Ask L – Wanna be a lingerie designer? Get schooled!

Layla L'obatti class of 2007 intimate apparel

FLASHBACK! me in 2006 presenting a garment I made while I was getting my BFA in intimate apparel. It took me 3 days to bead this corset… 3 long days.


Long hours lead to some crazy moments in the sewing lab… I remember days and NIGHTS like these.

I can’t explain the odd combination of excitement and exhaustion that goes along with pursuing a degree in fashion design. I look back on my days at FIT and I miss the many late night hours in the sewing lab, the 4 hour long classes, the aching fingers and back, and the many heavy bags of lace and underwires. Well, maybe not SO much! Those were some tough days, but I think anyone who has moved on from that experience to the corporate fashion world as I did will say that there is a nostalgia there. You don’t remember how rough it was as much as you remember the many delirous laughs and jokes with classmates as you feverishly sewed your term garments, or maybe the field trips to designer studios and showrooms, or the feeling of wonder at being in the center of it all in the middle of New York City, the fashion capital of the USA.

So often as a designer you will get questioned on aesthetic, market, fit, and most frustrating of all price. Trust me, you’ll want those hours in the lab behind you so you can confidently say: It is not easy to make a panty, have you ever sewed a 1/2 wide zig zag stitch within a 5/8″ elastic? That’s a 1/8 inch tolerance, that means you can only waver about 1/4 the width of a pencil, the thickness of a quarter, while an industrial machine is charging ahead… not so easy. Knowing this you can say: It takes highly specialized sewing skills in addition to the patterning and grading and sizing specialties of intimates in order to be able to produce these garments. And just because your thong is “yay” big does not mean it doesn’t require as much sewing work as a t-shirt. Your first taste of this will be during your presentation:

Take whatever you think school costs and DOUBLE it… fabric and supplies are expensive. The costs of learning your craft $$$, your experience as a lingerie design student = priceless!!

The final review is the day when the critic, and a group of professors choose which pieces they feel should be put into the final show. A nerve wracking moment because for a lot of students this is the payoff, because parents will often be sitting in the audience seeing the culmination of your work in a professional setting for the first time.

Just because the garments walking down that runway are smaller does not mean they are any less work. Don’t take my word for it! I discovered that FIT has also taken the amazing step of having students from each class blog about the semester leading up to their final presentations. Including some really great behind the scenes videos of what it takes to be a lingerie design student. Read more about this year’s intimate apparel class through the eyes of Amy, the student chosen to blog their journey: click here

Congrats to the class of 2011! I know we have yet to see what you can do, bright futures in fashion lie ahead.