Down and dirty was how I saw the fashion industry when I entered the field. But my experiences in the factories and designing departments drastically changed my mind.

Patterns, developed to produce a
company’s most expensive clothing,
are also often used to cut less expensive
Contemporary Fashion Education student
Nzingha Ma’at fits her husband’s shirt. She
took the pattern off a shirt he owned that
fits him well. Nzingha uses Lance as her model
as he wears a size medium shirt. She has her own
 business designing high-end clothing, including
men’s shirts. Read down to the end of this post to
see her finished shirt and to learn how to contact
Nzingha to order the shirt.

I discovered that high-end industrial fashion technology combines the best of international high-end couture and American assembly line production.

In time I came to realize that this technology, most of which is not available to lay people, gives better, more professional results than home sewing methods, AND can be easily used in the home.

I became convinced that this information needs to be made available to the general public. I decided to write it down so lay people could understand and use the same procedures as high-end designing departments. I planned to write a book, put it on the market, and then paint pictures. But one thing led to another. The project took on a life of its own. The chapters that outlined the book turned out to be books. Then I was asked to teach in college. After five years teaching in the degree program I began teaching continuing professional education courses which enabled me to write courses that presented fashion technology as I thought it should be taught. My students asked for more courses. The amount of material needed to present industrial procedures turned out to be more extensive than I had thought it would be. Industry encouraged me. Twenty-eight years after being asked to teach in college I’m still at it, now with my own school. Two books are completed, a third is being copy-edited, the writing for four others is nearing completion. I’m not making any money, but the business is paying for itself. I don’t seem to give up easily. Fortunately I have fabulous students who encourage me, and a supportive family. All of this plus encouragement from industry keeps me going. I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing. I’m meeting wonderful people, both here in Philadelphia and on the net. As has been said, its not the destination, it’s the journey. 

Far better clothing than most people can afford to buy can be made at home if one knows how the industry sews. In the industry I worked with high-end, expensive clothing styles, other than in pictures, rarely seen by most people. These clothing styles are designed and sold exclusively to individual stores. The clothing is then cut and sewn to order for their wealthy patrons. Because fit is so important to sales, the patterns, developed to produce a company’s most expensive clothing, are also often used to cut less expensive clothing, the choice of fabrics and construction procedures being industry’s principal methods of reducing costs.

A treadle sewing machine can make clothing
worth thousands of dollars.

Industrial sewing procedures are both quick and proficient, and are often quite different than those presented in home sewing books. A treadle sewing machine can make clothing worth thousands of dollars. I was surprised to find that in the industry procedures I believed really important were largely ignored. On the other hand, procedures I thought to be of no value were extremely important. I also discovered that the higher end the garment, usually the less equipment needed to make it.


All sewing in industry is done on gauge. A gauge can be made by taping masking tape to the sewing machine’s bed, then marking the gauges on the tape, using a transparent ruler and permanent ink pen. In the industry all drafting and sewing is done to precise measurements. This attention to precise measurements makes it possible to produce clothing that adheres to standardized fit, guaranteeing, at least most of the time, that customers will consistently find clothing, in their designated size from their preferred manufacturer that fits. When I tried these procedures at home it became clear that these procedures can be used IN THE HOME to produce quality clothing for oneself and one’s family that fits and looks good.

Why isn’t this information available to the general public?

The factories train their personnel. New operators begin with setting hems, gradually upgrading their skills. This method, used by factories to train their personnel, greatly reduces the amount of training and time needed for operators to become proficient. Line assembly enables many people, each with specialized skills, to quickly produce professional clothing. But most factory personnel are not cross-trained, cannot make an entire garment as sewn in industry, and do not have the design room skills needed to draft patterns to a precise fit. Nor do they have the education or contacts to produce and market books that present how the industry sews.

Patternmakers and designers, many of whom do have the education and contacts, do not do the sewing. Many do not know how the factory sews. Their jobs pay well. Even if they do know the sewing, both they and factory personnel may not have the time or money to write books that may never sell.

It is my firm belief that information on how the industry sews should be available to laypeople. That is why I am writing my books, testing them with my students to make sure the material can be understood and used.

Lance models Nzingha Ma’at’s finished shirt. Nzingha teaches the industrial fashion methods she is learning to her students at ThirdEye Sewing Workshop, located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. For more information about Nzingha’s classes, call (215) 275-4117.

The African shirt design Lance is wearing can be ordered in three sizes. Contact Nzingha Ma’at for more information. Phone 215-275-4117 or  e-mail

Watch this blog for more information about Contemporary Fashion Student entrepreneurs. Contemporary Fashion Students include entrepreneurs, fashion industry personnel, students who wish to enter the fashion industry, and people who wish to sew more professionally for themselves and their families.

The fall 2014 schedule for Contemporary Fashion Education classes is posted at  Only two spots are left in each class.
For more information about my books visit

 More later,

Laurel– published books– school
Facebook: Contemporary Fashion Education, Inc.

 P: 215 884 7065
 ©Laurel Hoffmann, 2014, all rights reserved.


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