What it Takes to be a Lingerie Designer – Kim’s Time at DMU

**Editor’s Note: Some of you may remember that Kim started writing for the blog last winter. She took some time off to focus on her time at DMU, but she’s back to share with us some of her progress and experiences from her first year at design school – Nicole**

Year two of my Contour Fashion degree at De Montfort University is looming. I’ve had to ponder

over the last year what it really takes to be a lingerie designer. My first year at Uni wasn’t at all what I

The year started off with a slow start, each and every one of the girls in the program had a different

background and skill set, and most of them had just come from an earlier foundation course. There I

was, 29, working for the last ten years in various industries, nervous as heck. My formal education days

were long ago, and it certainly wasn’t in art or design. I wasn’t sure how much a business diploma was

going to help me, if at all.


We were each tested by the various courses such as pattern cutting and sewing, writing and research,

illustration, and CAD. Everyone seemed to have a specialty, and you would constantly compare yourself

to others, wondering how and why they could be so incredibly talented, and you were not. It was

unsettling at times to think about what you have to give up following your passion. I worried that I

wasn’t cut out for this.


Over the course of the year, various projects and deadlines, you could slowly see the improvement

in yourself, and your peers. Designs became more challenging, illustrations improved and things just

seemed to sew together so much easier. But what does it take to call yourself a designer? You need a

mixture of skills if you want to do it on your own.


First things first, you need your inspiration. Each design project starts off with an inspiration. It can be

nearly anything, as long as it’s tangible and something you can see, touch, observe for yourself. Dragons

and unicorns just aren’t going to cut it here. You’ll start a sketchbook with a variety of illustrations of

your inspiration, from there leading to more research, trend analysis, design development and your final

design ideas.

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 5.10.34 PM

My inspiration board for an external project brief set by H&M. Can you guess what the inspiration was

for my collection?

Once you’ve settled on your designs, you will need to convert your designs into patterns. Creating

lingerie patterns is much more technical than clothing. Your tolerance will be down to the millimetre,

not centimeters of ease or a quarter or half of an inch. There’s very little room for error as the garments

are form fitting. It has to be precise. Designers can start with a basic block pattern, in industry sample

size of 34B to manipulate and achieve their design.

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 5.10.41 PM

I based my design for this project on the basic block for a simple design and enhanced the design with

various fabrics and embellishments.


Once your initial pattern is created, it’s always in your best interest to make a toile, a mock up, usually

in muslin. This will give you an idea of the shape of the bra, how it will fit, and work out any construction

techniques you need to master for the final garment. When I make my toiles, I usually leave off the

underband and underarm elastic to save on time and expensive supplies, as it will fit my model or

mannequin fairly well to give me an idea of the shape. Being an accurate sewing machinist is critical. You

must pay close attention to seam allowances, elastic tension, and assembling things properly. There’s

nothing worse than realizing near the end that you’ve sewn the right cup into the left side of the bra…

After any necessary tweaks to the pattern, you can proceed to your next mock up or the final design if

you’re feeling confident. The ability to assess the fit and adjust the pattern is important in the process.

It’s going to be hard to wear or sell your beautiful creation if it doesn’t quite fit right on the body,

underneath clothing, or is just plain uncomfortable.

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 5.10.47 PM

The final garment shown on a model, and a closer view on the mannequin.

Presenting your work is also important in the design process. Technical drawings done in Illustrator

are helpful to showcase your garment, or to display other potential colour ways or choices of fabrics

and prints. When students complete assignments for external clients, typically market research and

presentation boards are included to further highlight the final designs.


When I initially arrived in England to take this course, I knew I couldn’t draw or illustrate my ideas

clearly, and I still struggle. My preference lies in the technical elements of designing; I much prefer the

pattern cutting and construction of the garments. Year two is going to be interesting with many more

projects and much higher expectations. Now that us students are familiar with the process, it’s time for

us to step-up and become designers.


**Kimberly Hamilton can be reached at kimhamham@yahoo.ca**

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