Monday, April 17, 2017

Let's Talk About: Product Design for Your Target Customer

Do you want your clothes to sell?  Designing fashion, accessories or other products to sell requires several steps in the design process if it is going to sell. Meeting and topping the competition is difficult. But with a good foundation of research in the development stage, a salable item can be produced that should sell to the desired consumer.

Who are You selling to?  The Target Customer

Know your target customer's likes and dislikes.  It is important to anticipate their needs and wants so that your brand is what they are looking for.

Needs: Is this product what they need to have?
What unmet need is out there waiting for someone to create the perfect solution to that problem?

While we tend to think of a need as something rather basic, like underwear, socks and winter coats for warmth, it can also be a fashion item. An obvious example is a white shirt to wear with a classic suit. Many professionals need to wear a specific look as part of their job. Are you going to meet this type of need with your design?  Are you going to create a better fit for a specific body type or use a fabric that will be easy to care for?

Wants: Is this product what they want to wear?
Have your found an unmet want that has few products to fill that gap?

This is where fashion at large comes into play. Styles, colors, textures, trims and all of the other elements in a design present a look that the target customer just can’t live without. This is what they want, and they will seek it out to buy it. What is your brand doing to provide a product that provides an answer to this want?

Do you know your Target Customer?
All of this takes knowing your target customer well enough to anticipate what they will be shopping for next. Because the design process is one of trial and error, along with technical development to produce this item, there is a time sequence before the product hits the market. This means that it is important to not only know what is selling at this moment, but what will be selling in 6 months or more into the future.

Forecasting: Can you guess what your product will look like a year from now?
Do you know what direction your customer will be going in at that time?

Becoming competent in this is essential for success. Relying on current product trends to suggest your designs may land your product in the ‘out of style’ category in the not too distant future. Use those trends to launch your designs forward: new fabric, new colors, new trims and silhouettes are needed for the next group of designs so that your brand continues to seem on topic with your customer.


Make your own Resource collection: Use information in this chapter to create a resource for yourself as reference and inspiration. Start a Pinterest board with important photos.  Develop a sense of the needs and wants for your target customer. Use photos, sketches and/or descriptions of existing products to illustrate what your designs need or customer wants.

Do you know what your customer needs?

Find or sketch images that show what your customer needs your product to be like. This may also include technical details such as closures, seam type, fabric fiber content etc. It may help to label a photo with these elements.

Example: One example might be a blouse for a large size career woman. She may need: a princess seamline for better fit, horizontal buttonholes that don’t pop open, stretch fabric with some lycra in the fiber content, longer length to the body, more room in the upper arm of the sleeves, and wider cuffs.

Do you know what your customer wants?

More photos and sketches should show what you think your customer will love in the future. Brainstorm a list of key words to describe this, such as: adorable, sexy, dramatic, playful. This list may be a work in progress as new terms pop into your head as you start to focus on this project.

Find or sketch visual items to support that theme. Fabric and trim swatches, color chips, ‘people on the street’ photos, vintage magazine ads, media personalities and other visuals will help to illustrate what you think your target customer will want next.

Do you know what color, texture, textile and silhouettes are on the horizon?

At this point you will need to check the professional trend reports to see what is predicted for the future in your niche. You’ll want to collect them all into your Pinterest board, sketchbook or notebook for reference.

Once you feel you have gathered up enough visual information from the predicted trends, select the best look for your customer. This will be your guide. Don’t depart from the colors and other elements. Try to make this look the foundation for your future designs. That way you know your customer will find the colors and styles she is thinking about and looking for.

What images, colors and textures mean most in this project.
Create a digital mood board page, collage or wall bulletin board to collect and show all of the visuals that remind you of the direction you want to take your designs into for the future.

Making a habit of following fashion with an eye toward what your Target customer will buy helps to insure your product design will sell.

::   ::   ::   ::

Let's Talk About: Fashion is a series of chapters on the process of Fashion Design.
This is Chapter 13.  If you are interested in tutoring yourself to design fashion, this series is written just for you.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fashion from 1949 to 1980: A video review of styles and trends

Take a little vacation into the past--below is a youtube peek into fashion history from 1949 to 1980:

It's a great way to sit back and take in 30 years of fashion styles, one year at a time.

The illustrations at top are from a French fashion magazine during this era, can you guess the year by watching this video?


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Five Easy to Sew Prom and Party Dresses from the 1950s

how to sew 1950s prom dress or party dress or 1940s dress

Here's how to sew five classic prom or party dresses from the very early 1950's (and late 1940's).  By using one of the current sewing patterns here, these styles can be made for today's parties, weddings and proms.  I also included the cute swing coat jacket shown here as a party cover-up.

It's great how many magazine archives are now online.  The Australian Home Journal collection from the late 1940's through early 1950's has monthly fashion features such as the two pages shown here showing spring gowns that could be sewn by most women at home.  These are easy to sew styles that feature simple but effective details.

50s or 1940s prom and party gowns to sew

Illustration above, Spring 1951:
A-ballet length gown with bertha style collar, B-swing coat, 
C-gown with sweetheart neckline, D-Gown with long sleeves

50s or 40s dresses for prom party or wedding to sew

Illustration above, Spring 1949:
E-short sleeves with puffed trim, F-sweetheart neckline with lace trim
G-draped shelf bra bodice with short puffed sleeves

To create your own version of a late 1940's or early 1950's party dress or prom gown, I have found some current patterns that will help you to sew up a vintage party dress of your own.  Select the view above that you like, and you'll find the modern pattern to make it up listed below.

butterick 6022 vogue 8146 mccalls 7281 mccalls 7049 butterick5882

View A- Butterick 6022 has a similar bertha collar that can be sewn in contrast print or lace and made with or without sleeves.

View B- Vogue 8146 includes a short swing coat that could be worn with the collar turned up.

Views C and F- Curved sweetheart necklines are seen in both illustrations. A good pattern for the sweetheart necklines is McCall's 7281, which features a princess seamed bodice for a great fit.  McCalls 7049 has two sweetheart strapless bodices, one that is simple darts, the other with princess seamlines. To get the curved bodice line in B, add a fold of ribbon around the sweetheart neckline.  For F add ruffled lace edging and "pinch" a few gathers into center front bustline. 

View E- Butterick 6022 has a good bodice, low waist and short sleeves for this look.  Also, McCall's 7083 is a basic dress pattern with sleeves and princess seamed bodice that can be used.  If the neckline were lowered and a puffed edge of chiffon trim were added, this same look could be achieved.

View G-The last dress with draped neckline looks almost like a shelf bra and is similar to Butterick 5882, although this pattern does not have sleeves.

1950s or 60s prom or party dress how to sew

I had to include this cute tip for a little puffed sleeve to wear with a strapless bodice.  It's as simple as a tube of fabric with elastic at the top edge.  The dress is similar to View F above, and the illustration here shows how the front has a line of gathers up the center that emphasizes the sweetheart neckline shape.

Fabric suggestions are for soft, not stiff, fabrics that have some weight like satin, taffeta, faille or crepe.  It should also be noted that bodices had few bones to support the styles.  These were often in the side seams only.  Zippers were popular in the left side seam, instead of the back seam.  This was to keep the back view pretty and smooth, without the look of a zipper showing down the back.

Fashion pages from Australian Home Journal, 1949 and 1951

Saturday, February 18, 2017

1940s Fabric: American Fabrics magazine from 1949

Fabric design in the late 1940s showed a strong influence from fine art and artists of that era. Whether the design was created for 40s fashion or home decor, textiles were often patterned in painterly designs.

"American Fabrics" was a textile industry publication that helped the industry to follow current design trends and be well informed about the technical side of fabrics. This issue from early 1949 has examples that showcase what fabric would be popular in the late 40's and early 50's.

The ink washes and line drawings fine artwork can be seen in fabrics of the 1940s:

Eugene Berman

Greek Horses by Jean Pages

Jean De Botton

Romance by Ricardo Magni

Marcel Vertes

The textile designs above are all by fine artists of that time who were encouraged to create surface designs that would translate into home and apparel fabrics.

This project was created by Stephen Lion, a young artists rep who had a wide range of artists in his group.  He worked with and encouraged them to try textiles, a medium seen as inferior to true wall art or decor.  Eventually the designs above were produced, creating an inspiring collect for that year.

Color and textile swatches were included in issues of this magazine. Here are a few color collections that show the trends and color groupings of that time.

Colors influenced by Early American style

Color swatches, 1949

Here Comes the Bride: Celanese acetate of Stehli & Co.
Satin, taffeta, chiffon, net

Dress fabrics were available in a wide range of color, although most illustrations and photos in this publication are in black and white.  The designs show the same artist brush stroke styles, as well as other figurative motifs.  Purely abstract patterns were also available.

silk crepe and shantung by Cohama, spring 1949

top: Cotton, medallion design, second: rayon crepe, hand printed circles, 
third: creped taffeta frog motif of French origin

Actual fashions shown in this issue of "American Fabrics" can be found on my previous blog post, "1940s Fashions: American Fabrics magazine from 1949".  The trends at that time still were featuring many drapy rayons and crepes.  These fabrications would be phased out over the next few years in favor of a crisp hand and firm texture more suitable to the New Look's hourglass silhouette.

all images from: American Fabrics magazine, #9, Reporter Publications Inc., New York

Sunday, February 12, 2017

1940s Fashions: American Fabrics magazine from 1949

This post features fashions from 1949 as seen in "American Fabric" magazine. These 1940s fashions were shown to support the growing textile and fashion industry that followed World War II. Inside this issue are full page advertisements from the 40's of fashions using new textiles that were used to promote textile manufacturers.  Many of these ads were also seen in "Vogue" magazine co-sponsored by the fashion designer or label and the textile brand.

I have a good sized collection of textile magazines, and I want to start sharing them here, so as I get to photographing each, I'll post it here.  If you have any questions about an issue or photo let me know because there may be information on it that are not included in the page photo.

In this issue, following the advertising section are informative editorials exploring topics such as: Color theory, Bridal wear, Camel hair textiles, the History of American textile industry, Roses in textile design, Armour in textile design, Textile artists, and Loom weaving.  This was a very educational magazine, teaching the apparel and textile trade about all aspects of apparel fabric.

Here are most of those advertisements.  I'm starting with photos of live models wearing the latest textile trends for specific manufacturers.  I list that information at the end of this post.

40s womens suit

1940s dress

1940s swing coat

1940s swim suit

1940s sun dress

1940s dress

1940s women's suit

This next group shows fashion illustrations, where the artist has been allowed to create the ideal using individual techniques and media:

40s fashion illustration

It is interesting to see that by 1949 fashion had changed from the war year's restrictions. Garments featured quantities of yardage, natural fibers such as silk, cotton, wool and synthetic fibers such as rayon.  Convenience textiles that were treated to be wrinkle free, washable and had other features are common.  In fashion, the wearing of a longer silhouette was the norm, and that would continue from this point for the next decade.

The remainder of this magazine does showcase textile designs, these can be found in my blog post "1940s Fabric: American Fabrics magazine from 1949".

I want to comment on my cropping of these ads.  This magazine is the typical large size we associate with fashion magazines of that time: 11" x 14 1/2" and I found that trying to include the entire page usually left the type face very small and difficult to read.  I made my focus the fashions themselves.  This issue has 124 pages.  The cover is a heavy cardboard.  I'll include that in the next post on this issue.

Advertisements, in order presented:

(striped suit jacket) 100% Virgin Wool, Forstmann Woolen co, Passaic, NJ

(yellow suit) Unidure, permanent crease-resistant finish, rayon fabrics, the United Piece Dye Works, NY, LA

(gray suit by Monte-Santo)  Juilliard bankers grey worsted suiting, 100% virgin wool, “Fine fabrics are the foundation of fashion”, ADJuilliard & Co. Inc., NY  

(print two-piece dress) Foreman’s famous tubrite, Zodiac print, rayon crepe, Foreman Co, NY

(gray plaid tent shape coat) Hat by John Frederics, Hoffman California Woolens, “California Living Colors” Los Angeles

(maillot swimsuit by Cole of California) Rustler cotton taffeta, Joyce shoes, Wesley Simpson,NY

(one shoulder dress with swatch) Everfast printed cotton damask, wrinkle-resistant, stabilized, washable, soil-resistant, Vogue pattern 4949, "Everglaze products luxury at a low cost"

(brown dress) Jacqueline jacquard faille, Verney Fabrics Corp. NY.  Note: this photo includes early examples of a hairpin leg table invented by Henry P. Glass in 1941, a womb chair designed in 1946 by Eero Saarinen

(sun dress) Fiddlesticks, Totarn yarn, resists wrinkles, washable, 32 colors, American Silk Mills, NY

(Brown outfit and green bathing suit by Carolyn Schnurer) taffy moire cotton, clokay embossed cotton, washable, Ameritex- Division of Merchants and Manufacturers, Inc, NY

(light color suit) Tegra rayon, crisp, crease resistant, dry clean, Labtex Fabrics, NY

(gray dress with white collar) chambray, Picolay white cotton, Vogue pattern 423, extra-wide, Bates Fabric, Inc. NY

Illustrated Advertisements:

(gray dress by Bruno) Hockanum Woolens, MT Stevens & Sons Co., division of JP Stevens & Co, NY

(green dress by Star Maid) illustration by M Bolegard, Lorraine gabardine, Lorraine Worsteds, Lorraine Manufacturing Co., NY

(row of suits) Lankenau faille, “art in fabrics”, Lankenau Co, Inc, NY

(tweed suit) Kanmak “fabrics of thoroughbred quality”, Kanmak Textiles, Inc. NY

from: American Fabrics, #9, 1949, Reporter Publications, Inc., 24 E. 38th Street, NY


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