• Melissa Imari Alvarez

Fashion School Ruined Me: Lamentations of a Stylishly Tortured Soul

It is said that doctors make the worst patients. They are, after all, the ones who fully understand what it is to be sick. They know how to treat any ailment they might be facing and they know everything that might go wrong. Doctors probably don’t like being told how to take care of themselves, what medicines to take, or to try something new if they have always treated their symptoms a certain way.

The same concept can be applied to anyone in the fashion industry, though my own personal opinion would say designers especially, in regards to shopping for clothing. Before I studied (read: signed my life away to) Fashion Design, I was just like any other quintessential girl. I could spend hours in the mall, stopping in every store, filling my arms with countless shirts, skirts, dresses, and pants. I would try on all the shoes and ogle at the accessories walls, lusting over jewelry and handbags. And scarves? My kryptonite. Just throw it in the bag! Time after time, I carelessly purchased clothes for no purpose or agenda other than “I like it”. More often than not, I would arrive home with my bounty to find that I was left wanting. “This shirt is lovely, but I don’t really have the right shoes for it. I love this dress, I just HAD to have it, but when will I wear it?” Thoughts left my mind just as quickly as they came, primarily because my subconscious shoved them out, telling me, “It’ll be fine. You’ll wear it someday.” But someday never came. My closet became filled with the casualties of my insensitive shopping affairs. Many of them loitered, unworn and forgotten, in the deep, dark trenches of my closet. And when spring cleaning came around, instead of giving them the chance they deserved, I would selfishly hang them back on the line, remembering the whispers of my subconscious promise of “someday”. Eventually, many many months (or even years) down the line, I would donate these clothes to the thrift store or pawn them off on a friend, not thinking twice of the wasted money that had gathered dust in my closet. I was frivolous and so blissfully ignorant about it all! Ahh, such simpler times…

Then my life took a dangerously dark turn. I enrolled at FIDM to study Fashion Design. I had packed up my life, moved across the country, and hopped off that plane at LAX bright eyed, hopeful, and, you guessed it, with my dream and a cardigan. My life was officially beginning! I was naively excited about starting classes and learning all about the tricks and trades of fashion. I thought I was going to be unstoppable.

My first quarter I had Textile Science. We burned swatches and observed how the fibers would react. Whatever, I thought it was pretty stupid. When would I ever use this information? Then there was History of Costume which was perfect. I didn’t understand why I didn’t have that class every quarter. There was also Industry Sewing. Obviously this was pretty relevant. But there were so many stitches we had to remember and put together in a notebook. That was pretty lame. Fashion Sketching was pretty standard. And I also had a Fashion Seminar class which really should have been called Mood Boards 101. But hey, I could dig it. For the most part, life was cake. Fashion school was going to be a breeze. I couldn’t have been more wrong…

I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I took my inaugural trip into the Fashion District that wasn’t school related. I B-lined to Santee Alley, giddy to find the treasures at great deals I had heard so much about. I strolled from one store to another, checking out the fun, fresh Cali styles, making a mental wish list. I’d check the price tag, look at the article a little more intently. Turned it around, checked the back. Looked at the front again, pursed my lips, and hung it back on the line. Shrugging my shoulders I told myself, “Eh. It was cute but you can find better. Keep looking!” Then I started to get the sensation I was falling through a rabbit hole. “Didn’t I see that already? Maybe I came out of that last store and turned the wrong way. No….because I haven’t seen that shop yet… Sorry, ma’am, I don’t want your fake MAC products… Where are all the good clothes?!” I got to the end of the alley and turned back around, this time moving past the shops significantly faster. I was beginning to feel reverse buyer’s remorse. I was feeling regretful that I hadn’t bought anything yet. Was something wrong with me? Eventually, a floral body con skirt and blouse combo caught my eye on a mannequin. I grabbed one of each in my size and moseyed on over to the register. The total was like $22. I really didn’t want to break another twenty, but I didn’t even have the heart or patience to try and haggle the price down. It turned out to work out in my favor (I saw it as a sign) because I also found a pair of yellow heart framed glasses for $5 just before I got back to the main road. I walked home, but not with the same satisfaction I usually did after a successful shopping venture.

As I progressed through my quarters at FIDM, the classes and workload became less of a breeze. Three-hour lecture classes turned to six-hour workshop classes. Projects piled endlessly on top of each other for courses ranging from Draping to Pattern Drafting, Business of Fashion to Creative Design Analysis, Collection Development to Portfolio Presentation. Yet, despite the lack of sleep, increase in stress, and shame of the barista at Coffee Bean knowing my drink order, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I was learning to appreciate the qualities of different fibers and their effects on fabrics. I actually understood and cared about things like weight and texture. I could confidently haggle my way out of overpriced fabrics in the fashion district. I was wanting to test different stitches on my garments to ensure I was making the best quality product. My fashion figures were starting to develop their own style and personality.

And then it started happening more frequently. I would go shopping, pile clothes into my basket, and have half of them back on the racks before I even hit the dressing room. Then I wasn’t even getting a basket because I could feasibly carry everything I grabbed in one hand. I was making fewer trips to the fitting room. And more often than not, anything that did make it through the fitting room with me ended up back on the rack anyways. I was looking not just at price tags but the tags inside the garments, checking for fiber content, checking to see if it was dry clean only (because if it was just a blouse or sundress, it was definitely not worth it). What was the material like? Did it wrinkle easy? Was I going to need to put more time into its upkeep than I was willing to invest? I still cared about new trends, but less about keeping up with them. Why was I going to change my style regularly when I know what I like? I know what cuts fit me well, what colors make me feel good. Truthfully, I’m not too keen on having someone else tell me what to wear. I have simultaneously become the doctor and the worst patient.

I had never understood why so many designers always wore the same thing. It didn’t make sense that these people at the forefront of fashion wouldn’t follow the very trends they were supporting. I’d see Michael Kors on Project Runway, always in his signature black shirt, jeans, and blazer. Same with Karl Lagerfeld. Even Ana Wintour can always be counted on to look like she’s stepped right off the pages of a Chanel catalog. Now it all makes sense. They know what works for them and they know what fashion disasters to steer clear of.

My closet is now filled mostly with basics and staples. Most of my friends know that I’m less of a shopping buddy and more of their personal buying enabler. My Stitch Fix stylists probably hate me. But I have finally come to peace with knowing that fashion school ruined me.

#Fashion #FashionDesign #FashionSchool #FIDM #Design #Shopping #Sewing #Clothes

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