There is not currently a software specific to Costume production and design, however there are a number of software companies competing in the fashion industry for pattern drafting, and 3D virtual fitting software.
We chose to go with Gerber for our research because it's been a mainstay in the fashion industry for decades. There are lots of great things to be said about Gerber, excellent training, software support, and really wonderfully accurately rendered patterns. The one drawback for new users to Gerber is it's legacy, they continue to accomodate older users by mainting vintage functionality and integrating new features alongside those older processes. This means there are multiple methods to reach the same outcome, and certain keys which function in almost identical ways. I think in some ways new companies benefit from having a fresh slate because they can look at legacy programs like Gerber and steal the best aspects of it and apply those to a more streamlined simple platform. I do love that once you get into it, you do have a lot of control over your tools and workspace in Gerber, however getting to the point where you can exercise that control defintely takes some trial and error and patience.
Our team has grown in our understanding of how digital patterning functions, and what we would look for in an ideal pattern drafting/3D rendering software. Without a doubt accuracy is paramount, followed by functionality (user-friendliness, and ability to export files accessible without software access), and finally the cost of software access, usually billed by annual subscription.
I've compiled some videos which show the drafting process in 3 other fashion software programs which utilize both flat patterning and 3D rendering:
CLO: $50/month or $450/year. Background in in gaming. PC & MAC compatible
BROWZWEAR - VSTITCHER
BROWZWEAR: Price on request - Must apply and be accepted if you wish to purchase - Background in Fashion. PC & MAC compatible.
Guessing price is on par with Gerber between $4000-$10,000 depending on which modules you choose to purchase.
OPTITEX: $4000+/year. Background in Fashion. PC compatible
Last week I finished my Gerber Accumark classes and started on the first project. I felt so so grateful every morning to be learning a new skill to better my career in the arts. So first off THANK YOU! Canada Council for the Arts, Calgary Arts Development, IATSE 212 and our Research Coordinator Cathleen Sbrizzi for this incredible opportunity. That being said, halfway through the course I thought, 'Is it too late to return the money? This is too hard'. I am not a natural with computers and although the drafting portion was fun there are a lot of complicated steps to processing your draft that had me buggin'. I took the course on zoom alongside our Senior Cutting Consultant Liz Sutherland and we both texted the 'mind blown' emoji back and forth a few times.
I believe that computers will inevitably be used for drafting in costume wardrobes, maybe not in the same way as fashion but I believe the research we are doing is very important. So far the process is very slow going but that is to be expected when learning a new skill. It is frustrating but the drafting part is strangely addictive. I find myself wandering over to my computer in the morning before I've had coffee to try to fix something. I have completed my first project of body blocks for my 1/2 scale male and female mannequins. There were some tears...my computer froze sometimes and I am anxiously awaiting a zoom meeting with my instructor to ask her some questions but I am excited to keep progressing.
Also thank you to Kaeleah Spallin for printing us all a copy of the Gerber program manual, it's been very helpful to have at my fingertips.
KaeLeah Spallin has been hard at work learning the ins and outs of 3D rendering in Gerber. We are in the final stages of her final work scenario where we bring original designs to life, using digital patterning software throughout. KaeLeah patterned Rebecca's design for 'Delia Deetz' from the Beetlejuice Musical, applied graphics, and had two 3D fittings before we placed our order for the custom printed fabric.
In the first fitting we were able to discuss volume, the neckline, and graphics placement with the designer, and in the second fitting KaeLeah confirmed the scale of the garment and made additional changes to the graphics in real time.
Below you'll see images from KaeLeah's 3D fitting work, and the printed fabric order we've placed to build our half scale costume.
We have such exciting news, Calgary Arts Development, with the City of Calgary, have joined our financial sponsors!
We feel so lucky to have been granted financial funding by The Canada Foundation for the Arts, IATSE 212, and NOW Calgary Arts Development!
In additional news, KaeLeah Spallin is nearing the finish line on her Test Cutting, and is currently working out using Gerber 3D, and Pattern Desig Software to bring to life the design of Rebecca Toon a talented local Calgary Designer. She's been videoing her work on the software and we hope to share some of this work in progress in the next few weeks.
Check in next month for some interesting tidbits from our first few months with digital patterning software.
I completed training in early May along with Test Cutter KaeLeah Spallin. Gerber provided a 7 day online course with 5 hours of instruction per day. Our instructor was kind, experienced, and encouraging. It was a different experience for her to be providing training to Costume specific Cutters as most of her experience lays in the fashion world.
One thing I found very interesting was learning how to communicate with the software. It is capable of such complex tasks that the way you interact with it has to be very specific. Different mouse clicks, different types of points, different saved settings on your file all influence the actions you're able to make in your pattern design. Once you have a handle on this it affords you a lot of control, however when you are starting out it can feel frustrating because you're following all the correct steps and not getting the result you want simply, because buried in the background you've not ticked the correct box. Luckily we have a great manual, lots of resources, and access to our instructor if we need any help troubleshooting these issues.
I can't help thinking how great it would be to see a similar product developed specifically for costuming, I think that a lot of the background requirments used in fashion manufacturing could be elimated to create a cleaner more functional work space for bespoke and costume specific production. Hopefully once we are done testing we will be able to help interested users assess what sorts of digitial tools are the most useful and worthwhile investing in.
So far my favorite function might just be 'walking a pattern', it's strangely satisfying and very accurate! See the little video below, this blouse is from a training exercise so ignore any wonkiness in the pattern, haha
The grant has arrived and Cathleen didn’t waste any time ordering us computers and half scale mannequins. Cathleen and I (KaeLeah) did the AccuMark Core Class first, finishing up this past week. The AccuMark Core Class covers the majority of the software provided by AccuMark. It was developed primarily for fashion so Cathleen and I were learning it all, trying to glean out what would translate to the world of costuming. I have to say that my pattern drafting/costuming brain is in a much different place than my computer brain so it was challenging at times. The class spanned over 7 business days so I jumped at the opportunity to try out my new learned skills over our weekend. I started with the basics and drafted a male body block for my adorable half scale male mannequin, Manly. I have to say even though I was fresh and struggling somewhat with the software I could see the benefits of drafting a pattern on the computer as opposed to paper. It was easy to make very precise measurements and to ‘true up seams’ before cutting out the paper. I made up the block and found it to be a little snug on Manly. I don’t think this was a problem with the computer program though, probably just my measurements on such a small body. I chose to make the alterations directly to my original digital block, although there are ways to mark and make alterations to the pattern in the program.
Then I decided my female mannequin, Minnie, should also get a basic body block. I struggled a bit more with hers as the darts were not doing what I wanted. But once I figured out how to get an angled bust dart everything flowed really well. I put together the block and it fit perfectly. I’m very excited to start manipulating patterns and working on some more challenging pattern drafting.
This spring Gerber (the software company we are using for our research) is merging with their European counterpart Lectra. This is great news as both companies are exploring cutting edge 3D modelling technology, and I'm sure their combined resources will only lead to new developments which could benefit us all.
Check out the inspiring video below, detailing how traditional and digital can come together!
We applied to the Digital Strategy fund (in spite of it being notoriously difficult to win) because at our date of submission on June 15 it would have meant the earliest possible start date for our project. We're no worse for wear however, and we intend to apply to a number of grants with fall submission deadlines in hopes of beginning our research next spring.
Stay tuned friends!