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Do you have what it takes to be a fashion designer?

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

Feeling Self-Doubt about making it as a fashion designer?

Afraid you don’t have what it takes to have a career in fashion?

Is this on your vision board?

Self-doubt can stop a talented fashion student before they even get started. Over the past 10 years I have heard many of my young aspiring future designers tell me of their fears of not being talented enough, creative enough or even tough enough to work in the fashion biz. (These were from the students that I know could really achieve great success, they were very creative and had fresh ideas). I don’t believe it is about lack of talent that they get these fears, I believe it is something else. Something to do with their confidence mind set.

Remembering back when I was in design school at F.I.D.M. I felt this way a lot. And those fears still come around from time to time. I am imagining that it is even worse now for students with all the social media making things look so easy and perfect.

While trying to put my thoughts together to write about this topic, I had an eye opener from a discussion with one of my advanced adult students after she saw one of my up-cycling videos watching me go through my process of getting a design right. She asked me about my process of designing. She was wondering if designers just think about something and make it into reality, she learned from watching the video that it is all a process and sometimes a long process of working things out in your head for days and even collaborating with others to get a design just right.

There really is no magic wand in design. If it were that easy everyone would be doing it, right? I think these young designers have not seen the real behind the scenes, day to day life in a fashion and manufacturing house. That it is a lengthy process to get a design just right and off to market.

This is one of the reasons I love to watch documentary stories on designers. To get a real feel and knowledge of how the job really works. For a list of references, check out my new Pinterest board on Books and Movies about fashion designers.

Thinking back to my first day in design school (FIDM), seeing the students all dressed up in their finest outfits. Little did they know, that we would not be sketching all day. In design school you are learning more about implementing a design than just sketching it out. Spending most of the day learning pattern drafting, draping and how a garment comes to life.

Also, what we didn’t know, was on that first day we would be handed a huge tote bag full of pattern drafting tools & supplies, pattern paper and even a roll of muslin! Luckily, I didn’t wear heels that day like most of my classmate because in downtown LA the parking is not that convenient, and the walk was long! Days later, our outfits became much more relaxed!

Dori has it right - "Keep Swimming!"

So as far as fear, how you get thru it is to just keep going forward.

My favorite saying comes from Dori – ”Keep Swimming” I even have this painting of her over my desk!

How to keep swimming?

Constantly be learning and doing. What I mean by doing - is you must get your hands in it and create. Create with the permission to mess up.

If you really want something you must push thru the feelings.

If you’re not creating how do you know if you are good enough?

Are you sketching every day?

Sewing a project?

Up-Cycling something?

Helping friends with styling?

As a costume designer working in the competitive world of feature films, I fight the fear of not being creative enough all the time. Is the director going to like it? the actor? the producers? … OY VAY...The pressure!

I remember the day I had the director and producer from my first paid movie meeting me at my studio to talk about the costume plot for their film I had just been hired on. This was the first meeting, so I was a bit nervous, and it was my first paid project- so it was more pressure. Just before the meeting I was at my chiropractors who I know well and confided in. I told him about the upcoming meeting and how nervous I was. I always remember what he asked me that turned my thinking around. “Do you know your stuff? “Know what your plan is? How you will tackle it?” ….. I said yes… “Than what’s the problem?” he asked. I realized, okay, this will be a big project and probably really test my abilities, but I know my strengths and skills. I realized I just had to push through this feeling, act as if and suit up and show up. In the end it was one of my biggest successes and started my costume design career.

Wondering if your designs will be liked?

As a designer, first you must know who your target market is and cater to that market. Not everyone is going to like what you do and that is okay, just find your style, focus on your market and what you love and then find your customer who will love what you do. You cannot design for everybody and there is always enough business for everyone.

Once, when I was in draping class at FIDM, one of my classmates asking if I was from the south, humm.. no.. from the southwest! She asked that because of my design aesthetic, and it did make me self-conscious. But I had to be true to my design style and not to try to fit in.

As it turned out, I had a successful career with evening gowns and my target market. If I had tried to design out of my aesthetic, I would have always felt insecure. And I would have not found my strength in what I was best at.

Find your strengths. Where does your design aesthetic fit in?

What's your design aesthetic?






Look for the design houses that are like your design aesthetic and study their market and realize where you fit in.

To keep your designs creative, find your secondary design love and mix them. Let’s say your designs are very lacy and soft and you find yourself inspired by tailored styles too. How could you mix the two to creative unique designs?

In honor of my chiropractor, Dr Ben…

Write a list of your talents and strengths. Keep them in your eyesight.

What you are good at?

Great at math

Creative writer

Graphic design is easy

Being organized is easy and fun

Computer skills,

Video, editing


Throwing parties, getting people together (possible fashion show runner!)

Also, Write a list of your talents

Do you play an instrument?

Speak another language?

What sports?

Are your sewing skills top notch? Sketching and illustration skills?

Fashion styling, seeing details in fit?

Are you good at social media and know how to use it for marketing?

Also, write a list of what you need and want to learn and improve om, make it your goal to check these off and add them to the above list. We are all constantly learning,

One of the funnest charts I did:

Keep track of your victory's. Helps you to remember those great feelings and to see that you are making progress!


I would list my victories when they happened. When I got a job I really wanted, When I met a new actress to design for. When I made a huge connection. When I completed a huge task/project. I was sure to add the date of completion and then I could read over the list when I was not feeling strong. It helped me remember my progress and those good feelings I had. Knowing that there were more coming. (If I stay in action!)

Just today I was listening to motivation speaker Mel Robbins speaking about confidence and how it is not a trait but more a skill. Confidence is situational, meaning you have more confidence in some situations than others. Probably because you know you know what you know! She says confidence is a skill and not a trait. A skill? I like that! And that it is the decision to TRY. Self-doubt is actually a decision, a decision to not try. Actions to hesitate, hide, be hyper-critical and be helpless are traps of self-doubt. Your feelings are not a choice but your behavior and your thoughts are always a choice.

And I always say “Life is a bowl of choices!”

So in a nutshell – You can boost your confidence by taking action. When you see yourself taking action on something you want you then gain confidence and pride in yourself.

Check out this video of Mel Robbins and then find more of her videos to keep up your confidence skills. –Behind the Brand channel. It’s a quick 11 minute video.

Her 5 second rule – The courage and the tools to push yourself. 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1

For more tips on succeeding as a designer and getting the ball moving in your progress check out my class on 9 key steps to succeed as a designer. Do 1 step a week and develop your habit of taking action.

Till next time!


I’d love to hear about times when you overcame self-doubt and went for your goals!

Leave a comment below -you would be surprised how you can help others just by sharing.



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