From Rubber Glove Dress to a Red Wedding Dress: An Education in Fashion Design
I had minimal sewing experience before taking classes at the Maryland Center of Fashion Design (MDCFD). I’m not kidding; before this I was mainly hot-glue gunning recycled items for costumes, like a rubber glove dress for Manneqart exhibition. But I decided it was time to learn how to make real clothes. A friend of mine recommended the Maryland Center of Fashion Design, so I signed up! And this is what taking the classes there enabled me to do.
I started with the six week Beginner Couturier I Skirt Class led by Ella Pritsker and Tori Burns. Their instruction was excellent, and they were extremely patient with a newbie like myself. We took measurements and made patterns for a circle skirt, half circle skirt and a pencil skirt. Over the next five weeks we worked on construction of our pencil skirts. I made a fully lined red and white pencil skirt that fit perfectly. A lot of skills were gained in this class: basic pattern-making, muslin-fitting, and pattern correction, making and installing waistbands, zipper installation for skirt and lining, mock Hong Kong seam-finishing, hand-stitching the hem line, and making thread chains to connect the bottom of the lining to the bottom of the skirt.
I was feeling pretty frosty after that experience and decided to take the 14 week Pattern-making class. It was a mind blower! Ella taught us pattern-making from neck down to ankle. We learned how to take measurements from 38 areas on the body to ensure accurate fit. We drafted patterns for a variety of skirts, pants, bodices, collars, sleeves, jackets, and dresses. From the bell sleeve to the bell bottom pant, it was covered! Ella also welcomed us to bring in favorite outfits from fashion magazines so that she could show us how to develop patterns based on the images we selected.
I was so excited about what I had learned, that I got it in my head that I could make my own wedding dress. I couldn’t pick a simple dress design either. I decided that I wanted to do my version of a three tier, 12 layer, Katherine dress by Vera Wang (later to be renamed Hubris by Michele).
I started with making the pattern for the bodice and relied on all I had learned in the pattern making class. I had to do it all from scratch because of weight gain. I did a lot of online research about how to install boning and would check in every now and then with Ella to ensure I was going in the right direction.
The skirt part of the dress, which I thought would be easy-peasy turned out to be the hardest. The pattern making was relatively simple; I just followed the rules of the circle skirt from class. The 1st tier was a double circle skirt, 2nd was a full circle, and 3rd was a 1/2 circle. However the skirt construction was a challenge! I had to add of 2″ and 4″ horsehair trim on 12 layers of organza, tulle, and crinoline and then herd all those layers into a waistband. But the dress turned out fabulous, a real labor of love that I couldn’t have done it without taking those classes!
About six months after my wedding, Ella asked me if I would like to join her team at Ella Pritsker Couture. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and I’ve learned a lot since joining her staff. I became her Business Development Manager and now I’m also part of her instructor team at the Maryland Center of Fashion Design, which has been a lot of fun.
I can totally identify with the students who walk in knowing next to nothing and love to see it when they master a new skill, understand how a couture garment is constructed and why it should be done a certain way. It’s also exciting to see what they intend to do with their new skills, whether it be designing for themselves, their children, or even their own fashion line. I firmly believe that with the right type of education and tenacity, you can accomplish anything!