On Teaching Fashion: Garment Production

My GCSE class have recently finished constructing their final pieces, an array of dresses, children’s wear and children’s play mats. I have also started this practical project with the year below them to begin their creative processes, this overlap of the end and beginning with the different classes has result in me creating a reflective list of do’s and don’ts for the younger cohort.

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  1. Remember our ability level. By this I am reflecting on the older students merging multiple shop bought patterns, of different brands. My class is currently of learners who are 16 years old, who are juggling 10 other courses that they are doing. I am expecting them to try to the best of their abilities, but not above their years, or out of the house available to them.
  2. Be creative with embellishments. How can you add to your garment with embroidery, embellishments or adornments? Being on a Textiles course, my students have a wealth of creative textile techniques in their knowledge from 5 years of their education. This theory could be universal, previously I have worked on Fashion courses, where learners there would have had a wealth of pattern drafting methods in their knowledge. My main point here is play to your strengths in your final pieces.
  3. Consider our timescales. What is manageable within the 3 hours per week that we have? I do think many learners underestimate the time producing a garment will take them, and are more drawn to garments perhaps they would like to wear themselves. This would be universal for any course, and I have seen students before go over the top with multiple items in an outfit, resulting in quality of production lost. Quality over quantity!
  4. If you do not understand written instructions- can you understand the picture? Lots of my learners have been confused via written instructions on shop bought patterns. I first direct them to the picture- can you understand this via the picture? Such problem solving challenges some of them can understand, however many still need further assistance. I read an article on the BBC about the Engineering profession, and how this industry is urging schools to deliver problem solving skills to students. I think this is very important- more than often students result to the ‘I don’t know’ rather than actively engaging in trying to figure out a problem in front of them. Again I think this comes down to thinking abilities and students knowledge of investigating deeper into topics- rather than superficial gathering of information.
  5. Challenge yourself! However much I urge students to be realistic, be adventurous! In design, colour, references, inspiration and most importantly originality. This list of 5 key fact perhaps could be construed as quite prescriptive, however this is not the case at all. I completely advocate individual thoughts, ideas and designs- I enjoy hearing the ideas my students have and encourage these to develop within these key recommendations.

So when we come to the definite garment construction of their final pieces, my biggest pieces of advice are firstly to use an iron! So many learners are sewing together creased pieces of fabric. Secondly, think 4 times before you cut anything off, you should never have to really cut anything of and finally… do not trust a communal sewing machines to be threaded correctly when you approach them. Check! And this does not mean on your actually sewing! 

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