Computer Aided Design (CAD) Analysis

Fashion design is not a process in itself, it’s a combination of different processes and skills like creativity, drawing, pattern creation, cutting, draping, sewing… It isn’t uncommon to find fashion designers that excel at only a subset of these skills and are less comfortable with others. In my case, picturing something in my head, knowing exactly what it will look like once finished and achieving it via the sewing process is natural. The drawing process is what I find the most challenging.

Working with “pencil and paper” is almost therapeutic (perhaps because it takes us back to carefree childhood…). It’s easy to erase and start over if anything isn’t what was expected, it’s quick to make a change and I feel that more ideas flow naturally once you start drawing. Achieving accurate shapes can be more challenging and heavily depend on a number of measuring tools to get that perfect symmetry. Unless one’s drawing skills are extraordinary, the end result may look just like that: a drawing. In my case that’s what happens, the mind won’t get transported beyond the fact that it is a drawing.

With CAD, the designing process unravels a number of opportunities to (almost) bring that drawing to life. The sketches are far more accurate, which is facilitated by the fact that CAD relies on repetitive shapes. There’s the possibility to reflect a shape in any orientation and it will be an accurate copy of an existing shape. It can be re-used from design to design without losing features. Traditional methods would make less likely to achieve an exact copy of an image.

Designing in CAD can take more time and effort than designing with traditional methods, at least during an adaptation phase. It will become easier as the creatives familiarise themselves with the software, but chances are an upgrade to the software will occur and a new learning phase will present itself again. The investment required is more substantial even for CAD software that isn’t fashion specific. Licence costs will surpass any spend incurred with traditional methods. A fashion design specific software will most likely only be affordable to large well-established companies, but less so to the individual designer or start-up.

Depending on the features within that version of the CAD software, there may be limitations to the designing process or a more difficult way to achieve something like draping. One wouldn’t face such challenges with traditional methods, as a designer can simply replicate whatever has been imagined without restriction. However, advances in technology will most likely mean that soon CAD will be able to accurately represent fabric draping with movement and the natural body contours. Some fashion design specific software versions are now offering a draping functionality, although this is still in its infancy. This results in added time trying to figure out how to bypass the limitations of the software. For someone not too familiar with the software itself this can simply divert all attention from the creative process. I found that CAD requires your focus split between the tool itself and the drawing process; generation of ideas along the way is not as natural.

Overall, CAD definitely helps achieving a good quality drawing and there’s no doubt its accuracy is paramount to the manufacturing process. Traditional methods will potentially be fully eradicated in the near future with daily life depending on technology. Customers will want to see a real depiction of the garments they are purchasing (3D) and manufacturers will want specific and accurate measurements with the associated tech packs to ensure garments are accurately made to customer’s specifications.

The Value of Research Findings – Paul Poiret and the Un-Corseted Dress

There are always benefits in any research as it is the means to further understand a specific topic. In terms of the research carried out as part of this assignment, below are the key points of note from my perspective:

  • Deepening knowledge on the topic: Researching the designer Paul Poiret (subject) is the path to understanding the topic researched, the motivation, the vision and the creations.
  • Demystifying any unfounded statements or dubiety: Deeping the knowledge on something will also clear any dubiety or “urban myths” that may have emerged in time due to lack of understanding of the topic.
  • Understanding why then and not any other time: Positioning a topic in its social, economic and political context can provide the answers to why that event occurred at that specific time and not earlier or later. It is important that fashion design practice takes into consideration external factors as that will be vital to understanding (or creating) the tendencies at one given time. It can make the difference between success and failure if context is not taken into account.
  • Learning from previous experience: for instance the fact that tin washers were used in the 1900’s caused disintegration is one of the main reasons we don’t have a wide selection of garments in good condition from that era (Kerry Taylor, 2013, London, Vintage Fashion & Couture, Mitchell Beazley, an imprint of Octopus) Fabric care is key for the garment’s life span (as much as realistically possible for each type of fabric obviously). The rise and fall of Poiret is also worth studying to help future entrepreneurs prepare better for a successful business.
  • Promote debate: Researching and understanding a subject forces you to think and challenge your findings, which can result in an improvement of the subject itself. For instance, researching a technique used years ago, may lead to further experimentation and improvement of that technique for use in the future.
  • Self-learning: deepening the knowledge about the subject of the research and potentially indirectly “opening the horizons” to other topics not considered before.

Research Ethics – Paul Poiret and the Un-corseted Dress


  • What possible issues could there be for the research?

The fact that this is a research on fashion in the beginning of the 20th century makes it more difficult to find items of clothing from that era available these days in a good condition. This means the research needs to be carried out in dedicated locations, such as museums or vintage shops and as such there may be restrictions in terms of capturing photographs or closely analyse (or even touch) the fabrics used for those garments.

  • How to ensure the researcher remains objective?

The key is to keep the focus on the research topic or subject in an impartial manner. Documenting facts only is vital, although there may be a tendency for the author to input some of their personal preferences and opinions. Should such information be captured in the research the author needs to clearly explain the comments are merely of a personal nature, distinct from a factual analysis of the topic.

  • How to ensure the sources of information are accurate?

Relying on validated documents, such as books, newspapers and magazines duly dated. If the resources are online, a deeper level of caution must be applied as not all sources of information online go through the same level of scrutiny as a formal publication.

  • What responsibility do you have towards your research / data subject?

In any research it is imperative that the Data Privacy Act is understood and respected. The consequences of disregarding the DPA principles may be disastrous for the author of the research. A data subject is “an individual who is the subject of personal data” (2017, Edinburgh, BCS Foundation Course: Data Protection Act 1998 – Chapter 29 (Sections relating to Definitions, First and Second Principles, Amberhawk, pages 1 – 6) and consent may be required for their data to be processed. In this research there shouldn’t be any issues with DPA data processing principles as the sources used are all in the public domain.

  • What is the justification and/or benefits of conducting such research?

This research relates to a course assignment and will help further understanding the fashion in the 1900’s within the political and socio-economic context of that era.

1900’s Paul Poiret and the Un-corseted Dress

Paul Poiret was a prominent fashion designer at the beginning of the 20th century, to whom the concept of “fashion as an artform” is attributed. There are two key elements of Poiret’s work that have dictated a dramatic change to the course of fashion history: draping and “freeing” women from corseted garments.

Up until the beginning of the century, garment construction relied on tailoring and pattern making. Poiret’s draping techniques shocked the establishment: garments were now created from straight lines and rectangles, instead of patterns meticulously drafted from body measures and curves.

Women’s fashion in the early 1900’s was a continuation of the 19th century fashion: corsets straight at the front with a distinct curve at the back, tightly laced at the waist, resulting in the S shape silhouette. This was extremely restrictive (and at times painful) forcing women to move carefully. This restriction was not only physical but also a symbol of morality. Loose corsets were a synonym of loose morality. The tighter the corset, the more virtuous the woman.

1900’s S-shape compared to previous century:

Paul Poiret:

The association of the corset to social restriction was not new. Around the 1790’s, with the “heat” of the French Revolution, women’s fashion dropped the corset and adopted an Empire silhouette, allowing women freedom of body movement. This fashion was short-lived and by mid-1820’s fashion forced women into the restrictions of the previous century’s corseted style (unsurprisingly coinciding in time with Napoleon’s death and the repudiation of the French Revolution values he symbolised – Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité).

Picture taken from:

Painting: Eugene Delacroix, 1830, Liberty Leading the People, Paris – Picture taken from:

The fact that Poiret’s garments liberated women from the use of a corset was extremely symbolic at the time: the suffrage movement was growing stronger and more violent. Women were definitely more aware of their role in society and what they wanted to achieve. Poiret, however, was not immediately successful trying to introduce such radical change in fashion. The Russian Princess Bariatinsky expressed her horror to the designer’s kimono cut garment: “What a horror! When there are low fellows who run after our sledges and annoy us, we have their heads cut off, and we put them in sacks just like that.(

Poiret was competing with well-renowned fashion designers like Jacques Doucet,  known for “taste and discrimination who valued dignity and luxury above novelty and practicality” – ( This was a prosperous era and Doucet not only came from a wealthy background, he also produced garments for actresses at the time. He lived by the fashion values of the 19th century which brought him success, but resisting change also led to his fall. This made it more challenging for Poiret to introduce his ideas at the time, but he persevered and his draping technique is now recognised as the advent of modern fashion.

Jacques Doucet:

Poiret Kimono Cut:

Paul Poiret Draping:

Sample timeline of key Fashion Designers since the 1900s

From the above timeline I have decided to use Alexander McQueen’s work as a source of inspiration for a three outfit collection (this was part of one of the course assignments). McQueen was considered to be one of (if not the) greatest designer at the beginning of the 21st century who loved “handcrafted” fashion, which is something I relate to as well.

McQueen said of himself “Working in the atelier (at Givenchy) was fundamental to my career… Because I was a tailor, I didn’t totally understand softness, or lightness. I learned lightness at Givenchy. I was a tailor at Savile Row. At Givenchy I learned to soften. For me, it was an education.” – Kerry Taylor, 2013, Vintage Fashion & Couture – From Poiret to McQueen, London, Mitchell Beazley, an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.

Looking back at his Highland Rape collection in 1995/96 one can definitely see perfection in his outfits, but crudeness overall. We fast forward to 2001 and the “softness” McQueen alludes to is materialised in his Voss collection.

Picture taken from Pinterest:

Long Live McQueen:

McQueen’s shows are known for strong emotions, mainly because contrasting ideas are always present with the same deep intensity, making each of his shows art shows. The designer combines his experience in tailoring and manufacturing with natural elements that are part of his personal interests (like ornithology).

Plumasserie is a technique used in fashion for centuries, but McQueen took it to a completely new level combining it with other elements.  My favourite is the “Dress” made of red and black ostrich feathers and glass medical slides painted red to give an idea of blood underneath. Another example of where natural elements were meticulously tailored is his razor-clam shells stripped and varnished dress also from the Voss collection.

Pictures taken from:


Sources of the photographs in A3 Board:

1.Mariano Fortuny’s picture:

2.Black silk evening coat picture:

3.Coco Chanel’s picture:

4.Coco Chanel’s Evening dress:

5.Coco Chanel’s Evening dress:

6.Sybil Connolly’s picture:

7.Sybil Connolly’s dress:

8.Bill Gibb’s picture:

9.Bill Gibb’s dress:

10.Issey Miyake’s picture:

11.Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please picture:

12.Alexander McQueen’s picture:

Alexander McQueen’s Voss collection picture:, Tamsin Blanchard, 09 October 2014

13.Iris van Herpen’s picture:

14.Iris van Herpen’s Voltage collection picture: Emilie Chalcraft, 22 January 2013

Discussion on materials and processes tested for design concept

The mini mannequin was extremely helpful to test different fabrics and outfit layout options, without incurring high costs. Following on the decision to seek “honest” inspiration for a Spring/Summer outfit, I decided to stick to bright colours and light fabrics.

From the Edinburgh flora, it was possible to gather that the predominant colours were green and lilac. The natural “sparkle” of the Cramond Beach sand made me think of a satin type of fabric, so I tested a few options: green and white satin fabric. See Figure 1 below:

Figure 1. Satin

The texture of the Cramond Beach sand also gave me a few ideas for appliqués potentially with pearls, sequins or crystals/stones. See Figure 2:

Figure 2. Sequins, pearls and crystals

One of the Scottish identity symbols is the “Thistle”. These are weeds that can be found everywhere across the country and its colours are a true link to Scotland. I have tested some collage and pinned some fabric directly onto the mini mannequin to understand how this could work. I used tulle, lining and organza in this instance. See Figure 3:

Figure 3. Thistle

I found the lilac and white satin to work extremely well, ideal Spring/Summer colours. I therefore chose an outift with a combination of both. The green was beautiful, but a bit too strong for the “light” mood I was trying to achieve. I wanted the outfit to “flow”, hence I decided to go for a one piece garment with the “softer” elements identified. See Figure 4:

Figure 4. Final Design


This essay evaluates the materials, techniques, processes and presentation formats used in the design process based on primary and secondary research. The theme chosen for my research was Honest – shapes in nature used for inspiration in order to take everything back to basics with design and shape.

For this project, I have chosen the “Honest” theme as a source of inspiration. As such, all the pictures contained in the sketchbook and presentation were taken by me. Given that Edinburgh is where I “assume” my customer is from, I would like the final outfit to be a reflection of the city’s identity. There cannot be any more honest that.

The primary and secondary research was carried out in Barnton, Cramond, Edinburgh City Centre and Leith.  Due to the cool and wet Scottish climate, it’s challenging to be on a “Spring/Summer mindset”, but the vibrant colours and shapes I came across definitely helped with the overall design process. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Research

From the visuals gathered, I started designing a few shapes and croquis. Then, I started attempting some fabric draping (satin, organza, tulle, lining) on the mini mannequin, collage to better understand how those shapes would work in an outfit and what colours would work well. See Figure 2 below:

Figure 2. Collage and draping work

I have attempted a few basic pattern designs to assist with some details for the final outfit. The leaf definitely worked better than the thistle as an outfit appliqué. See Figure 3.

Figure 3. Possible appliqué options

Designing the croquis revealed to be more challenging than anticipated and searching for inspiration outdoors was definitely time consuming. I wanted “honesty” and overall I believe was the best way to achieve that. Based on the shapes, colours and materials used there is opportunity to create a garment that is authentic and symbolic.