Students try out, and on, their fashion designs

Senior Lindsey Criss.

Additional images

February 8, 2013

By Steven Johnson ’13

The name for Family and Consumer Sciences 231 is a deceptive one. Called Pattern Making, the course title doesn’t do justice to the wide variety of fashion skills and sewing methods that students learn and employ during the class where they design, create and complete their own original clothing.

“The class is called ‘Pattern Making,’ which is a boring name for what we actually do in there,” said Kendra Brandes, an associate professor in the FCS department and instructor of the course.

She said the class, which teaches students the principles of flat pattern method and original pattern design and alteration, gives students valuable familiarity of working with fabric and allows them to turn their fashion ideas into real garments. What start out as swaths of material at the beginning of the semester end up as beautiful handmade dresses, skirts and tops.

Kelly Heisler, a senior entrepreneurship major from McHenry, Ill., spoke highly of her experience with the class and the effect it had on her career plans. Heisler already makes dresses for proms, weddings and everything in between. The pattern making technique, she said, is an essential one for understanding how clothing comes together for the final product.

“It was very helpful for my career,” she said. “Before this class I did not know how to alter patterns. I used a technique called draping but having patterns is still important to even get to the draping of them. Altering patterns, it is a big part of what I do.”

Brandes said the class is helpful to students who often go on to careers in clothing design or construction. The course, available to all majors at Bradley, welcomes anybody as long as they have to have experience sewing and meet the requirements of the pre-requisite course, FCS 133 — Apparel Production.

“We have had theatre majors and students who are simply interested in this. It is kind of a creative outlet,” Brandes said. “Our program has a merchandising focus but we have students who are just interested in clothing construction. Some do go on to design and work in that field later, so this is a good background for them.”

Brandes said she encourages anyone with a background in design or genuine interest in fashion to enroll. She said the hands-on class can dovetail nicely with a student major even if it’s outside the department.

“One of our students had a minor in our department. She’s taken every class in construction and design and we combined the course load with her interests in marketing and business,” Brandes said. “Now she can do something with business and fashion when she graduates.”