I believe everyone is truely talented at something. Talented people can rise to challenges, solve problems and produce spectacular results. A real artist is the one who has an idea or solves a problem, and right there and then has to go away and test it. These people experiment endlessly with new ideas at all hours of the day. The challenge pushes them beyond frustration to learn as much as they can from others and from further experiments. You can easily pick a real artist from someone who is simply technically capable or even talented. The real artist understands every part of the process. They are both designer and pattern maker. A designer who cannot make perfect patterns is not an artist. A pattern maker who cannot design beautiful garments is not an artist.
Where am I going with all this? Designing, problem solving and testing are all necessary parts of pattern making. Something every pattern maker needs, no matter what level their dedication, is someone on whom to experiment. If you’re making clothing for yourself then it goes without saying who your model is. If you’re creating made to fit clothing then the client is your model. But let’s say your creating a ready to wear range. You need either a body form or someone with a body type who is an average size with respect to your demographic. If you do as most others and design around an 84cm bust (Australian size 10) then your body form or model should be as close to that and as proportional as possible within that size grouping. Do not test garments on people who are not proportional or have a particular fitting difficulty. You need a clear and objective result. You need to check measurements and tweak fixed amounts to get your sizing correct.
Models might be family or friends, professional models or, for the true artists, even a muse. The trouble with the fashion industry, particularly if you’re just starting out, is that you will probably find professional models very expensive.
There are many ways to get access to professional models at a lower cost. Taking part in a group cat walk parade means you can test fit your garments on several models at a fitting session. You can often do the same as part of a casting call. If you both manufacture and retail high fashion (i.e.; made to fit) clothing you’ll find you have an endless supply of models visiting you to test your garments!
Tip No matter how you start out, if you are always polite and generous to your models, after a period of time in the industry you will develop a close relationship to at least a small group of them. More than likely they’ll become good friends who you can call at short notice to come down to your studio to try something on. What do models like? Designer clothes that no one else has. Let them keep the garments they test for you now and them. Besides, what is better advertising for you than a beautiful girl wearing your clothes?
All true design artists need a model not just to test garments on, and for studying things like shape and motion, but most importantly for inspiration. This person is called a muse. The artist-muse relationship is reasonably intimate and complex. It can occur spontaneously or develop over time, but always comes from mutual respect for each other and the ’cause’. You can’t just go out a hire a muse, but you’ll know them instantly when you meet them. They are not always perfect sizes or proportional, but more often quirky in some a way that entices an artist to draw out ‘a new style to define the now’. Most great designers have muses, the most famous muse-centered designer being Karl Lagerfeld.
A muse is essentially someone who is comfortable to walk around naked in your studio while you stare at them, draw lines on them, stick bits of fabric or elastic on them, and sketch or photograph them. And all usually on the spur of the moment or at a time that suits you. Of course if you are famous you can have as many muses as you need, but for us normal folk we take them where we can find them. If you didn’t understand how these perculiar relationships worked you could easily mistake them for physical relationships.