How to Survive a Fashion Design Degree

Whether you’re going to university or taking your first tentative steps at A-level, a Fashion Design course is a wonderful yet stress inducing worthwhile endeavour. The highs and lows are enough to fill a novel and the skills, friends and fabric scraps will last you a lifetime. But how to survive?

There’s just one little secret I’d like to share with you from my own experience. From years in the further school system exclusively focused in textiles, art, dressmaking and finally underwear design, I have seen every heartbreak and failure imaginable at the sewing machine; there is nothing I haven’t done or seen happen in the uni studio. That one secret to survive it and get that degree in fashion?

Hope. Hope with everything in your heart that it’s going to be ok. Hope that it can be fixed with a quick un-pick or kind word to a friend. Hope for a new day and a good night’s sleep. Take heed in the fact that any judgement your tutors pass down on you is not a death sentence, you will live to sew another day.

You will be stressed out sewing your first toile (& second, third and final toile as well) until you put in your finishing touches on your masterpiece. You will then regret all your design choices the next day. This is fine and to be expected, as most of those decisions were made during an all-nighter. Please avoid these if you can, as they sap all your sanity, rationality and eventually your uniqueness.

This was done at 3am with caffeine shakes, definitely not my best.

These flat drawings were done at 3am. You can tell.

 Instead of working through the night, it is better to keep working to 10pm, grab a soothing hot drink, head home, decompress and go to bed at midnight. Tasks get so much harder past sunset as you’re fighting not just the damn garment but yourself as well! Try getting up at 6 or 7am, heading to the studio just after the cleaners have been and get stuck back into it before any of your classmates arrive. You will feel smug having slept some and the peace and quiet is intoxicating whilst compiling your sketchbook.

In practical terms, I found having the below a god send for my academic sewing career:

  • Sharp dressmaking shears
  • Rotary cutter and self-healing mat
  • Thread snips
  • Patternmaster and Dressmakers curves
  • Pencil case with mechanical pencils, ink fineliners and highlighters
  • Calculator (trust me your phone will not last the day)
  • Quick unpick (Guard it with your life)
  • Pins, Needles and Fabric clips
  • A good set of colour pencils and/or art markers (Copic or Promarkers are ideal)
  • Any gadgets or thingamajigs you can inherit from the Other Dressmaker of the family.
  • Tailor’s chalk or purple invisible ink pens for marking fabric.
  • Spare bobbins, metal for industrial sewing machines, plastic for domestic
  • Pin cushion
  • Several tape measures (mostly so you can find your favourite and have some for spare)
  • Sanity
  • Thimbles (Can be found in different styles, so find your match. She will save you from injury)
  • A pretty case to keep it all together (Mine was a soft Christian Lacroix vanity case)
  • Granny Trolley (for wheeling everything from your digs to the studio and back, they are fabulous)
  • Coffee

If you have all the above and the drive to see your dreams come true, you can achieve anything you put your mind to. See you at the finish line lovely.

A fabulous finish at Graduate Fashion Week

The finish line, a spot at Graduate Fashion Week

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