504 Main by Holly Lefevre: Writer's Workshop: My Fashionable Life
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Writer's Workshop: My Fashionable Life

By the time I was ten my life was planned out - that's what I do. I spent my days drawing clothing, people, shoes, jewelry, and especially wedding dresses {yes, I have those drawings, remember I am borderline hoarder}. I spent my days dressing up and shopping and soaking up the pages of Vogue and Elle. By the time I was done with fashion, no one would even remember Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld or Christian Lacroix. I was going to take over fashion...and perfume...and footwear...and hosiery...and handbags...and sunglasses. I had created a fashion empire...in my mind.

I followed this path, this grand plan right into college. As a Junior in high school I made the decision to attend The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising - FIDM - {long before LC on The Hills went there and made it uber famous}. I reveled in it...I soaked up every minute. I made patterns, I drew sketches, I painted with watercolor, I learned how to really sew. It was heaven! It was the stuff of my dreams. 
Of course {there's always an of course - right!} my dreams were a victim of reality as well. FIDM was located in the garment district, and as a girl who had always lived near L.A. she rarely ventured into it - the BIG city - this was an eye opener. It was dirty, it was busy, it was not quite what I thought it would be. While our main classes at FIDM were in a brand new building, our sewing classes were in another building that was, quite frankly a little scary and quite possible unsafe - yes, I also got to experience an earthquake in this building {that was fun}.

The other issue - the people...there were some seriously cut-throat students in these classes - really at 20 years old +/- how do you become that snide and vicious! I saw plagiarism, I saw students who would buy garments and try to pass them off as their own, I saw students who hired people to make their patterns and do their sewing {Project Runway has nothing on real-life fashion school!}. I always want to believe the best, but that was not going to cut it anymore. I quickly adapted and could not wait to get out of school and get moving on my plan.

After school I landed a job. Oh yeah, baby! After all that time and money for school, I did not expect to come out of the gate with a 6-figure salary, but I expected more than I was making at my retail job. I finally succumbed to a position as Assistant Designer for a small women's clothing company. This was just to get my feet wet of course...my talents would soon be discovered and I would be in a big beautiful design room drinking champagne.

This didn't happen. The first job was, in hindsight, wonderful. That boss was amazing and I realized I left too soon, but it was too late. So where did my dreams, my plans made at ten years old lead me....
...to a second floor design room shared with multiple species of cockroaches. A place where I had to wrap my purse in heavy plastic so I would not take any of the little residents home with me. 
...to a job where I was constantly having to allude the advances of a perverted, disgusting boss.
...a place where we had to bring our own toilet paper because the boss thought some of the workers were stealing it so he would leave 1 roll a day in the toilet for 20 employees. 
...to multiple jobs where my "hot" 20-something self fended off the advances of fabric sales reps (and the like) 20-30 years my senior on a daily, sometimes hourly basis {I may have, just may have, dated one or two of the more successful ones, just sayin'}.
...to job offers that promised 7 days a week of work. The most unbelievable statement I ever heard from a perspective employer, "I had a kitchen built onsite so I could make everyone dinner on Saturday night." Really, You are offering me a pittance of a salary and you want me to sell my soul to you.

When it all came down to it, I choose to work for small companies. I chose a work/life balance {working on that right now with blogging} instead of big time/big name companies and potentially bigger advancements. What I was doing had lost it's luster, and honestly I blame much of that on my experience at the company with the perverted boss {an evil designer also worked there} who really ruined at lot for not just me but for many.

After almost 10 years in the business I left...at the urging of my new husband...to begin a wedding planning career. Now, was it all bad...no. I learned, I grew, I tested my patience and my skills. I became more worldly. I came out of my shell. I learned the ways of the real world a little more. Would I trade it...no...unless, perhaps I was trading it for a fashion line {or two} and perfume and footwear...and hosiery...and handbags...and sunglasses. I think I am ready now.

What were you planning on doing when you were a kid? Are you doing it?


Playing along with Writer's Workshop and prompt #3 "If you had made a career out of whatever you were passionate about when you were ten…what would you be doing?"
Mama's Losin' It

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  1. You know, its funny you should write this, because I was kind of thinking about this the past couple days. How what I wanted as a kid, isn't what I'm doing now...

    When I was little, I just knew I was going to grow up to be a doctor. In high school, I had my mind dead set on being a psychiatrist. But come my senior year and college applications, I put Marketing as my prospective major! Still not sure where that came from. Needless to say, I'm now 6 years into college, still not positive as to what I'm doing, but I'm settling with Human Resources.

    ...Its funny how life gets in the way of our dreams.


  2. It's interesting to see how our young lives helped us become who we are today!

  3. Whao.. a designer!! You really have lovely drawings.. it did help you in deciding which field of work for you.

  4. Wow.. I totally just got transported and sucked into that story like when your in the zone reading a really fantastic novel. Never happened in blogland before! Hehe

  5. Holly, unlike many people at that age, you had a vision and direction. And you pursued it. Those ten years got you experience in both your field of interest, and in life. And now, whether you realize it or not, the combination of your wisdom and your talents has you right where you need to be.
    Sunglasses, handbags or not.

    Life is good.

  6. Holly, this was really neat. I enjoyed walking down memory lane like this with you...so much of what you said was incredibly eye opening to me.

    I think you should try out for PROJECT RUNWAY! I would vote for you, cheer you on, and I know that Tim wouldn't let there be cockroaches there at all!

  7. I am so thrilled to learn a little bit more about you, Holly.
    I always knew you were a fashion maven, but I did not know that you were so accomplished. Yes, you were, and are now, just in a different way.
    Isn't life so darn interesting? I love it's twists and turns, it's lessons and even some of it's lumps!
    Sounds like you have had some colorful and growing area in your life... it makes you the wonderful and unique person you are!
    xo Yvonne

  8. Oh, Holly, I'm so sad for you that some awkward people got in the way of your dream, whwn you were at such a vulnerable age.

    I used to draw like you when I was little. I've always loved fashion and design but never felt a desire to pursue it as a job. I don't think it was presented as an option to me when I was thinking about it all. I didn't know know there was such a job!

    This post was enthralling! You're a great writer as well as a great designer!


  9. I so enjoyed learning a little more about you!

    When I was a child I wanted to be an artist. Seriously. But, in my mind, I would never measure up to the fantastic artistic talent of my older sisters.


  10. Anonymous5:33 AM

    I really like the way you show the link between each event in one's life building to who the person is today. It's' true, each experience makes a difference shaping a person. The other students, I'm sorry to learn that *any* group could be like that, seeking to drag others down in a vicious manner. But good for you for taking even that awful job experience and learning what you *don't* want, and how to find a new avenue that fits you, and captures some of that feeling that you had when you were little!

  11. Enjoyed reading your story. It is always amazing to look back to remind ourselves of all that we have done. It also helps remember why we started on a path to begin with.

  12. Great writing Holly! When I was 10, I always thought I'd be a veterinarian. Then I went to college and realized how hard it was to become actually become one. I think I just wanted to pet and play with the animals, but didn't realize I'd actually have to fix them.

    I did graduate with a degree in zoology. I worked for a year at the humane society in Phoenix, but ultimately ended up going a different direction with it when all was said and done.

  13. This was so interesting to read! I always knew I wanted to do something with art ever since I was very young. I knew there were a lot of different options, but I wanted to pick something reliable & interesting. In high school, I decided on graphic design and even transferred colleges after a year just to follow my dream. I don't think they really teach you about the "real world" in school though. You have to do what the client says and you don't get to make all the design decisions. While I like being creative, it's hard to design when I don't agree with it. I've been through 3 jobs since I graduated and tried some different aspects of graphic design. I think it will just take some time to find my niche.

  14. I think it's amazing that you went that far with your childhood dream!

  15. Life is not over Holly! You could still have that fashion line! :)

    I'm impressed you took a 10 year olds dream that far!

    I became interested in interior design fairly young. I don't think I had a word for it until my later teen years. I was always 'tweaking' things at my Granny's house. My room was always something I enjoyed making pretty...well as pretty as a poor girl can. ;)

    I even looked seriously into it in college. But in 1992 Interior Design wasn't what it is today and I was always scared I'd end up with a 'non-lucrative' degree. So, I chickened out and joined the Navy.

    Today, I'm an admin assistant, writing a blog, doing crafts and still dreaming of being an interior designer. :)

    And I still say 'someday' I will make that dream a reality!

  16. Oh, Holly! I was so excited to read this little insight. Fashion intrigues me I think because it can be so similar to crafting. Just different materials. But then, I can't imagine trying to craft professionally. I'm glad you've found something that makes you happy!

    I wanted to be an archeologist when I grew up (hellooooo, Indiana Jones!). But now I'm a biochemist. Less glamorous, but I'm happy. :)

  17. Wow! Being how I'm absolutely sure my daughter is going to work in the fashion industry, I'm glad her strong personality is going to be an asset. I never knew it was so crazy!

  18. I found your story so interesting! It's funny how life ends up. Still, I think being a wedding planner would use a lot of your design skills.

    And you never know where life will lead you ... you could still have that fashion line!

  19. So glad you like the birdcage card and that it got there relatively intact !

  20. I love how you had it all planned out and pursued it through your adult life - even with all of the craziness. That shows determination. I didn't come anywhere close to being what I wanted to be as a young girl. I dreamed of being a model. I entered a beauty contest but didn't win - obviously. I went on to work in cosmetics for Elizabeth Arden, then I got married and pregnant, AND overweight. Now I am just a country girl living on a farm ;)

  21. Anonymous12:36 PM

    That's pretty cool that you stuck through it for so long. I wanted to be a lawyer or librarian.. haha.. And am doing neither of those things, tho I do work for a lawyer doing bookkeeping.. but that's not the same thing at all..
    Stopped in from Mama Kat's.

  22. Wow. I never would have guessed! That dress looks wonderful!

    When I was a kid I wanted to be an author. I remember writing poems and stories (my mom still brings up some of them) but I didn't think I could ever really do anything with it.

    Surprise, surprise. Time passes and now I actually am a writer -- just not stories and poems.

    I don't think I have that kind of writing in me anymore. It's just not my thing. ;)

  23. I just found your gem-of-a-blog site. What insight you provide. Perhaps you'll end up designing the ultimate wedding dress line or wedding accessories line... It's in your blood and your heart so it will find a way to come out. :)
    I always thought I'd be a doctor.
    I did work in the medical field for 12 years as a radiation therapist treating cancer patients before leaving to have my daughter and then launching Out of the Blue Delivered. Not what I ever dreamed I would be doing... but I LOVE it!! Guess you could say that helping others during difficult times is what I'm meant to do.
    Funny the paths our lives take, isn't it?

  24. I love reading your story and the history of how you came to be the you you are today! Go holly!

  25. Holly, thank you so much for opening the window to that period of your life. We've touched on some of your experiences in college and after, but this really put the whole experience together and quite eloquently articulated what so many of us have gone through and where we find ourselves currently -- from our childhood dreams and aspirations, to our education and training, and where the path has lead since. It certainly is a long and winding road, and who knows where all those experiences will ultimately lead us?

  26. Holly, I enjoyed getting to know you more, facinating! I first found your blog through your wedding planning, by googleing images. I thought I've got to go to this gal's blog she is good! and boy was I right! Lezlee

  27. You did what I realized I should have done a bit too late. To make the short story long - I went to school for 4 years and graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. In my 3rd year I realized I should be doing something more art-related, but didn't know what. I had my sewing machine at school and when I wasn't studying (read: when I was procrastinating) I was making all my friends tops to wear out. After graduate school (MBA, Marketing Management) I realized that I should have gone to fashion school. Would I trade my life now? No way. Through my engineering job I met my amazing husband and now have an amazing family. But I always wonder what could have been...

  28. I barely remember this morning so I have no clue what I wanted to be at 10 but I know it's not what I'm doing.

    I'm envious of people that know what they are passionate about. I have no idea.

    I heard the people in art related fields are cutthroat.

  29. This was so great Holly. I love reading these writer workshops of yours. :)
    I was so all over the place when I was a kid with what I wanted to do when I grew up - and I think I'm still that way. Sometimes I wish I'd been more purposeful - but I also look at my life and I'm really happy so maybe not. :)

  30. Oh Wow, Holly! Great story. I'm so impressed with your vision, focus and desire. My 7-year old would never leave your side. She's LONGS to draw well and design anything that is fashionable. Has wanted to move to LA or NYC since she's been 5.5 (how she even knew about those places is beyond me...previous life, I think). :)

  31. I'm glad you shared your story. I got into blogging because I like to write, but lately, I don't have time to write because I am blogging. Know what I mean?
    It was refreshing to read. I don't really remember wanting to be anything other than famous. I always wanted all eyes on me. To this day, public speaking is not that big of a deal to me, but I turned out to be more of an introvert than I had planned. I love my time at the computer in my jammies...alone! I guess if I ever became a star I'd be like Greta Garbo or JD Salinger... :)

  32. Nope, never planned to be a receptionist :p
    One of the things I wanted to be was a writer, but that seemed like it would fall into the "starving artist" category - and I was much too big of a diva to go for a job like that!

  33. When I was ten it was either a doctor or a teacher. I can't remember now. I had the coolest doctor and an even cooler 5th grade teacher. Why wouldn't I want to aspire to be like them? Ummm...not a fan of germs or children who spread them.

    Writing and acting quickly became my passion. But not enough to really do anything about it. Blogging has changed that a little. I love my little corner of space where I get visitors all over the place. I don't get paid for it, but I am read and that makes me happy.

  34. Holly,
    Greetings from a newbie to blogging and to the Writer's Workshop. I truly enjoyed your post, especially what you said about choosing to work for smaller companies. The same was true for me, but it was in the newspaper biz. I look forward to visiting your blog again!

  35. Wow...sounds like you're in the best place you can be.

    But I'd love to see THAT reality tv show!

  36. Wow...sounds like you're in the best place you can be.

    But I'd love to see THAT reality tv show!

  37. Hey Holly. You followed your dream. You inspired me a fellow FIDM girl to be a better student. I had never seen someone work so hard. Double hard. I always aspire to be more like you. I have seen your last few posts. With all the flaws and struggles you state... If I was half the worker/ designer/Mom/writer/homemaker you are I would be happy :)


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