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Dressed to Thrill

photos by Sarah Barry

Buffalo State Fashion Department is cutting edge

The clouds clear and sunrays poke out to illuminate the backyard of the Albright Knox art gallery. It’s the perfect day for a photo shoot and today’s model is Grace Modi, who is wearing a cotton dress emblazoned with dozens of Artvoice logos. We are at the Albright Knox, across the street from Buffalo State College shooting for the inaugural Artvoice Fashion issue. The dress that our cover model is wearing was custom made by the Buffalo State College fashion department with the help of lecturers Erin Habes and Maggie Keef; and Associate Professor and Chair of the Fashion and Textile Technology Department, Lynn Boorady. We talked to Boorady this week about Buffalo State’s state-of-the-art fashion department, located in the campus’ new technology building.

Artvoice: Could you give me a little history of Buffalo State’s Fashion Department?

Lynn Boorady: I’ve been with Buffalo State for four years so I don’t have a whole lot of history but I can tell you that we came out of Home Economics, maybe 50 years ago. Most recently we were with the department of technology, and just this last year we became our own standalone department with the creation of the new technology building. We’re the sixth largest department on campus. We’ve grown over 300 percent over 10 years.

Valuejet VJ 1638 dual head high speed printer printing approximately four yards of fabric for a custom Artvoice dress.
Model Grace Modi is scanned by Buffalo State College's TC Squared NX16 3D Body Scanner.
Lynn Boorady demonstrates the body scanner's software.
Erin Habes helps sew the dress.
Modi showing off the final version of the Artvoice dress.

AV: What do you attribute that growth to?

LB: A few things: Getting the word out about our department, but also an increase in interest in fashion due to TV shows like Project Runway. More people are realizing fashion is a business. What you’re getting with us is a business degree with an emphasis on fashion. And where in the world do people not wear clothing? We’re one of the top five industries in the world.

AV: How has the new technology building changed the fashion department?

LB: We’re all in one space now. We were split between a couple of buildings before. So now all of our equipment, all of our classrooms, all of our offices are all inside the same space. When we moved into the new space we got all new equipment, which is all state-of-the-art. The body scanner is something we didn’t have before; the fabric printer is something we didn’t have before. Along with all this new technology, now everything we were talking about before, we can actually show our students how it is done, and they can take advantage of this technology.

AV: Tell me about the TC Squared NX16 3D Body Scanner.

LB: TC Squared is the name of the company that makes it. Their full name is the Textile/Clothing Technology Corporation. They’re based out of North Carolina. The machine cost about $40,000. This is one of the more expensive machines because it scans from head to toe. We got it two years ago in anticipation of moving into the new building and we’ve been using it ever since we received it. We use it to body scan all of our models so that when we make clothes for them it requires less fitting. I use it to body scan different populations to create clothing sizes for that population. For example Speedo does the same thing for athletes as a population. Speedo goes out to swimming events all over the world and body scans swimmers so they can have a better idea of the shape of their customers. Swimmers have a tendency to have a strong upper body, even the women, so they have to make sure that the suits fit that particular body type. It’s not the body type of the average person.

AV: So the machine has many uses including incredibly practical uses like helping to create a bathing suit that is aerodynamic.

LB: Exactly. It also does body fitness. We have people in the general public who get body scanned so they can keep track of their weight loss. I can track exactly where they are losing inches and I can track their body mass index for them.

AV: What is the most relevant use for the fashion department at Buffalo Sate?

LB: For our department we body scan our models and take that three dimensional model and put it into pattern making software so we can make patterns to fit that person. It’s so much faster than doing it by hand. Think about it: if I give you a measurement like a 38 inch bust, well you don’t know how much of that is in breast size or in the width of her back. A number says nothing, whereas a 3D image tells you this is the front and this is the back. Patterns fit so much better this way.

AV: How does it work?

LB: It’s a light source. It creates a series of grids on your body and the software sees how the grids wrap around your body from head to toe, front and back. It then creates a model based on that topography, allowing us to create custom garments.

AV: Can you describe the process you used to have to go through to acquire the same information? Were there a lot of tape measures involved?

LB: A lot of tape measures. We would have to have them come in, we would have to measure them, make a pattern and hope it fits. Then fit them to the garment. That might take two or three times to get the fit right. If we ever had a question about how long to make a skirt or something we would have to go back to the person. Now all we have to do is go back to the image and we have an exact number. It was a lot of trial and error and it took a lot of time. Now we’ve reduced all of that time.

AV: What do you see in the future for this technology?

LB: Right now we’re at the edge and we’re waiting for the industry to catch up. Brooks Brothers and Costco already have these body scanners to tailor custom suits. Body scanning is getting easier and less expensive. Maybe someday we’ll have these body scanners in our homes. If you’re familiar with the Xbox Connect system, well that’s a body scanner. Think about using your Xbox to scan you, sending that information to a catalog and having perfectly customized clothes sent to you.

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