What follows is part of the script from the video at the bottom of this page.
Can You Copy a Fashion Designer’s Garments?
A couple weeks ago, Chris, one of my wonderful YouTube viewers, gave me a link to a dress. He asked if I would go through the design process from start to finish. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to duplicate the dress. There is too much information missing in this one photo and the layers of gathers were causing a lot of problems in MD.
All was not lost. This gave me the idea to do a video discussing gathered fabric and reverse engineering of fashion garments.
This is the garment, straight off the Ferragamo runway, that I’m going to create today. To copy someone else’s design, you have to reverse engineer its construction.
Reverse engineering someone’s design to make a MD pattern is not likely to get anyone’s attention. But what if I wanted to turn it into a real pattern and sell the patterns or even manufacture the dress? Would I be in violation of copyright or patent laws? The answer is no.
Copyright law does not protect fashion designs. Clothing is considered a useful article because it has an intrinsic utilitarian function. Copyright protection for the designs of useful articles is extremely limited. According to the Copyright Office:
The design of a useful article(11) is protected under copyright “only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”
In layman’s terms, they are referring to a fabric print or pattern, a belt buckle or other accessory, not the garment itself.
Trademarks do not protect fashion designs, but they do apply to logos, brand names and symbols. This is why many expensive brands, like Gucci, put their logos all over their products. You can’t use their logo under any circumstances and if you copied the design of a Gucci handbag without the logo no one would recognize it as Gucci. It would probably look like hundreds of other handbags.
In 2012 a bill called the Innovative Design Protection Act of 2012 was introduced to the Senate, but it was never enacted. The major proponents of this law were the major fashion houses.
If you want to learn more, there is a very good Ted Talk in 2010 by Johanna Blakely. Follow the link to learn more about this topic.
Technically, I could get in more trouble for showing you a picture of a dress without proper credit than I could for reverse engineering it and selling it in stores.
Reverse Engineering the Peasant Skirt
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to work. I only have one image of this outfit, so I’m going to have to make a lot of assumptions. The skirt is called a Peasant skirt and they are very common.
Gathered fabric is pretty easy to spot. It has lots of folds in it. You can create gathers in a few different ways, but the two most common methods are sewing a wide piece to a narrow piece and using elastic.
Elastic in Marvelous Designer
In MD, we are going to use an internal line as our piece of elastic. Here’s an 800 x 800 mm square of fabric with an internal line horizontally across the center. If we select the line you can see there is an Elastic property in the Property Editor that is checked.
Notice as I move the Ratio slider that the Length changes. These two properties are basically the same thing, MD just gives you two ways to set it. If we want to set this elastic the same as the real-world example, we want our elastic to be 400mm long. That results in a ratio of 50%.
Now we simulate and the elastic pulls the fabric into gathers. You’ll notice there is another setting in the Property Editor for strength. How strong do you want your elastic to be?
Elastic comes in all different types and some are very tight and will always snap back to their original length and others are not nearly as strong. Waistband elastic is generally very tight, but the elastic on lingerie is often very soft and not overly strong. You’ll have to decide the best strength for the garment you are making.
Gathering Fabric to Fabric in Marvelous Designer
Another way to gather fabric is to attached a wide piece of fabric to a narrow piece. In MD, this process is very easy. I’ve created a piece that is 400mm wide and another that is 800mm wide. Using the segment sewing tool, I just sew them together. Even though we aren’t using elastic, this is still based on a ratio of 50%. The narrow fabric is 50% of the wider fabric.
The reason you need to understand these ratios, is because you need to get a feel for how much gathering happens at different percentages. In our peasant skirt, we know the fabric is gathered and in order to reverse engineer it, we need to know how much it’s gathered.
Most of your gathering will be 2:1, which is 50%, or higher. If you recall from our real-world example, when we gather fabric we have to pull those basting threads and squeeze the fabric folds together. The fabric can only squeeze so much because it does have some depth. The thicker the fabric, the less you can gather it. Even though you can get away with these very low ratios in MD, they won’t be very realistic. Keep that in mind when you’re making virtual gathers.