What NOT to Design


Sunlight seeped through the cracks of New York City skyscrapers and glistened on the sewing needle in my hand. I guided it through the black linen and sewed the fourteenth button on the dress I designed. What was I thinking? Sixteen more buttons to go and my term garment was due in three hours. A term garment was the Fashion Institute of Technology equivalent of a final exam.  Back at the sketching stage, a full-length dress with thirty buttons and a jacket looked nice, made the dress unique. I should’ve foreseen the days of all-nighters I’d have. 

Three hours? My stomach twisted like a garlic knot; my eyelids were determined to close; and my finger bled needle-size raindrops. Thank God the fabric wasn’t white.  

All I wanted was sleep.

Ginina slept peacefully. As Ms. Perfect Interior Design major, she finished her project early. Of course. Probably dreaming about her model boyfriend back home in Costa Rica. No, I wasn’t jealous…maybe a teeny tiny pea size bit. Okay, grapefruit size, but no more. Right then I’d take sleep over a boyfriend. 

My head nodded as I drew blood again. “Ow!” I shrieked, waking Ginina. 

“What time is it?” she asked, her long black curls dangling in her face. 

“About 6:00 AM.” 

“Did you finish your dress yet?” 


“Isn’t your class at eight?” 


“Oh, you poor girl.” Then she buried her head under her Laura Ashley sheet. 

Another hour passed and panic set in. The buttons were almost finished, but dozing off wasn’t helping. I still had to sew the hem plus iron the wrinkled mess of a dress. And I was a wrinkled mess too.  

“I can’t believe it! I’m gonna fail…” 

I tossed the dress on my chair and fell back onto the bed.  

Dream-life was peaceful. I got an A and was featured as an up-and-coming designer in Women’s Wear Daily magazine. No worries.  

Who’s shaking me? Get your paws off me! 

“Angie, wake up! You missed your class!” 

“So what? I failed anyway.” 

“Get your bottom up. Maybe she’ll let you hand it in late.” 

“Okay, Mom.” 

I dared to glance at the mirror. Wow! If you like the natural look with dark circles and wild weeds for hair—then I looked great. Almost two hours late and class ended in ten minutes, I still had to change my clothes. A fashion design major didn’t show up to class in sweat pants. I threw on a striped skirt, leggings, a black t-shirt…and deodorant. 

I breathed deeply and pushed open the class door. Most of the kids had left. Finished garments hung on mannequins.  

Ms. Bellini appeared from behind the mannequin.  

“Angie, dear, you missed the critique class. Where’s your term garment?” 

My voice choked as I tried to explain. “I…I tried hard to get it finished, but I…had so many buttons and I was so tired…” 

“Bring me what you have and I’ll give you a better grade than a zero. Hurry up. I’m only staying fifteen more minutes.” 

“Okay, be right back,” I said half out the door. 

Pigeons scattered, and I may have bruised some toes of a few unfortunate students in my way as I dashed back to my dorm. Ginina’s design papers fluttered to the floor as I flew in the room. 

“Slow down, girl.” 

“Sorry. Ms. Bellini is grading my dress in five minutes. See ya!” I grabbed the dress and ran.  

I hung the dress on a mannequin and attempted to smooth out wrinkles.  

Ms. Bellini click clacked over in her red high heels and designer suit. “Let’s see what you have here.” 

I held my breath as she inspected the dress. She wrote something in her paisley notebook, buttoned the jacket and wrote something else. She compared the dress to my sketch and scribbled some more.

“Nice silhouette. The jacket dips in and could be a flattering style. I can’t give you an A since you didn’t finish the hem or iron it, but I’ll give you a B. Next time, meet the deadline.” 

My eyes watered as I removed the pins from the mannequin. I could’ve hugged the headless body, I was so relieved. But that would’ve been weird. 

Turning back time, I would’ve prayed more, slept more, and skipped the buttons. 

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is (too many buttons.) Proverbs 14:8, revised. 


After graduating, I gave up clothes altogether (designing, not wearing.)








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