Why Fashion?

My ever growing fabric collection

My ever growing fabric collection

A friend recently asked me a question that got the old Brain going-

“Why dresses and not hair and makeup? What is it about textiles that you enjoy more than those?…”

As my friends and family know, I’ve wanted to be in fashion design for a long time. I don’t remember having a moment of,” Oh, I want to be a fashion designer”. I discovered it gradually. At first I would create imaginary characters that I would weave a collection around. I drew them all frantically in a sketchbook, fast and hurried, usually in the middle of the night in those moments of being half awake, half asleep. But I got tired of that after a while. I wanted to actually create the ideas I had in my head. So I learned how to sew, first with lessons, then I taught myself. I discovered a whole new aspect of design I never knew before I learned how to sew. It was when I was pulling a needle in and out, up and down through fabric, that I really felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do.
I’ve had periods where I thought of being a hairstylist or makeup artist, but they never really appealed to me the way fashion design did.

Fashion is a part of everyone’s life, whether they realize it or not. It is a huge industry, and people(women in particular) buy clothes constantly and talk about it so often, we can forget why we love it so much. It’s hard to pin down exactly what gets my pulse racing when I talk about fashion, but I finally narrowed it down to five things:

-I Love Working With Cloth

Christian Dior dressing model Sylvie, c. 1950

I’ve always been a touchy-feely kind of person. I like to touch things. When I was a young girl my grandparents frequently took me to see musicals and plays. After the show was over I would beg my grandpa to take me down to the stage, and pick me up so I could touch it. I wanted to feel the place where all the actors danced and sang.Touching the stage made it real for me. Creating with fabric fills that need. Seamstresses often talk about the “hand” of a certain cloth. It’s the way it feels when touched. The texture, sheen, or weave is what makes my heart race and gets the ideas going.

-In Fashion You Have Freedom

Elsa Schappareli, 1930s. She was at the forefront of art and fashion. Inspired by surrealism, she frequently collaborated with Salvador Dali.

In hairstyling and makeup arts you are limited in what you can create. Your “canvas” is limited, as well as the materials you work with. You also cannot as easily incorporate avant garde inspirations and ideas. For example, right now I am enthralled by medieval gothic art and architecture. The “books of hours” with their incredible gilded pages are jumping out at me. I could recreate a print on fabric if I wanted using countless types of cloth, and use the architecture as a guide for my pattern design. I could draw inspiration from the elaborate scrollwork and embellish my clothing with embroidery and beading. But how would I use this inspiration in hairstyling or makeup? It could be done, but it would probably be very theatrical and not something anyone would like to look like outside of a fashion show. But when done on clothing, it’s more accessible. In fashion, if you know how to effectively incorporate your research, you are free to pull inspiration from all sources, no matter how far fetched, and still create something a person would feel comfortable wearing everyday.

-It’s Closer to Traditional Art Forms

Madeleine Vionnet, inventor of the bias cut, working with cloth on a half scale form, early 1900s

Like in painting and sculpture, in fashion design you create based on your desires and needs. You create to communicate with others, to tell a story. You create to move people. You create to express yourself. Your designs are not dictated by other’s wants or desires. Once you have created something worth sharing you have a show, much like an art exhibition. If people like what they see, they can buy one of your pieces. Hairstyling and makeup are different. Your customers dictate the design. You don’t get to have total artistic freedom all over someone else’s head or face. It’s much like a tailor(or dressmaker), in that the client comes to the tailor, and they request a service. The client gets to choose what fabric they want, cut they want, and style they want. The tailor has no choice of his own. The tailor is a craftsman, not an artist. Fashion designers have to be both.

-Clothing is a Human Need

Cristobal Balenciaga design, French Vogue, May 1966

The three basic physical needs in life are:
Clothing fills an essential need of all humans. We need and want something to cover our bodies, not only for protection, but for beauty. It’s up to the artists of the world to take a basic need and elevate it. When this happens food becomes fine cuisine, shelter becomes an ornate temple, and clothing becomes a beautiful gown. If so many people take fine food and architecture so seriously, why do they feel that fashion design is frivolous? The chef and the fashion designer are doing the same things, just with different materials. Hairstyling and makeup are not needs, they are accessories. Fashion designers enjoy anticipating the needs of the wearer and creating designs that are both useful and functional, as well as beautiful.

-Fashion is a Language and Mirror

Alexander McQueen, Fall/Winter 2010

No other means better depicts time, place, personality, and status than clothing. It’s the silent way people make their thoughts and ideas open to others. It’s the silent way we say,” This is who I am” or “This is where I’m from” and it has been that way since the beginning of time. When a woman gets ready for her wedding, hair and makeup are important, but it’s finding The Dress that causes most of the headache and frustration. If the bride gets the dress right, then everything else will fall into place. Why is the right dress so important? Brides know that their wedding dress communicates who they are and who they want to be. It tells a story. Fashion not only reflects the wearer, but it reflects world events that are shaping culture. No other medium (other than music and the visual arts-i.e. painting) acts as such a close mirror to society and a specific period in time.

So those are the reasons that Fashion interests me as opposed to Hair/Makeup. But it is important to note: there’s no point in having a great dress and shoes if you’re not going to fix your face and hair! Hairstyling and makeup are the icing on the cake. You cannot have fashion without them. I have high respect for hairstylists and makeup artists. They make great fashion even greater.

Fashion can be frightful and scary, elegant and beautiful. Sometimes we don’t always understand it. Some fashion can seem foreign or clash with preconceived notions of beauty, but that’s what makes it exciting. It’s constantly going through a grand metamorphosis, ever-changing, just like people.



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