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  • How I Drew That - the Creative Process at Princess Awesome

    March 28, 2023 4 min read

    "My dragon doting daughter is in love with this dress. According to her, “It’s such a soft fabric, the dragon face is fierce, and the wings are so awesome!"

    Wow! Every time I read a review that a child loves a product I've designed, it gives me the greatest feeling of accomplishment. This is mostly because the whole purpose of my work at Princess Awesome is to come up with ideas for clothing that express kids' interests, and when that happens, that is just super! 

    But it's also because the design process takes a long time - usually more than a year from the day I come up with an idea to the day the clothing is available for sale at our shop.  

    It starts with me staring out the window next to my desk.

    Captain Picard is there to remind me that not all my ideas are good ideas.

    I spend this time thinking about how my kids play and the things they're interested in. I think about the imagination games I played when I was a kid. I think about the stories they like, and the kinds of science experiments they do. I think of the things they're learning and the bits of that learning that excite them. 
    All four of my kids play the piano. I hear them practice every day, and I know how much effort they're putting into it. I was staring out the window one day thinking about this, when I had the idea that maybe my daughter would like to wear a dress that highlights this skill she's learning.
    Then I started doing research. I always start on the internet, but my research takes me far and wide.
    I like my designs to be as accurate as possible, because I know that if it annoys me to see a T-Rex dragging its tail ala 1984, then it will also annoy the kid who has memorized the details of every T-Rex dig.  
    Sometimes I have to call in the big guns when I venture into topics where I have little expertise. When I worked on the Frozen Fractals dress I had to ask an expert - thanks, Professor of Theoretical High Energy Physics, and my good friend, Cindy Keeler.   
    Once I feel confident I know the topic well enough, I start drawing. I start with a technical flat of the product. This is just a line drawing of what the product looks like when it's laid flat and has no art on it.
    I draw on my iPad with my Apple Pencil. Sometimes it will turn out the idea just looks bad on the flat. And if it looks bad on the flat, it will look bad in real life. 
    I really liked this idea for dancing cranes on a "ballet" style dress. But no matter how I drew them, they were just not impressive, and I couldn't figure out how to communicate the science or the beauty. Captain Picard was right about that one.

    The piano dress looked stunning in its mockup, and when my daughter saw it she said, "Wow, I want one of those!" Always a good sign.

    You will note immediately of course that even though I did look up how many black keys are on a piano, I did not, in the end, put just 36 keys on this dress. That's because it would have made the keys way, way too tall - so tall that they'd take up more than half the skirt. There was also the problem that every size of the dress would have to have differently sized keys in order to be accurate. WOW IS THAT EXPENSIVE. I also ended up not including some ideas I had about how to show the hammers hitting the strings inside. So I had to sacrifice accuracy and science for cost and aesthetic reasons. 
    Once I have a finalized technical flat, the next step is to put together a tech pack and ask the factory if it's even possible to make the product. Fortunately, it was possible to make the piano dress, and they sent back a sample within a few weeks. 
    Now, it often happens that the factory will tell us, that embroidery idea is too big for the machine. Or, that kind of fabric cannot have applique. Or, our digital printer cannot recreate that effect. Or they will try to sample the product and it will just look terrible, or it will wash and shrink weirdly. Or it will be just too expensive. So a lot of great ideas never make it past the tech pack (so sorry - I have been trying to make an adult Solar System Busy Dress for years now and it is just riddled with technical difficulties). 
    But some ideas do become realities. 
    And when I get feedback like this:
    "Practicing piano isn't really something a kid can show off to her friends. I think that's why she likes this so much. It's like a little reward for all her work, day after day, she can finally show off a little."
    It's the confirmation that a design fulfilled its intent - to give a person the ability to express their own personality and interests. It's incredibly satisfying to be able to do that, and I'm so grateful once again to you for giving me the chance to try every day.

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