Indie fashion designer sources

I’ve become obsessed with the independent fashion designers whose work is available on the internet. After decades of thumbing my nose at fashion in general, I went back to making my own clothes and discovered that Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, etc, aren’t the only pattern designers out there. Moreover, I discovered that I don’t care for a lot of their designs anyway. I miss the patterns from my youth that included many more fashion details than I see now. So much of what women buy (or make) seems to be almost totally dependent on the fabric for garment appearance. By that, I mean the ubiquitous tee shirt, tank dress and otherwise shapeless garments that so many people wear all the time. Most of these depend on a stretchy fabric for shape, so the garment more or less conforms to the body wearing it, and on the fabric’s printed design for the rest.

I love colorful printed and woven designs as much as the next person. But I don’t think an attractive garment’s appeal should be based solely on the choice of fabric. Any given design is going to look best in certain fabrics, but if the garment is a total blah in a solid fabric, it doesn’t appeal to me. I might exempt a crisp white, properly fitted and perfectly pressed blouse from that critique. But I view that as more of an accessory to begin with, since you can pair it with almost any skirt, jumper or slacks.

Sadly, I’ve found that many of the indie designers are churning out the same kinds of tops, bottoms and dresses as the major pattern companies, with few design details other than perhaps a choice of necklines, sleeves or overall length. Is this because many people now are new to sewing garments, and they’re unwilling to try anything that looks more than minimally difficult? If so, then it is encouraging to see people making their own garments at all, and I hate to criticise anything that tempts them to try. But at the same time, I want to promote the designers who are giving us truly attractive garments with details that don’t depend on knits for shape or on printed fabrics for basic appeal.

There are other considerations than just an attractive design, of course, and one of the most important is the ability to create a useful range of sizing in patterns that are easy to grade from one size to another. The trend to make patterns available via PDF downloads has been both a boon to people who need to adapt their patterns to various sizes of body parts, and a technological hurdle to overcome for the designers. Some have succeeded better than others.


One of these is French Navy Patterns. Sarah, the designer, has incorporated all the factors I find essential: classic tailored designs with seam and shaping details, a good range of sizing, layered PDFs that allow the user to choose which sizes to print, and good pricing. Did I mention that her assembly instructions are also absolutely superb? They’re the best I’ve seen from any indie designer, and far better than anything from the Big Four pattern companies. I downloaded the Fleetwood Dress, and will be making it up before long.

I haven’t decided on the fabric, but I may use this utterly gorgeous Twilight Bamboo that I just ordered from Fabworks in the UK (one of the other delightful discoveries was that one is no longer limited to the few brick-and-mortar fabric stores in the US).

I’d love to showcase a different indie designer each week, but probably won’t be that prolific. Look for a toile of the Lyric dress from Love Notions before long, however.

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