On Teaching Fashion: Apparel Design Technology in the classroom

(Jenna Shaw, UD Destination India Project, 2011)

What do students benefit from knowing as far as Apparel Design Technology upon graduation as they head out into the field? I have been asking this very question to many design professionals who are working in the field currently as I teach many of the technology courses in my design program. As technology changes and as our departmental budgets decrease how can I best prepare my students to be marketable and succeed in an increasingly difficult environment?

Being of the “Do It Yourself” generation, I troll the interwebs for low cost opportunities  students can access to learn and practice their expertise post graduation, post CAD lab with it’s many software privileges.

Google sketch up fascinates me, I wish Google would create a similar Illustrator like program for students to access post graduation when they often lack money to buy expensive software.

A good resource is fashion incubator: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/what-do-good-designers-have-in-common-pt-2/

Kathleen Fasanella has really created quite a community. I require my senior students purchase her book (as many of them have dreams of being fashion entrepreneurs, Kathleen offers a good dose of reality in her coveted book). I did read in fashion incubator once that one can create flats in excel! There is a small fee to be apart of the insider forum which is well worth it.

(Bryant, M. W., & DeMers, D. (2006). The spec manual. New York: Fairchild Publications.)

From my conversations with former students and Industry colleagues a few things are certain:

1. Knowledge of Illustrator and Photoshop are key and good fashion based texts are being published recently in support of this training in the classroom. I can offer suggestions if you email. If you have a good text you would like to recommend, please comment below!

2. Working knowledge of PDM and product workflow is essential. Note: we do not have a PDM or PLM program in my department. I try and pair with an Industry partner who can share a demo of their working system for my product development classes.

3. Knowledge of the product development calendar. This is something our Advisory board stresses.  There is a disconnect between creating a design in an academic setting and developing product in a timely manner.

4. Knowledge of textiles. I imagine all students go through some textile science courses, I think what lacks in the courses is real hands on knowledge. Someone who has created a screen-printed or digital pattern has a knowledge of design that lacks in the student who has simply read about it in their textile science books. A student with hands on knowledge of print, weave or knit has a leg up in the job market. If we can not offer hands on training, we could guide our students towards internships or industry experiences that offer such training.

5. Tech packs. The bulk of my former students now spend their time creating tech packs. It is not glamorous but does give them “stepping stone” knowledge. I was amazed when working with a technical design school in Honduras that each collection piece had a companion tech pack! I now require my students to go through a technical package process for at least one of their senior collections.

6. Digital Patternmaking: Which of course, should be introduced AFTER students have a handle on flat pattern and draping by hand. I have had love and hate relationships with many software programs which I won’t discuss here although I would love to hear your comments. Currently, I am running a digital patternmaking project.

(Lee, J., & Steen, C. (2010). Technical sourcebook for designers. New York: Fairchild Books.)


I have no definitive answers this week. I would more so like to open up this post as a venue to discuss technology in the classroom. What are you teaching? What programs are working/not working for you? What do your Industry partners suggest? Have you polled your former students? If so, what are they saying?  If not, Poll them and contribute to the discussion!

Our goal as teachers is to prepare our students to shine in the Industry and in Academia as future teachers. This blog provides a forum for us as fashion academics  to set some baseline and aspirational  standards. I encourage comments and suggestions.

Happy Teaching!

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  • Kathleen Fasanella April 13, 2012 04.53 pm

    Hi Kelly,

    Re: PDM. I can get you however many licenses you want for StyleFile. It is (imo) the best program out there. The company is tiny so it’s hard for them to get the word out. There is a comprehensive user’s manual already written too.

    Actually, I could probably get a license for any instructor at an accredited school. Contact me for more info.

    Digital pattern making: after nearly 3 decades of manual pattern experience, I’ve finally found a CAD program I like. It’s called StyleCAD. It is the easiest program to learn (imo) of all the CAD programs. I understand that PAD is also easy to learn. I think StyleCAD is optimal for manual pattern makers who have given up trying to learn cad. You draft on screen the same way you do on paper. Meaning, you don’t need to learn to draft all over again. With other programs, you have to change your practices to accommodate the program (you’re working *for* the program). With stylecad, it is working for *you*.

    Call me old-fashioned, but I think tools should work for us. It is not a good tool if we have to change our behaviors to accommodate the tool. Which is why I never liked cad before, I always had to give something up, to not do something the way I thought it should be done because the tool either didn’t like it or wasn’t programmed to work that way. Using software should not be like being married. You compromise to make a marriage work, you shouldn’t have to compromise with a *tool*.

    I also like Technical source book for designers.Another one is Flats: Technical Drawing for Fashion. A word about that, when the author says “flats”, that’s exactly what she means. There are some do’s and don’ts (pg 36-39) that are good if not confusing to students. I would have liked if this section were expanded. It is also fairly inexpensive.

    Thanks for the plug Kelly! Going on 8 years of publishing, we do have a large community of students and educators on our site as well as start ups and employees of the largest brands in the world. The first year is free with proof of book purchase. The site (3,000 entries) and forum (50,000) have the largest collection of industrial sewing tutorials and apparel production topics anywhere on the web.

  • Kelly C April 14, 2012 10.55 am

    Thanks Kathleen!!!


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