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The STEM of Fashion Design

Heidi Olinger

FashionablyMashed. Copyright Š 2013 by Heidi A. Olinger. All rights reserved. ISBN: 978-0-9894467-0-9 eISBN: 978-0-9894467-1-6 No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author, including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning. Requests to the publisher for permission should be addressed to Pretty Brainy, ATTN: Permissions, 4717 Bay View Drive, Fort Collins, CO 80526.

Photo Credits: pp. 1-3 — John Mueller, John Mueller Productions The Internet addresses listed in the text were accurate at the time of publication. The inclusion of a Web site does not indicate an endorsement by Pretty Brainy or the author and neither Pretty Brainy nor the author guarantees the accuracy of the information presented at these sites.

Printed in the United States of America Cover design by Cheryl Matsumoto

For Gianna, Eva, Bella and their friends, who were the first participants of FashionablyMashed, and for Jimmy, who sets the standard.





Section 1: Mood Board


Section 2: Sourcing


Section 3: Costing


Section 4: Marketing


Essay 1: So Cheap You Can't Afford It


Essay 2: Accessorize to Fight the Bad Guys




live your heroic mission At heart, this book and the fashion mash-up on which it is based, are rooted in this — Whatever career aspirations and dreams you have, start now to make them happen. Your age or where you are in school do not matter. Money or the lack of money is not a big issue. Experience and knowledge matter less than you may think. There are in the world people who have earned the degree of Ph.D. who are working as check-out clerks. Their knowledge and experience are not adding up because they lack the key thing that eclipses all lack: the drive to make a thing happen. Drive rides the wave of a person’s energy. It is coupled to an inherent knowing of this is what I am supposed to do. It is the source of genuine self-confidence, which literally means you moving forward with faith in yourself. If you want to be a chef, get in the kitchen. Architect? Pay attention to how humans respond to the spaces they inhabit. Writer? Start writing. The work may not be good today, but it never will be good if you do not begin. Fashion designer? Well, you are reading FashionablyMashed so you have taken a beginning step. You are moving on your dream. Besides telling you to get on with it and to begin now to make your life happen, my other drive for creating FashionablyMashed was born of my experience as a student and educator. I was a top student, then a miserable student. I became disenchanted and lost incentive to do well in the second grade. In high school I was bored and unchallenged. I could not wait for college and “real life” to begin. Later, the decision to become a teacher was morally wrenching: I could not imagine occupying the same profession as the teachers from my elementary school years whose presence in the classroom prevented children from learning. Remembering those who loved children and honored the teaching profession, however, made the difference. As corny as the words are, they and their lessons remain in my heart. Experiencing education in the United States from multiple standpoints is tremendous, and I have been lucky to be a top student and one who was thrown out of math class, a researcher and an award-winning educator, one who embraced educational ideals and alternately pursued experimental pedagogy. The big picture gained even more perspective when I left teaching and entered the business world, then social entrepreneurship. This is what I realized: in my experience from kindergarten through graduate school, just one class had invited in the multiple disciplines, critical thinking, and demands that make up the real world of job and career. The day may be coming, however, when collaboration, real-world problem solving, creativity, abstract reasoning, and more will be the standard in K-12 classrooms in the United States.

preface Consequently, STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art + math) are exciting to me. I see each acronym as the promise of an interdisciplinary experience, where Math is inseparable from Art, Technology from Science. This mash-up of disciplines, a cornerstone of FashionablyMashed, takes away students’ intimidation about physics and their disinterest in math. Soil science and math, for example, are suddenly interesting because they have a purpose, and that purpose is fashion design. Young people learn as perhaps they never will in an experience focused only on physics, or math, or human behavior — then the bell rings and they move to the next class.

As goes the world, so goes the classroom in at least one regard: the world is not gender-blind. Adults and young people alike absorb the prejudgments of the dominant media messages. Think about it: whose name is more widely recognized, Ursula Burns or Bill Gates? Emily Nöether or Albert Einstein? Does the name and legacy of Sally Ride garnish as much reaction as Honey Boo Boo? Now please draw a line through “Honey Boo Boo” in the preceding sentence and spend the next minutes learning about and being inspired by Burns, Nöether, and Ride. FashionablyMashed exists to serve especially those students who do not easily approach STEM. Mostly I am talking about girls — from all cultural backgrounds. And ladies, my mission is focused on you because, by the time you are in middle school, too many of you already have decided that science, technology, engineering, and math have no place in your primary interests. But hang in there, please, because your willingness to learn and work with some aspect of STEM means you will have 75 percent more career and job opportunities in the United States than if you do not. FashionablyMashed, I hope and pray and beg, will radically change how you experience STEM.


Rather than teaching, the spirit in which I created and deliver FashionablyMashed is about helping young people learn how to learn, as well as to learn meaningful skills that apply across disciplines and into the world beyond the classroom.

acknowledgments FashionablyMashed is possible because of these fine people —

Shannon Dreessen, FACS teacher, Webber Middle School; Christine Hendricks, principal, Tavelli Elementary School; John Howe, director, and Susan Salz, former assistant director, the Preston Summer STEM Institute; and Hortensia Soto-Johnson, Ph.D., professor of applied mathematics and director, Las Chicas de Matemáticas, University of Northern Colorado. The Pretty Brainy Team: Kim Adams, who designs and develops; Pamela Jessen, who directs and shape-shifts communications; Cheryl Matsumoto — to say she is a graphic designer does not begin to cover it; Gianna Mueller, teen blogger and the face of Pretty Brainy; John Mueller, who photographs the kind of images that become iconographic; and media intern Ashleigh Smith, who has talent and insight the world has yet to see. Thank you to Abbie Kozik, who created the foundation on which the Pretty Brainy brand identity is built. Thank you to Cynthia Molson. Thank you to Steve Strohbusch and Will Strohbusch for their insight. The Pretty Brainy Board of Advisors: Debra Benton, Benton Management Resources; Anne Macdonald, business librarian, Poudre River Public Library District; Charisse McAuliffe, director, the Institute for Entrepreneurship, Colorado State University; and Susan Schell, director, Career Services, College of Business, Colorado State University. My dad, James C. Olinger, who first encouraged my writing and creativity when I was five — yes, five — years old. At a dark and jagged time in the world, it was significant to him to find the means to buy me a typewriter. Jim Striggow, whom I love and who makes good things happen. When the Big Bang occurred, we burst from the same piece of cosmic junk. Peace.


Tracey Winey, media specialist, Preston Middle School, who invited me to deliver the fashion mash-up that became our pilot project. Thank you also to educators Susanne Martino and Mary Hunter-Lazlo who, with their FIRST Lego League students, were participants in that first workshop.

Photo by author

fashion design basic: sourcing

Go for your dreams!



materials needed ▪ Calculator ▪ Sketchbook ▪ Pencil ▪ Fabric swatches of organic and conventionally grown cotton

Look for the following professional terms as you progress through this section. The words will be used and discussed in the context of sourcing, or finding and gathering the materials for your design. You may write the definitions here. Compaction Conventional Agriculture Conventionally Grown Erosion Ethics Fast Fashion Organically Grown Slow Fashion Movement Sourcing Sustainability Sustainable Agriculture Topsoil


full STEAM in fashion

fashion design basic: sourcing

Know Your Stuff The sourcing stage of fashion design is about the source of your fabric and trims, or where in the world they come from. Sourcing is finding, inspecting, and purchasing the materials that make up a garment. Answer the following to start your knowledge of the sourcing stage of fashion design! 1.

The word sustainable means:

a. b. c. d.

Able to be recycled. Made from green plant materials. Treating a resource so that it is grown, harvested and used so it can be replenished. A lifestyle that includes yoga, composting, and shopping at health food stores.


Which of the following has been proven to be the most sustainable fabric?

a. Organic Cotton. b. Polyester. c. Bamboo. d. Tencel. 3. The fashion and apparel business creates how many tons of waste water a year? a. b. c. d.

70 million. 10 million. 5 million. Half a million, or 500,000.

4. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is the highly toxic gas in the exhaust fumes of internal combustion engines in autos and furnaces. Scientists who serve on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have determined that of all greenhouse gasses, CO2 is the one most responsible for global warming. Approximately what amount of CO2 emissions put into the air each year is generated by the fashion and apparel industry? a. b. c. d.

100 tons. 10,000 tons. 2.1 million tons. 3.1 million tons.

Hint: 1 ton is equal to 2,000 pounds.



Which of the following is known as “the world’s dirtiest crop”?

a. Wool. b. Rayon. c. Cotton. d. Silk. Find out the answers to the quiz and about how fashion affects the Earth. Go to and enter the password CottonCrops. Your knowing about fashion design off the runway is what this quiz is about. Here is the point: being a fashion designer comes with the responsibility of learning how to use design to help stop and reverse environmental damage to our planet. The fashion industry has contributed to harming and killing our living Earth, but the industry's moral conduct, or ethics, is changing.¹ A driving agent of change is people's awareness that the products they buy — and refuse to buy — makes a difference on what designers and companies bring to market. A product has to have economic sustainability, too.

¹Organizations working to change the fashion industry’s effect on the environment include the Ethical Fashion Forum and their initiative, “Source.” Visit the Source website for more information, including a list of schools that offer courses of study in sustainable fashion. Go to > About the Source Platform.

fashion design basic: sourcing

When it comes to sourcing, conscientious designers want to know, for example — ▪

How the raw fiber is grown and produced. This brings up questions of care for the soil, water, air, and farmers who produce and harvest the crops.

Where the materials are grown and made. This is about what distance lies between the source, the designer, and the customer.

Who is growing the fiber and what are the conditions in which they work. This question considers the health, safety and earnings of the farmers who grow, tend and harvest the raw goods.

Sourcing and Your T-shirt Design As outlined in Section 1, you will collect and place on your mood board swatches of the colors and fabrics from which you will create your finished T-shirt design. Because your assignment is to design an original T-shirt, it is very possible that your fabric will be partially, if not 100 percent, cotton. Study the following image of cotton farmers in Burkina Faso. What is everything you can see in the photo? With what are the workers handling the cotton? What observation can you make about who labors in cotton fields and the physical demands of the work?

Courtesy USAID

Now look at the image of the cotton plant. Having studied the photo of the cotton workers, how do you think the cotton is harvested from the plant? Given the plant’s structure, what can you say about the work of harvesting cotton?


Bringing the Issue Home Research what countries are the top cotton producers in the world. Are these considered leading industrial nations or developing nations? Where on the list of the world’s cotton producers does the United States fall? Look at the garment labels in some of your favorite clothes. Out of your top five favorite things to wear, how many do not list cotton in the fiber content? What conclusions can you draw based on your answers?

The Shirt on Your Back To understand what goes into the cotton shirt on your back, as well as the designs for which you will be sourcing, begin by reviewing a couple of simple calculations — ▪

The average T-shirt weighs 8 ounces. Eight ounces is what part of a pound? ______

Among other chemicals, 1/3 of a pound of chemical insecticide is applied to the cotton that goes into one 8-ounce T-shirt. How many ounces make up 1/3 of a pound? ______


Photo by author

Now you are ready to experience first-hand what goes into a single 8-ounce cotton T-shirt. Ready? Roll up your sleeves . . .

Lay a large-size trash bag across a table or the floor.

On the bag place a cotton T-shirt.

On top of the shirt pour the following:²

Dirt. Pesticides. Seven of the 15 toxins known to be most deadly to humans are used as pesticides in conventionally grown cotton. All are known to cause cancer.³ ²For pesticides, insecticides, and chemical fertilizer, substitute, for example, sugar, flour, and cornmeal or other safe substances. ³The Environmental Protection Agency/EPA list of these toxins is acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential,” 2001.

fashion design basic: sourcing

Ongoing Assignment: The “Simple” T "Fashion to me has become very disposable; I wanted to get back to craft, to clothes that could last." —Vera Wang (1990s to present)

Step Two: Source the Materials for Your T-shirt Design Based on your study of color and sourcing, make the following decisions about your design — 1.


Choose your fabric — Fabric

Cost per yard

Cost per wholesale T-shirt

Conventionally grown cotton



Organically grown cotton



Courtesy Kimberly Vardeman

A decision to source organic cotton may be solely about ethics, not appearance. Can you tell which swatch is organic and which is conventionally grown cotton?


Design Question: Sourcing Can your choice of fabric complement or contribute to your design message? For example, the product pictured right, designed in a FashionablyMashed workshop, sourced a T-shirt made of recycled plastic and organic-cotton-intransition.5 The choice of fabric reinforces the design message of saving the world. Your fabric selection: _____________________ 2.


Finalize your color palette, using information from Section 1 on strong, harmonized pairs. For the planet’s greatest color collection, visit Photo by Brent Yoder

Design Questions: Color a.

Will your design rely on hues in the latest Pantone Fashion Color Report?6


What advantage might you give your design when working with colors from Pantone’s latest report? What advantage do you see from not working with this set of latest colors?

Your final color palette:

_______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________

Place these decisions on your mood board.

Organic cotton-in-transition is cotton grown in soil that has been organically farmed for three years or less and previously worked under conventional agricultural methods.



See for their collection of fashion color reports, published twice a year.


fashion design basic: sourcing

Section 2 Guidelines for Teachers

Purpose •

Provide students hands-on experience in the sourcing stage of fashion design.

Grow students’ awareness and knowledge of the effect of the fashion and apparel industry on the planet.

Provide students information with which to become informed consumers of apparel and fashion, as well as designers able to form critical questions about the materials they source.

Give students’ decision-making experience and authority in weighing multiple factors, including consumer desire and need, ethics, and design intention and aesthetics.

Answers to Questions on Page 38, “Know Your Stuff” 1.

C. Sustainability hinges on the ability of a thing to be replenished.


D. Tencel, the trade name for Lyocell, is the most sustainable fabric. Textile expert Phil Patterson says, "It's made from eucalyptus plantations, which produce more fibre per acre than, say, cotton. There are no pesticides and processing and dyeing Lyocell is relatively clean."¹ Lyocell is a regenerated cellulose fabric made from pulp.


A. The fashion and apparel industry generates 70 million tons of waste per year.²


D. Fashion and apparel generates 3.1 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.³


C. Cotton is considered the world’s dirtiest crop because of the heavy use of chemicals used in the production of conventionally grow crops.

Answer to Question on Page 45, “Know Your Stuff” The answer: letter C. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 13.1 million tons of textiles ended up in landfills in 2010. Two million tons were recovered for reuse and recycling.4 Preparation + Practicum Section 2 of FashionablyMashed may generate the largest reaction from students because of the graphic nature of the volume of “chemicals,” contrasted with organic materials, applied to the cotton grown to produce a single 8-ounce T-shirt. With an old T-shirt intended for recycling and substances from the kitchen pantry, students will simulate the agricultural methodologies for organically and conventionally grown cotton. ¹Lee, Matilda. “My Fashion Footprint: Is Your Wardrobe Bad for the Planet?” The Independent. Aug. 7, 2008. ²Ibid. ³National Geographic. “Causes of Global Warming.” Retrieved February 12, 2013, from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved February 12, 2013, from




To prepare for “The Shirt on Your Back” and "Dirt Rich," pages 41 to 44: •

Ask students to wear their favorite T-shirt on the day of the activity. The activity provides an opportunity for students to learn from an element of their own lives, in this case the shirt on their backs.

Provide or assign students the task of bringing the following materials, letters a through k below. Use sandwich bags to individually contain the “chemicals” and soils. During the exercise, having individual bags labeled with the name of each substance (e.g., chemical fertilizer, organic soil) makes it easy for you to instruct the students to dump each substance, one at a time, onto the T-shirt. Narrate the crop management process for each growing method, asking students to apply each substance as you talk about its use.

Here are the materials you will need: a. b.

One or more giant hefty bags to place on the floor or table before beginning the activity. Surgical gloves (available at Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, etc.) for students who may be allergic to any substance in the activity. c. One 8-ounce cotton T-shirt, size small to large, on which the following will be dumped: d. Dirt. e. Chemical insecticide, represented by 5 to 6 ounces by weight of sugar, for example, or other safe, edible substance. f. Chemical insecticide, represented by 5 to 6 ounces by weight of flour, for example, or other safe substance. g. Pesticide, represented by 5 ounces up to 2 pounds of any safe substance, such as cornmeal. h. One or more gallons of water. You also will need: i. j. k.

Organic garden soil (available by the bag at garden, hardware, and grocery stores). Marigolds, mums, tomato plant leaves or any plant material listed on page 42. Cow manure, represented by additional organic soil or other safe substance.

Class Discussion Ideas The hands-on experience of “The Shirt on Your Back” may inspire student inquiries about farmers, their safety, their wages, and the difficulty of harvesting cotton. The images on page 40 under “Sourcing and Your T-shirt Design” illustrate cotton farming in the developing world, where most cotton is grown. After students experience “The Shirt on Your Back,” questions for class discussion, in addition to those on pages 40 and 43, may include the following: •

What do you think accounts for the higher price of products made from organically grown cotton?

How would you address the following argument? “Products made from conventionally grown cotton are priced artificially low because of the costs to recover the loss of topsoil and repair other environmental damage, such as contaminated ground water.”

The STEM of Fashion Design, Teacher's Edition Preview  

Engage girls in STEM in a rigorous, hands-on, project-based learning experience. Part guidebook, part design journal, The STEM of Fashion De...