The textile and apparel industry is the second oldest manufacturing industry in America and helped create the middle class. Steel is the oldest and began around the same time–railroads led to mail order catalogs which led to increase need for textile and apparel plants to supply the ever growing demand of the latest fashions of Europe now available at more affordable prices and wide range of sizes.
Where people assume that it was Ford’s automation of the 1940s that created the American manufacturing, it was the textile plants of the 1800s that sealed our position as American manufacturing. Where people assume that the boom of American fashion designers of the 1960s put us on the global map of apparel, it was the manufacturing plants and the Sears Roebuck mail order catalogs that America pulled the fashion dominance away from France in the 1800s.
Just because the American apparel and textile industry was the first victim of the cheap push for overseas manufacturing and big box stores, does not remove its significance or the importance of its place in our country nor the value of an education that studies and works in apparel and textiles.
The costume designer is the last of the specialized custom engineer of this lost art form. They are rare and their talents benefit other industries they find themselves in. They work on a precision scale of error of 3/16″ as this is amount a point can move on their pattern and affect an entire size. They not only expand their creative problem solving side of their brains with their studies, but have honed their logistical side in executing the solutions with their own hands to solve the problems.
Costume designers have the ability to analyze the data of situations, find patterns within the actions of the people, and make relatively accurate predictions. Theatre is the study of human behavioral patterns across time lines. Costume designers study the common life of people for their patterns and similarities across the world’s history. They then translate those behavioral patterns into lines and and colors using 2D (fabric) on 3D forms (body) to create any emotional response they want from their viewers.