With 4 weeks left to finish my first Associate’s degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, my final garment wasn’t selected to be part of the graduating exhibit. I was not the chosen one. Yet, surprisingly this disappointment failed to disappoint me. Why? Because fashion is a competitive field, where luck plays an equal role to talent.
From the first day of this semester, we started working on our theme and inspiration for the garment, ‘The Cabinet of Curiosities’. This seemingly absurd yet broad topic gave everyone around me the opportunity to experiment with different materials, fabrics and techniques. And for me, was an opportunity to work outside my comfort zone. I used this opportunity to experiment with Intimate Apparel and Evening-Wear as I would soon have to pick my specialization.
“Dead Botany” was the theme for my garment. I wanted to create an illusion of the preservation of flowers in a glass jar, similar to the flower acting like a ticking clock of life in the story of “Beauty and the Beast”. I decided to push myself into primarily using fabrics that I had never used before. And the fabric that ended up giving me immense levels of stress was Organza. My initial muslin, which was the basic structure of my garment had a wonderful fit, yet as soon as I lay the patterns onto the slippery sheer organza, the fabric began to shift. The thought of switching my fabrics occurred to me, yet this would then diverge away from my theme, as I intended to showcase the transparency of a glass jar that encases dead flowers. I stuck with this fabric and sewed the pieces together to create the bodice and the pants. The sheerness of the pant required me to create a lining or underwear of some sort. This was another challenge for me, as I had previously never worked with knits, and especially the kind of stretchy two-way knits used for underwear. After finishing the initial sewing of the pieces, I started the embroidery and creating 3-dimensional flowers. The embroidery on the ensemble took me about 10-12 hours, while the flowers took me about five hours.
The end product surprised me, as both my professor and critic were impressed. The constant encouragement and approval from everyone around me, gave me hope. And the truth is, the hope of getting into the exhibit had built up over time, and naturally the let-down of not being selected sunk in. But, I didn't let this drag me down. Because,
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best thing, and no good thing ever dies”
– Andy Dufresne
With the arrival of the Exhibit, I felt myself feel a sort of discontent. I was frustrated with my luck. But as I write this sitting in my French class, I realized that I had been unhappy with the chosen fabric, and I was aware of every mistake that I had made. I gained the quality of being able to self-critique myself, which as a designer will help me in the future. Constricted by time and full of uncertainty, I realized that what I had created was far beyond my comfort zone. Starting from the silhouette, fabrics chosen, as well as the theme was all an experiment for me. It was an experiment to find my strengths and figure out what I need to improve on in the next two years. The entire process made me realize that my comfort lies in Ready-to-wear silhouettes and fabrics. Although, I didn’t make it into the exhibit, I competed with myself and every garment that I had made before. I pushed myself out of my secure bubble and style, and decided to test myself.
So in the end, this disappointment failed to disappoint me, as the entire process has taught me so much about picking a theme, design process, working with a critique, choosing fabrics and finishing, as well as accepting the plain truth stated by my professor, that “Fashion is a subjective field.”
Ce n’est pas la fin du monde. It is not the end of the world.