Nostalgia and Memory Retrospective
This week went extremely well for me as I introduced myself to Marvelous Designer. Marvelous is a digital clothing construction software where garments are flat-patterned and then draped onto a mannequin. In exploring this program, nearly every tool just clicked for me: my fifteen years of patterning, sewing, and costume construction experience translated over perfectly. The program was clearly designed by sewists and fashion designers; there are parallels between the two at every step of garment construction within Marvelous, and it feels very intuitive. In addition, the overall pipeline matched the way I would create clothing in the real world: build outfits from the undergarments and structural elements outward, starting with basic pattern blocks and adjusting fit, and finally adding smaller details, seamlines, and embellishments. Replicating these steps digitally felt familiar, as tools behaved as I’d expect. There’s still plenty more to learn as I integrate this program into a larger pipeline: retopology, UVs, detailing, texturing..but I feel like I have a strong grasp of the first step.
Beyond simply utilizing skills from my non-3D background, clothing construction in Marvelous has an aspect that aligns with my preferred workflow: everything is completely and endlessly mutable. I’m never committed to a change until I’m ready for export. As someone who struggles with finalizing larger pieces of a project before moving onto the details, I appreciate being able to toggle between the two without being forced to finalize major choices.
I did run into some roadblocks this week as Marvelous appears to be missing a few key features. Unfortunately, I’m quite stubborn when it comes to not accepting that something is impossible within a program. For example, when the the built-in pleating tool wasn’t capable of automatically sewing deeper-than-standard knife pleats (as I used on the petticoat and overskirt), I began the tedious task of manually stitching every pleat. I also struggled to create truly stiff structural elements such as a pair of supportive stays under the bodice.
On the plus side, because the program uses real-world sewing vocabulary, I was able to search for forum posts or videos that described specific functions with consistently useful results. I found I was rarely looking up actual tutorials, since I generally assume, from my background in cosplay, that there are no specific tutorials for the strange garments I’m always trying to construct; I’m used to being self-reliant and experimenting rather than having a task laid out for me step-by-step. I did rely upon several physical pattern-blocking books that I own as a starting point for the more complex historical shapes, and found that I only needed to make minor tweaks to their fit. For the simpler pieces, I relied upon my own drafting skills and familiarity with basic pattern shapes.
I’m certain that this is a project that I’d like to develop later in the semester, as I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface – the dress is missing embellishments and texturing, and I can imagine a multitude of ways to render the final piece. For the dress itself, I plan to redo the skirt pleats to hopefully avoid some of the clipping issues that I’m currently experiencing; I’ve had advice from a member of the Marvelous Designer discord group with a way to tweak the built-in pleating tool for my purpose, but have not yet tried it out. Traditionally, the bodice would be stitched down to the skirt and petticoat, where it is currently free-floating until I discover how to tack sections of a garment. I’m also keen to play with a more dramatic silhouette – possibly a split rump to emphasize the back bodice point. In general, I’d like to modify the bodice into a zone front and add robe-a-la-turque-style short oversleeves, as well as much more extensive ruffles and lace around neckline, sleeve cuffs, and skirt opening. I’ve been collecting inspiration reference images, mainly of period paintings found on Pinterest and Instagram hashtags, but I do plan to ask for favorite embellishment references from some of my social media historical costuming groups. Finally, I plan to explore textile design as I texture the garment, particularly using transparency for complex lace designs.
In terms of her undergarments, I’d like to add boning, edge binding, and seam taping to emphasize the lines of her stays. I also plan to continue to experiment with material properties, as the stays are still not as stiff as I’d like. In real life, they should have approximately the stiffness of corrugated cardboard, as they are constructed with hundreds of reed bones sandwiched between two layers of sturdy fabric. They are currently modified with a combination of pattern options ‘strengthen’ and ‘solidify’, and material properties ‘bending’ and ‘buckling’ (essentially, every possible setting I could discover from forum searching keywords ‘boning’, ‘stiffen’, ‘strengthen’, ‘structure’, etc.). That said, I am still experiencing some issues with them conforming to the mannequin’s bust and upper hips, where they should instead leave some space. I’m sure that it is possible to achieve an appropriately stiff look, as other Marvelous artists have created pieces such as supportive hoop skirts and period corsets with the properties I’m looking for. More research is in order!