High School

Fashion Illustration Class

This is an improvement for this student.

The one class I felt more comfortable taking over was Fashion Illustration. When I started my student-teaching, this class had already moved from sketching clothes to making them with fabric. However, it was painfully clear that the majority of the students needed help with drawing.

In an ideal world, only students with a deep interest in fashion and art students who had had a basic drawing class before would be in a class as specialized as Fashion Illustration. But due to scheduling issues and perhaps some other factors, there are some who had never had an art class before, others who had not had drawing classes specifically, and all but one had no particular interest in fashion as a career. As a result, even croquis done by tracing a template looked as if they had been drawn by small children in what Viktor Lowenfeld described as the “Schematic Stage,” and what I dubbed “gout people.” It’s often said that one does not need to have figure drawing skills to start designing clothes through fashion illustration, but when high school students are turning in homework croquis with models that only have hair at the sides of their head and there’s a quarter-circle in the corner representing the sun, you really have to set some minimum requirements for what’s expected in terms of technical skill.

While I can’t help them much with the actual clothes given that I only know how to hand sew, I could most certainly help them with the fashion croquis. Besides having a BFA in drawing, my first “formal” training in drawing was a “How to Draw Fashion” book that I had in elementary school. So I set about designing 10-15 minute mini lessons on drawing the figure so that students could do better on their weekly croquis homework.

Students had been given templates at the beginning of the year that used a more naturalistic 8-and-a-half heads high figure, and had been instructed to only draw women. As it wouldn’t be fair to rock the boat too much from the get-go, during my demos, I mentioned that fashion figures are usually 9 to 10 heads high but that the 8.5 heads high figure they were already using had more realistic proportions and that I would use it for my demonstrations. I started off drawing a stick figure that has its weight distributed evenly on both feet, then blocked in the body. I made one figure male and the other female, but I also spoke about androgynous figures.

In the next mini lesson I introduced “contrapposto,” which is the fancy Italian word for “The Pose People Associate With Fashion Models.” Some students who were tracing croquis templates to complete their homework worked exclusively with this pose. Those who weren’t tracing templates would often make mistakes that left their models in poses that were either physically impossible, such as having the shoulders in a steep slant while the hips remained perfectly straight despite having one leg out to the side; or very uncomfortable, such as having the knee of the high-hip leg bent while maintaining the other leg straight. Some students certainly improved in their ability to draw a stock figure without having to look at a specific template to copy after these two mini lessons.

After the basic lessons for the whole figure, I did more mini lessons on whatever were the most common issues I was seeing in the weekly croquis homework. For example, I noticed many students weren’t drawing faces at all, so I did a little lesson on that. Others struggled with hands and feet—shoes rather—so I covered that as well. I also make extensive comments and diagrams in students’ sketchbooks so that they can improve. When I took over grading their assignments, I told them that I wasn’t grading anyone based on how “well” they drew, but rather on whether or not they were applying what they were seeing in the mini lessons and in my personalized notes to them in their latest assignments. In other words, I was looking for improvement.

This student was having trouble drawing high heels from the front, making the shoes look as if they splayed outwards from the sole like a cheap knock-off in the rain…


…So, I drew a mini tutorial into her book.

Doing this kind of individual feedback is very time consuming, but it serves two purposes. For one, it customizes instruction to meet that student’s specific needs. But it also helps to make sure students are held accountable for doing their work and trying to improve. Students can’t say “I didn’t know I was supposed to do x” when they have it in writing in their sketchbooks like this. Of course, I don’t expect two or three mini lessons to solve all students’ drawing issues immediately, as drawing consistently requires lots of practice and analytical thinking during and after said practice.

Students had to get back to using their full class time for constructing their actual outfit, so I didn’t do any whole-class mini lessons for a while. In late March I talked about shading, and did a demonstration with a wooden cylinder and flashlight, as well as a drawing, so that students could create a greater sense of form in their croquis.

During class time, I only showed students shading with pencils, but during the prep period, I added a sample in color. I always leave the easel with the day’s mini lesson drawings out in a corner of the studio for students’ reference.

I don’t have many photos of student work in general, as there is always so much going on it’s hard to remember to take photos. I do regret not taking pictures of some of the better croquis, as there really were some interesting ones. Especially once we started doing themes.

The Croquis Themes Jug

At the very beginning of the school year, students had assigned themes for a few weeks, but then they were allowed to draw more freely. However, by the time I got there in mid-January, it was clear most students were merely copying poses and outfits wholesale off the internet. So, I gave each student one small piece of paper, and told them to write down one thing that they liked on it. It could be anything: a color, a material, an emotion, a fictional character, etc. They folded the papers up and put them into a protein powder jug I had rinsed out and repurposed. Each week, either I or a student pull out a paper to set the week’s theme. So far, we’ve had “Sour Patches,” “Blue,” “Video games,” and “Life.” I honestly did not know what Sour Patches were! (Ahaha!) Though I don’t have a photo of it, one student did a very funny “croquis” of a Sour Patch Kid wearing a sparkly red gown and a string of pearls. It was right after the Academy Awards, and the “Kid” was saying “I’d like to thank my manager.” It definitely didn’t have the usual feel of a fashion sketch, but then again, if Lady Gaga can wear a meat dress, why not have candy wearing fancy gowns!

~ B O N U S ~

My mentor teacher often buys magazines like Bazaar and Vogue to have as reference material for the Fashion class. I saw some interesting ad campaigns as I flipped through them. For example, Gucci has one consisting of images that directly reference famous works of art. The first one I saw was obviously a copy of Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia. I showed the ad to the class and asked them if they had ever seen this image before. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an Art History class at Cass for some years now, so only one student (a transfer student) got the reference. Still, I showed the class the original painting in Gardner’s Art Through the Ages so that they could see how fashion designers take inspiration from sources across time even though they’re designing for a season that hasn’t even come yet.

Millais’ Ophelia [Source] & Gucci’s Ophelia by Monreal [Source]

Another ad that took me by surprise was for Bloomingdales. It had a pipe from Super Mario World in it. Turns out the store created some clothing in collaboration with Nintendo. This came in perfect when I pulled the “Video games” theme from the Croquis Themes Jug! A lot of students aren’t particularly interested in fashion, but many do like video games, so it helped to have such a recent example of games and fashion going hand in hand.

The collage I made for the Croquis Themes Jug consisted of images pulled mostly from art supply catalogs and whatever magazines I had in the house at the time.

High School

Shibori ~Japanese Resist Dye Techniques~

Besides Jewelry, the other class my mentor teaches is Fibers. One of her favorite dye techniques is shibori, which is, to put it simply, Japanese tie-dye. However, there are many more techniques in the arsenal of a shibori dyer than the tie-dye that was most popular in the US during the 1960s and 70s. I started practicing these techniques with the Fibers class while also reading up on them so that I would be able to introduce them to the 3D Studio Art class later. (More on that in another blog post!)

An indigo uchiwa (hand fan)

Despite having lived in Japan for four years, I didn’t know about shibori. At least, I don’t think I did. But when I saw the board about it in my mentor teacher’s classroom, I knew I had seen it before. When I was an undergrad, I went on a short study abroad program. The fan pictured to the left was a gift from my host family in Hiroshima. It’s possible they explained everything about it to me when they gave it to me and I didn’t understand; I had only been studying Japanese for two years at that point, after all.

At first, I couldn’t figure out how the pattern in this fan had been made. Now I’m pretty sure I know exactly how they did it. But it sure took a while to get to this point!

I started out by doing what the students had done at first: dye small pieces of fabric to test out the various techniques. The first one I tried out was arashi, which means “storm.” By wrapping fabric around a pole or pipe and binding it tightly with yarn, one can create straight lines that resemble rain coming down hard.

The fabric is first placed on the pole fully extended, then bound to it with yarn or string.
Once you get to the top of the fabric, you slide it down the pipe so it bunches up like this.

I also tried the techniques of folding & clamping, bean-binding, and stitched shibori. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the results of all of these, and they are currently at the school. But there’s still plenty I can show while still getting this post up in a somewhat timely manner!

Folding & clamping fabric between blocks and between paper clips. The reading underneath is an excerpt from Yoshiko Wada’s book “Shibori.”


The pipe after the dye bath

I first tried out the arashi technique using one piece of rayon and two pieces of silk. The rayon piece I placed flat and straight on the pipe. I put one silk piece on at an angle, and the other one I first folded in half, then placed it on the pipe straight. Getting the silk to stay put as I bound it was a bit of a challenge, but I got by with the help of a few pieces of strategically placed painter’s tape that I removed before placing the pipe into the dye bath.

As these were just samples, neither I nor the students got to specify which color the pieces of cloth would be dyed. It was the luck of the draw that I ended up with one of my favorite colors! Getting the clothes off the pipes (once they were dry) was exciting, but the true nature of the patterns wouldn’t be revealed without a thorough ironing!

The results of my arashi experiment on rayon.

The result of the arashi technique on silk

I especially liked the pinstripes on this last sample. I wasn’t expecting them! The organic lines were also a surprise; there had been odd bulges in the silk because it was hard to keep it from moving around on the pipe, hence why the lines didn’t come out all parallel to each other as they’re supposed to with this technique. Some students said this made the fabric look like butterfly wings. I thought of a leaf.

After making several samples, it was my turn to actually make the dye bath myself. I learned how to make the dye solution for room temperature dyeing by boiling water and adding salt and soda ash to it. Before putting the piece in the dye, however, it must be placed in mildly soapy water to remove any sizing the fabric might have. Then it can go in the dye bath!

The pigment comes in powder form.
Old yogurt and soda ash containers working hard!
This color is called “Strongest Red”—for a reason!

The piece above might actually be for a certain special cape I made for a Halloween “Dress Up Skeleton.” But that’s a whole ‘nother story!

Eventually I was entrusted with dyeing the students’ pieces. I’m relieved when they ask for a color that we have in stock straight from the bottle, because I’ve been a little off when I have to try to mix dyes. It is the first time I do this, so I suppose my results aren’t too shabby, although there’s still much I need to learn about this process.