern making, Sewing and Fashion Art. Only by learning these skills can you become a truly versatile, hands-on designer.

Our lessons are designed to teach exactly what you'd learn at a top fashion school. To get the most from our lessons, follow along with the teacher in each lesson, doing exactly what they're doing, using your own tools and materials, e.g. fabrics, sewing machine, etc. When you're done with each lesson, you'll be able to show people the many wonderful garments or other projects you've made.

Our subscribers love being able to rewind our lessons and replay the more difficult techniques we teach. This is what makes our approach to teaching better than classroom learning. You simply can't ask a live teacher to repeat what they just demonstrated over and over again. But, with us, you can watch and re-watch, everything we teach as many times as you want...until you can finally do it yourself! Oh, and because all our lessons are professionally filmed, we edit out all the teacher digressions, mistakes, long pauses, dropped scissors and do-overs. As a result, our lessons take 75% less time to watch than in-class lessons.

Sewing, draping, pattern making and fashion drawing are the key technical skills you need to know to become a well-rounded, competent, hands-on fashion designer. Some designers prefer to express their initial ideas graphically, by sketching them onto a piece of paper or onto a computer screen. Other designers prefer to start the design process three-dimensionally by pinning fabric onto a dress form, i.e. by draping. And yet others like to express their initial ideas in the form of flat paper patterns. While there’s no one "right way" to express your ideas, all designers need to know how they're going to sew everything together to create their final product. At the University of Fashion, our goal is to teach you how to become a well-rounded designer, capable of executing in all four of the above fashion disciplines, from concept to wearable, finished garment.

The first skill you need to master is sewing. Go to our site at https://www.UniversityofFashion.com. Click on our Lessons menu and then click on Sewing. Our sewing page provides you with a recommended lesson order. Our beginner lessons are designed to teach you sewing fundamentals: hand-sewing, machine sewing and how to sew various types seams, pockets, zippers and details on different types of fabrics. Once you have mastered our beginner sewing techniques, move on to our fashion art, draping and patternmaking lessons, discussed next. You can always come back to sewing on occasion, in between learning the other disciplines by watching our intermediate and advanced sewing lessons.
Once you have some decent sewing skills, move to fashion art by clicking on our Lessons menu, and then clicking on Fashion Art. Our fashion art page provides you with a recommended lesson order but, like with sewing, you don’t need to be an expert artist at this early stage in your education. Just learn enough to feel comfortable drawing a fashion figure or croquis in different poses. Once you have mastered a few, different fashion poses, learn how to draw design details and to render your ideas in color. By viewing our series on "Finding your Sketching Voice," discover your own unique sketching style, one that reflects your own personal design vision.

Once you're comfortable with two-dimensional fashion drawing, move on to three-dimensional designing, i.e. "draping". Draping is about designing directly on a dress form using a basic cloth called muslin.  Draping is, in our opinion, the center of the fashion education universe. Go to our site, click on our Lessons menu, and then click Draping. Our first draping lesson explains dress forms. Buy a good one. Don't buy the cheapest one you can find. And for heaven's sake, don't buy a "store mannequin." You need a dress form that can handle years of direct pinning. At the top of our Draping page we provide a recommended lesson order. Make sure that you proceed in that order. Our "Bodice Sloper" lesson is where the real learning begins. You can feel confident that you've mastered Draping's basics after you've finished all our beginner draping lessons.  You can always come back to our more advanced draping lessons once you have learned the fundamentals of pattern making, the next and last discipline you simply must know to be truly well-rounded.

But, first, a little story. Our founder, Francesca Sterlacci, owned a successful Seventh Avenue fashion label for many years in New York City. She sold to Saks, Barney’s, Nordstrom's and countless "high end" retail boutiques all around the world. While she had decent art skills, most of the garments she created and then manufactured for the five to six lines she marketed every year were first created using draping. Why? Because no other method of designing shows you exactly what a design will look like in its final fabric form like draping can.

Once you've achieved some basic draping skills, you can then move into pattern making. Click on our Lessons menu, then click on Pattern Making. Our pattern making page provides you with a recommended lesson order. You can feel confident that you've mastered the basics of Pattern Making after you have created a complete set of blocks or slopers: straight sleeve, shoulder dart bodice, torso sloper, straight skirt and pants. Once your sloper library is complete, learn how to draft various types of sleeves, skirts and collars.

To round out your fashion education, go to our site, click on our Lessons menu, and then click on Fashion Lectures. Here, we offer what are known in fashion colleges as "electives", e.g. lessons on costume history, color theory, trend forecasting, textiles and leather, bodyscanning, fashion licensing, marketing and branding, fashion law, plus size fashion and a series of lectures from famous people in the fashion industry.

Once you have mastered the above disciplines, ask yourself "What discipline do I enjoy doing the most?" That’s your cue to check out our intermediate or advanced lessons in that discipline. Or, feel free to try out one of our other disciplines, e.g. childrenswear, knits, product development, menswear or accessories design. If you're computer savvy, don't pass up the opportunity to learn what you can do with CAD pattern making and CAD fashion art! And, if you are a bit of an entrepreneur, watch our lectures on "Fashion startup 101" (Parts 1-3) in Fashion Business. This series will help you to get the 'full picture' of the fashion industry and may inspire you to start your own fashion business!

Remember, if you ever have trouble doing a particularly complex step in one of our lessons, read the free lesson transcript which accompanies most of our lessons and use the rewind button on our website to rewind that lesson so that you can re-watch, then re-do that step, yourself, using your own materials. Repeat this over and over until you finally master that tricky step. Even today’s best designers once struggled to learn the techniques they now use routinely in their designs. Remember: “practice make perfect.”

Most important, enjoy!

Posted in: Fashion Design Lessons