I'm in college.

On the 31st July, we moved to Cottingham, which is supposed to be the biggest village in England with about 17000 residents (in fairness, I think many of those are students of Hull University living the residential halls in Cottingham). That was a palaver in itself, but we're settled in now, and on 2nd September I started at Bishop Burton College near Beverley in East Yorkshire.

The course I started was BTEC Level 3 Art and Design Fashion and Clothing. Shortly after starting, I discovered that I was the oldest one in the class at 23. Everyone else is about 16 or 17 years old. That's 6-7 years of an age gap. And it took its tole on me. As you may know, I was home-schooled so the mentality of teenage girls (or as they may be more descriptively called, Generation OMG) was something quite foreign to me. It was so exhausting that one morning I washed off my moisturiser, thinking I had only put on cleanser. It was only when I went to the towel rail and found my face cloth already there that I realised. I was considering quitting the course. That, or asking if I could see a higher level or year.

One day we were doing technical drawings (like you see on the back of sewing pattern envelopes) and the tutor thought mine were very precise and that they looked as though they had been done on a computer. We had had to bring in a garment (or bag because some of the students had left by the time we were told) to draw. I brought in the jeans I had made. It seems other people always appreciate your work more than you do and the tutor was impressed with my jeans, and that I had drafted them myself.

She asked if she could go and show them to the other teachers, and of course I said yes. Later on she brought them back and asked if I would be interested in the degree course, and if I would like to switch. Well, after the moisturiser event, I said yes without hesitation. Conveniently, the degree course didn't start until the following Monday (which was the start of Freshers' Week).

So the next week I came on Monday (my days before had been Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday), with my shopping trolley full of my equipment (which it turns out was quite unnecessary, but I didn't know that it was Freshers' Week at the time). It seems Freshers' Week is just the "Get to know the college and people" week, but that is far too long a name. One of the events they held was paint balling, which I had always fancied; but after finding out that it's like being punched, and you get a lot of bruises, the appeal wore off and I didn't go.

During Freshers' Week we had one bit of work to do in class: design a garment based on a shape (Pattern Magic fans will recognise this) and make a garment out of it. After a few designs, I picked a star. They look like people anyway and this was simpler that my other idea of a rain poncho made up of diamonds. I finished my top before lunchtime and it's still on the mannequin. The bottom "legs" of the star tie at the front waist, the top points fold down at the front and back of the neck, and the side points are cap sleeves, so now it looks like a Robin Hood sort of costume to me. The front is the photo on the right and the back is the one on the left. As you may guess, they use the same directly-drafted pattern piece.

The next week, when college really started, so did the sketchbook work. Now, I had never done a sketchbook before so the idea of research and design was new to me. Our assignment is called Uniform 2020. The idea (as you may assume) is to design a uniform for professional people to wear in the year 2020. Most people naturally picked military related professions. I picked equestrian. Now, I knew nothing about horses except that you measure them in "hands", but I thought that when I'm working, I shall probably have to design things that I know nothing about, so I might as well start as I mean to go on.

The first thing we were asked to do is what is called Secondary Research (which really means "second-hand research, i.e. stuff other people have photographed or drawn). This meant going online and looking for pictures to inspire us. Of course, having never wittingly done this before, I looked for horse-riding clothes etc. What I ought to have been looking for, apparently, was things like really old (black and white), non-commercial images. But, oblivious at the time, I chose what I did and printed them.

In the afternoon we stuck our pictures in our sketchbooks. We are to have 3-4 pictures per page: one large, one medium, and one small, all overlapping at the corners, and arranged in the centre of the page. We are to include in this our Primary Research, which means stuff we have personally seen in real life and then photographed or drawn. From these we must develop initial design ideas including prints, trimmings, silhouettes etc., and then develop them into garment designs. We also need a line plan. And that's as far as I've got up to now.

Now, don't think this all happens in one day. We have one day a week (Tuesdays) of this assignment, and it must be handed in by the 26th November with mood boards etc. and a 500 word written evaluation.

On Fridays (our only other day at college) we are doing essay work. This module is called Academic and Professional Skills. This means being able to research, write essays, and prepare and give presentations. Our subject this time is Culture and Fashion. My essay will be about Spain's Influence on Fashion, and my presentation will be about Balenciaga. It's easier if my work shares research because this really is "full-time" study, even if most of it is at home. I have to digitally hand in my essay on or by the 1st November, with the presentation being on this coming Friday.

On the 2nd November we will be working on the fashion show at Prince's Quay. I'm looking forward to that. Apparently McFly and Peter André are expected to be there. I'm not one for following celebrities, but I did used to like McFly before they changed their music style.
UPDATE: It's not going to be McFly and Peter Andre after all; it will be X Factor ex-contestants, including Amelia Lilly and several I don't know. (I don't watch the X Factor).

Also, we are entering a competition with the Savile Row Training Academy. I'm excited about that too!

So all in all, I'm incredibly busy but mostly enjoying it!

Sabrina Wharton-Brown

P.S. Do you have (or know of) a blog about a foundation degree in Fashion Design? The posts about the projects (especially sketchbooks and presentations) would be really helpful. :)

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