I Wanted To Be a Fashion Designer

I was reminded when writing about my #FaceForward and future goals that I never wanted to work in technology. Not really, anyway. I had dreams of going to New York and being a fashion designer. Mind you, this was before the Project Runway days so I truly had a very limited picture of what the grueling behind-the-scenes life of a fashion designer looked like, but still, that’s what I was convinced I wanted to do.

I Wanted to be a Fashion Designer (But Why I Didn't Follow That Dream) // hellorigby seattle fashion blog

I wouldn’t say that my parents particularly discouraged it, but my mom definitely did not encourage me to move so far away. For most of my childhood, my mom was known as the “quilt lady.” To say that sewing was in my blood is an understatement. I spent most of my childhood either wrapped in a quilt my mom made, or someone else she met along the way had made. I learned to sew when I was about 5 or 6 and entered my first quilt in the local state fair. (Nerd alert!) I ended up taking home multiple ribbons, including Best in Show (for my age category… not the big leagues!), first place, and a few other awards.

With that said, quilting doesn’t exactly translate to clothes-making. My first time trying to create something from a pattern was a nightmare. I have no idea what it was, I just remember it wasn’t quite what I had imagined. Not enjoying following directions too much, I eventually started making clothes from recycling old ones. I’d hit up Goodwill and Value Village for odd men’s t-shirts and the craft store for blank tote bags and fabric. Freebie tees were my jam as they were prime for cutting up without worrying about ruining a beloved top. I’d tear seams, rip them up, cut off sleeves, and Frankenstein them back together.

My favorite creation ever was my Audrey Hepburn tote bag. I took a tote bag that had a logo on it and covered it up with a piece of white fabric. Then, I stenciled the famous photo of cigarette-holding Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s on it. Then, I decorated the edges of the fabric with lace, buttons, and trim. It was my most complimented piece in high school, and I basically used it until the seams gave way and it was beyond salvageable. I really wish I had photos of this and my other “creations” but after looking through all of my photos throughout my high school years I’ve come up with nothing. Keep in mind, these were the days before usable cell phone cameras!

At some point, my dream of becoming a fashion designer faded away. I think it was a combination of things: First, my parents mostly refused to pay for me to go to school in New York. (Because hello, expensive! To the tune of $45,000+ a year not including room and board!) Second, I think I just came to the realization that it wasn’t practical. I don’t do well with a huge amount of stress and instability (hi, anxiety!), nor did I really want to be so far away and on my own. So, I stuck around Washington, went to school for communications in a tiny Eastern Washington town, changed my mind again when I got there, enrolled in a different program, graduated, started a job, and here I am.

I was also reminded about these dreams when I was invited to speak and run a workshop at a local college for 175+ high school students… who, like little 15 year old me, have an interest in fashion. If I’m being honest, I had no idea what to say to them. I kind of felt like a fraud considering I didn’t follow my original dream. But at the same time, I don’t feel bad that I didn’t go to New York. A lot of people I went to high school with did, and then proceeded to come home 6 months to a year later and go back to their retail jobs. In some ways, I’m jealous that they followed that dream, even if it didn’t pan out. The practical side of me says otherwise.

I guess what I’m getting at is just because I gave up on my dreams doesn’t mean that anyone else should. So what I told those teens and young adults is that sometimes dreams don’t work out the way you originally planned, but they might turn into something you never imagined. For me, my fashion “career” is here on this blog where I can explore it my own way.

Did you have any dreams that you gave up on or didn’t follow? Do you regret that or did you end up somewhere better instead?


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16 thoughts on “I Wanted To Be a Fashion Designer

  1. Audrey

    I’m right there with you. When people ask me if I like my job I always say that it’s nothing I dreamed about while studying in school. I got my communication degree because I didn’t follow my original plan to study history. I didn’t want to be a teacher so everyone said a history degree would be worthless. (I wish now that I’d have pursued it!) We live and we learn and we adjust and we grow!
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    1. Jenn Post author

      I definitely never thought I would be working the job I am today, and I have a hard time picturing myself at a desk job forever. I hope we’re both able to find something more in line with what we dream(ed) about, Audrey! :)

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  2. Celeste

    When I was little I had plenty of dreams I didn’t follow! I wanted to be an artist (which I still do art, but not as a career), and author (same thing), a zoologist, an architect/interior designer, and a travel journalist. Right now I’m going to school for IT studies, hardly similar to any of those!

    I don’t regret it, because I know the job outlook is nice. I actually enjoy doing all of those as a side hobby!

    I actually had a dream of going to UW, (Seattle is actually my favorite city!) but out-of-state tuition is basically ridiculous. So, I stuck with a local college, which I don’t regret at all because I’ve met some amazing people, still have plenty of my old friends with me, and will have little to no debt after I graduate due to good scholarships and instate tuition and state programs.
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    1. Jenn Post author

      Oh man, out of state tuition is insane! I think staying local is a great choice – it’s so much more cost effective and now you won’t be stuck with the insane loans that so many have who did opt to go out of state! Like you mentioned, I think having great hobbies is so important as an adult!

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  3. Jae

    I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree in Journalism or Mass Communications/Communications Arts in college, but that was the time when there’s a spike in media ambush in the Philippines. Granted I got to work with one of the prime television news network, I’d definitely be assigned doing field work as a neophyte. For that reason, my mother discouraged me into going down that path.

    It’s funny because when I graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering, I ended up working in a publication company. I enjoyed my 4+ years working there, and I’m looking forward to working in the same industry again. My blog serves as my form of “journalism”, and I’m OK with it because I’m having fun.
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    1. Jenn Post author

      I think that’s a great perspective, and I’m glad you found an industry that you really love and connect with! It’s funny it aligns so much more with your original desires versus what you studied!

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  4. Carey

    Yes! I was also desperate to be a fashion designer! I moved from a small town in Oregon to Los Angeles with that goal in mind. Years later, here I am, a former stay at home mom starting a style blog and enjoying living my version of the dream. I feel like all those years of not achieving my goal helped me to understand who I really am, and what I want out of life. This time I’m not giving up as easily!

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  5. Carly @ Let Us Wanderlust

    This is a really beautiful post and so well written. I had dreams when I were younger but they changed as I got older and wanted other things from life like job stability and the ability to travel lots. When I was young I wanted to be an actress, then a TV journalist, then a doctor. None of those are were I headed but I feel like things turned out for the better anyway! Love your advice to the school students! X
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    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw, thank you Carly! Agreed, I think having a stable income and career is better than what it could have been. Glad things worked out for you as well!

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  6. Becca

    I wanted to go to a tiny little Bible college in California. My parents said NO WAY, NAH-UH. I’m sure my life would be 1000% different if they’d agreed to it.

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  7. Autumn

    I wanted to be an ESL teacher in high school and in college, but couldn’t see where there was a job market for it. I ended up being a special ed teacher instead. I killed my dream because I thought it was more practical. After several years teaching special ed, I realized I loved teaching and teaching reading, but I couldn’t be happy in a job with so much liability and paperwork. I’m in grad school now to be an ESL teacher and I couldn’t be happier in the jobs I’ve had!!

    That being said, I wasn’t expecting to cycle back to that dream. In a way, you didn’t kill your dream, you changed it. You have a fabulous fashion blog and you picked something that would support your loves!!
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    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw, thanks so much Autumn! Love that you were able to circle back on your dream. I’m working on doing the same as well, even if it’s not exactly how I imagined it. ;)

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  8. Victoria (@treelinedavenue)

    We are so much alike! I too had dreams as child of being a fashion designer someday. I just thought it consisted of sketching designs and sewing a few pieces every so often (I still have never seen Project Runway). I loved Betsey Johnson and Luella and Isaac Mizrahi and was convinced I could follow in their footsteps. My mom wasn’t super encouraging either (because it isn’t a practical career choice…)

    I entered college completely unsure of what to do to follow my fashion design dreams (because like you, going to fashion school was completely out of the question- I considered it for a while but mostly the fashion schools were in LA or NYC and I didn’t want to be too far from home). So I just kept going to college without having any direction. Eventually, I transferred to a school in LA for fashion marketing but even though I felt pretty homesick, it was mostly way too expensive so not wanting to be in debt for the rest of my life, I came back home. I’m glad I at least tried it though (and I got a real taste of how snobby some of those fashion people can be, even my own classmates!). These days I still have hopes of working in fashion somehow (like you, my blog is my main source of fashion expression for now). Right now I’m in the process of gaining more sewing skills and just dipping my toes into everything that satisfies my creative desires, haha. I feel hopeful that me and you will get our taste of the fashion industry again somehow. :)

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    1. Jenn Post author

      Ha, we are super similar! I ended up taking a fashion merchandising course in college, and you’re right – the people in the course and even the instructors were awfully snobby! I absolutely hated the class and regretted signing up for it. It ended up being more about busy work projects than anything remotely fashion related… but oh well, we live and learn! I hope we’re both able to live out our fashion dreams one day too! :)

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