Saturday, August 14, 2010

On Fashion Drawing

In my efforts to develop a working design practice, I have struggled mightily with the problem of drawing. After thinking I couldn't "fashion draw" for years, because everytime I put pencil to paper the results were so bad as to not even contemplate, I finally remembered that, over a number of years, I have done watercolors while traveling instead of postcards with quite creditable results, so the reason can't be that I have no talent whatsoever! Perhaps what I lack is training, but who has the time to invest hundreds of hours in learning to "draw"...

Over the past few weeks, I have more or less solved the problem using a combination of techniques. I bought the "Fashionary" book from its Chinese author, following a recommendation from someone through BurdaStyle - essentially, the book is a drawing book with very discrete profiles of women printed in dots on the page. You have to look closely to see the dots, but they provide a template for body drawing. Since I already used templates in earlier efforts, this proved quite successful to get some initial designs sketched out.

Secondly, I am not a bad draughtsman, and I work professionally with maps where you use the 2D maps to infer 3D features of the landscape. I am thus quite good at visualizing the 3D results of a 2D garment pattern, and because I develop flat patterns, I can often sidestep the 3D drawing stage and go directly to a tentative pattern, then use this to backstep out to the drawing.

Between these two techniques, I can develop sketches of sufficient quality and detail that I can use them to advance my thinking about the designs, but the results are not professional enough to show to an audience. I have therefore also been struggling with this issue. And I think I've found a workable, albeit not perfect, solution to that as well.

I had been contemplating using photographs of women downloaded from the web. I did some experiments with fashion ads, where I replaced what they were wearing for the ad with garments of my own design. The problem, of course, is that the photos are too "realistic" to support adding on "cut-outs" and still look good. I did try degrading the quality of the photos, but there are other issues, such as how to remove the pre-existing garments.

Then I thought, why not use nudes... there are, after all, millions of nudes on the web. The problem is, of course, copyright. I'm sure you could get away with using arbitrary nudes, there are so many of them, but the solution doesn't quite sit right. Also, I need images where the hands and arms do not block one's view of the torso, as their presence makes the drawing of "cut-outs" considerable harder. It would be nice, then, to have control over my own model...

Finally, a light bulb went off. What about using Poser, or another 3D design software that incorporates human figures? I do own a version of Poser (Poser 7), but Poser is quite awkward to use if you want results quickly. However, over the past couple of years, I've been using a piece of software called DAZ Studio, which uses Poser figures and objects as well as objects in its own internal format. Although there are some downsides to DAZ Studio (file management, in particular, is messy), it is an environment which is much easier to use than Poser in terms of getting a workable result rapidly. With a small layout of funds (the DAZ Studio software itself is free), it is possible to construct some quite interesting environments and then pose a number of nude figures within these landscapes. So I spent the weekend testing this idea out, and the result is quite workable.

Shown in the image is a variation on the standard 4th generation figure used in DAZ Studio (Victoria or V4) - I have dressed her in a sports bra and panties that are provided with the figure, although I actually work with the nude figure. For a modest fee (I pay 7,95$/month), you can join the "Platinum Club", which gives you access to a large number of environments and figures at minimal cost. Hence the environment shown, called the "Veranda Cafe", is available for Platinum Club members for 1,99$. Within this environment, you can control the placement of all the chairs, the lights, the camera views and, for another 1,99$, you can choose different background scenery to be viewed through the windows. (I think the hair also cost me another 1,99$.)

Once I have "rendered" my scene (see first image), as for the photos I used earlier, I apply a Photoshop "filter" to get an image that is more like a drawing (i.e. it is simplified to form 8 different colors only), and then I can add my "cut-out" garments on top with a result that looks snazzy without looking too odd (larger image at right). As my ability to "draw" with the software improves, my "cut-outs" should begin to look better, and I think the result is presentable to a larger audience. Perhaps not quite as sharp as a good drawing, but the use of 3D graphics environments offers other advantages. It is true you are stuck with the landscapes somebody has decided to build and offer to the users, but the choice of scenery and environments is actually quite large, especially if you are willing to pay a bit more money (e.g. entire city blocks for about 30$, for example).

Using Photoshop to add my cutouts allows me, for example, to make small modifications or switch out one cutout element for another at the touch of a button.

In principle the garments could be "built" within DAZ Studio and their appearance entirely simulated within the environment, but this takes a lot of effort and know-how. I've looked into it, but unless you want to pay a lot of money, it is not presently doable to a "layperson" such as myself.


  1. I haven't been able to try out Second Life yet, but it seems to be quite popular. Do you think you could design clothes for an online Avatar in Second Life? This might be easier/cheaper. (If you can do what you've done above on your computer, I suspect it's advanced enough to run Second Life.)

  2. I actually started off in the "fashion bsuiness" designing clothes for Second Life avatars. At some point I thought - if I could do it there, I could do it in real life! But I couldn't sew! So I taught myself to sew and now I'm starting a business! Designing clothes is Second Life is not like designing clothes for real life, or not much - it is essentially work in Photoshop with colors, shapes and textures. What I like about designing in real life is that you can physically touch the results (the fabric). Here I'm using virtual capabilities to support real life design, but of course you could also use it to do virtual world design!