How To Self-Teach Fashion Design

Fashion design is a very dynamic industry that transcends generations and imagination. Just when you start thinking you’ve seen it all, a new trend comes to life and cuts across cultures, genders, and races. It is why many young people dream of being part of this fascinating industry, but can you teach yourself fashion design?

Here’s how you can self-teach fashion design:

  1. Understand fashion trends.
  2. Learn how to sketch, collage, or use CAD.
  3. Transform sketches into life-size measurements.
  4. Execute ideas into products.
  5. Choose colors and fabrics.
  6. Promote your design and accept feedback.
  7. Build connections.
  8. Learn about business or hire an expert.

Take Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, for instance. She had no formal education in fashion design, but her revolutionary ideas brought about a practical change during her time, and her legacy still lives on in modern fashion. This article will discuss what it takes to learn the craft sans the expensive education.

1. Understand Fashion Trends

When thinking about fashion design, you might have come across some fashion trends that inspired you to become a designer. While some trends have proven to be a breakthrough, there may be some that you wish would never make a comeback.

Understanding these trends and coming up with your own opinion and preferences can help shape your fashion identity. You don’t need to conform to what society dictates. Some of the most famous designers deviated from the norm and introduced something innovative that paved their way to success.

However, there’s a limit to how creative you can be as a beginner, as you have to be realistic and practical. 

Vision is crucial for success, but you may want to take baby steps while still building up your knowledge bank. That way, you can move closer to success slowly but surely.

Recognize your target market and study how it behaves. Remember that trends boom as quickly as they fade. Therefore, you have to consider what you can offer and whether people would want it. 

It can also help you learn more about yourself and your capabilities.

2. Learn How to Sketch, Collage, or Use CAD

Children display creativity at a young age through drawings or sketches. 

If you don’t have skills in either and cannot seem to learn them, that shouldn’t stop you from being a fashion designer. Some kids played with paper dolls or Barbie dolls and dressed them in various ways.

Although most fashion designers create sketches on paper when building their ideas, collaging is another way to showcase your creativity. You can do it by cutting out pictures from old magazines and pasting them on paper. 

You can also take advantage of technology by using computer-aided design (CAD).

One good thing about fashion design in the 21st century is that no rule book could dictate what you must and must not do when it comes to creating your designs. Traditional schools might require you to learn how to sketch or use technology to pass courses and graduate. 

But as a self-taught fashion designer, you can do you.

When you get excited, and concepts keep flooding your mind, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. When the excitement dies out, the ideas may fade away as well, but what matters is that you must be able to create a visual representation or blueprint of your ideas. 

That way, you can use it as a tangible reference to your imagination.

Designers make sketches or collages because they want to have something concrete to go back to when it’s time to execute their ideas. It can also serve as a diary for them to relive the inspiration that triggered the design. Therefore, you’ll need to learn how to document your ideas.

3. Transform Sketches into Life-Size Measurements

Whether you’re aiming for the slender type or the plus-size models, an essential step that aspiring fashion designers need to take, one way or another, is to transform sketches or designs into life-size measurements. 

Learning how to take measurements is a necessary skill whether you want to create customized designs or a ready-to-wear (RTW) line. As a self-taught designer, you may use yourself as a model or ask a helpful sibling or a friend. 

You’ll need a model who can help you bring your ideas to life.

As discussed earlier, video tutorials are very helpful, and there are plenty of references available online.

Here’s one example showing how to take body measurements: 

The next step after taking body measurements is pattern drafting. A pattern draft is like a blueprint of your design so that the final product will fit just right on the model. The materials are easy to find, though the methods may be pretty complicated for a beginner.

Here’s a video showing how to make a bodice block pattern: 

4. Execute Ideas Into Products

The next step is to learn how to sew. If you’ve tried and failed, don’t lose hope just yet, because surprising as it may seem, not all fashion designers are good at sewing. As I mentioned, you may start with dexterity OR vision. 

You don’t necessarily have to have both.

However, since you’re working on a low budget here, which is why you wanted to skip the pricey fashion schools, you might as well give sewing lessons a try. You can hire professional seamsters or seamstresses later on, but for now, you need to prove how feasible and practical your designs are by executing them yourself.

Many self-taught designers practice sewing by making small pieces of clothing for dolls or even pets. This way, they can get hands-on experience in the production process, recognize possible flaws in the design, and make necessary adjustments.

Although it’s not required, sewing your designs yourself will help you build your portfolio and retain your fashion identity. Hiring seamstresses who don’t share your vision may prove counterproductive. 

However, it wouldn’t hurt to get some input from them.

If you don’t know any nearby who can lend you professional advice, you can always watch online videos or read a sewing book. It may take some time, but there are no shortcuts to success, especially in fashion design.

5. Choose Colors and Fabrics

Another interesting thing about the internet is that you can easily search online about the trendy colors and fabrics for each year. The fashion industry is highly competitive, and there are times when you may need to jump on the bandwagon to be profitable.

Many fashion designers refer to the Pantone Color System as a guide for forecasted trends. 

This guide comes from meetings, nominations, and thorough discussions from customer-based industry representatives.

You want your ideas to be considered unique or avant-garde, but not outdated or recycled. That’s why you need to update yourself about seasonal fashion. Some colors and fabrics go well with a particular season but are uncomfortable and inappropriate in others. 

You can watch Fashion Week shows on TV or online to see how professional and famous designers play with colors and which materials go well with them. Many of these items get on the shelves and usually are in high demand. 

If that’s the direction you’re aiming for, learn from the experts.

Visiting fabric or textile stores is also an excellent idea. Think of it as an educational excursion. You can ask the sellers about the names of the materials to add to your fashion vocabulary, and chances are you can find yourself a good source of materials later on.

6. Promote Your Design and Accept Feedback

Once you’ve made a life-size product out of your ideas, the next step is to promote it. With the widespread use of social media services, you have plenty of platforms to choose from to promote your designs.

Start with your social circle. 

Whether you’ve designed clothes for your pet or yourself, show them on social media. Observe how people respond to them and accept any constructive feedback. Note that you cannot please everybody, but don’t let it discourage you. 

You can also create a unique page for your designs. 

It may take some time before your page gets enough followers, but be as prolific as you can until you find which designs get the best responses and which ones need improvement. You can use this information to grow as a designer.

Some novice designers offer their creations to social media influencers. 

These influencers have a huge following who can develop an interest in your designs, and before you know it, your creations may even go viral. Therefore, you must always aim to make a good impression.

7. Build Connections 

Communicating with some professional seamstresses or visiting fabric stores are two helpful steps to build necessary connections. You can get valuable insights from them and learn how to strike a good deal in labor and resources.

In addition, you can find interested and potential customers online. 

When you do get clients, be sure to deliver. A satisfied client can provide you with free promotion, and you’ll be surprised by how quickly it can be amplified.

However, you may want to remember that when building connections, quality is always better than quantity. Some people may show interest in your designs but may not contribute much to your success.

It’ll also require less energy and resources to maintain few but productive and honest connections.

Remember that you’re a self-taught fashion designer, and some people might take advantage of you. When working with social media influencers, be careful to work with those who can guarantee a win-win relationship. 

Remember not to sell yourself short, and be proud of your work, but don’t be arrogant.

8. Learn About Business or Hire an Expert

There’s a huge difference between a creative mind and a business-oriented mind. If you want to enter the fashion industry and dream of going big, you’ll definitely need both. It helps to understand how business works when your career in fashion design becomes profitable, so you may try to study by yourself or ask a trusted person to teach you. 

However, if taxes, labels, and patents are beyond you, it’ll be best to hire a professional. 

That’s why it’s important to build a connection with a knowledgeable prospective business partner who shares the same vision as you.

Either way, sufficient knowledge about legal and business terms can come in handy and provide you with a sense of security, especially when you aim to become a successful fashion designer. Even if you want to be a freelance designer, you’ll still need to learn how to file your taxes.

Therefore, learning about these things is necessary and beneficial.

How To Learn Fashion Design at Home

With the advent of the 21st century came the ever-evolving technological advancement. It has introduced several means to spread and acquire knowledge, making learning almost anything through the internet possible.

Video tutorials and blogs offer practical and in-depth information about almost anything you can think of. 

But of course, knowledge without skills cannot work in the world of fashion design. Before dreaming of succeeding in this field, you must first have the basic skills necessary for the craft, and you may refer to the internet for some information.

Coco Chanel started with her creativity and innovation, leading to the famous little black dress and practical clothing lines for working women that forwent the restrictive corsets and symbolized gender equality. 

However, according to NPR, Coco knew the basics of sewing, as all girls did during her youth, during her stay at an orphanage. 

As an aspiring fashion designer, what knowledge or skill or do you have? Fortunately, you don’t need a lot. Sometimes, it can start from something as simple as dexterity or vision, and everything else will follow. 

Once you’ve figured out what drives you, it’s time to learn the basics of fashion design. 

Final Thoughts

Being a fashion designer without formal education is difficult, but it’s not impossible. You have to recognize what you’re good at and determine how to deal with what you lack. It takes time and much determination, so you need to set a goal and a timeline to be properly guided. 

Like in other endeavors, you must be patient, celebrate your milestones, and focus on your goal.

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