Spring 2016 Boot Camp, update #1

We’re moving right along, gearing up for the design portion of the boot camp which takes place Feb 25-29, 2016. Oh, I should mention that we filled all of those slots but we still have 7 openings for production which takes place May 27-30, 2016. Again, we’re making 250 house dresses for elderly ladies (more info).

Before I forget, one of the assignments our designers have is to host an open house for the Albuquerque community. We don’t have a set time yet but it will be in the late afternoon to early evening of Sunday, February 28, 2016 at our factory located at 410 Old Coors Dr.

Today our designers received their assignments and a schedule for their four days here and I’ll tell you a little about both.

First is that I decided that we will be taking a field trip on the morning of our first day. Everyone will meet here at the factory at 6:00 AM so we can leave by 6:30. I’m providing a hot breakfast and coffee beforehand (the factory has a full kitchen). We will be driving 90 miles northwest to Cuba NM which is where our “customer” lives. After getting some guff from internet-land, I decided that our crew needed a reality check. For the record, this is it:

Cuba NM (pop 735) is a very poor village. The per capita income is only $11,000. Really. There is no money for anything, the infrastructure is in tatters. For example, everybody worries about snow days but in Cuba, they worry about mud days. They get plenty of snow but mud is the killer. They have to cancel school if the mud is too deep for the school buses to get through. People who are fortunate enough to have jobs, have to time their arrival and departure for when the mud is hard enough to drive on. Once spring hits though and the mud doesn’t freeze… people are often stuck at home for days. For some people, or rather many, it is a hardship but bearable as many are subsistence sheep herders (yeah, there are still places like that in the United States). At the same time, they have macro nutrients (beans, potatoes) but very few micro nutrients (green vegetables). This causes many health problems; the worst are obesity and it is common for elementary school aged kids, to lose all of their teeth by middle school.

This go round, we decided to target elderly women because many elderly people do not even have social security. They don’t have birth certificates and are far from services to navigate the morass of getting one, to say nothing of expense -and that is assuming they can find providers who can converse with them in their native (literally) tongue. The State and Federal government does provide some services, mostly limited medical and dietary but nothing after that.  Our contact in Cuba says that everyone is very excited that we will be coming to visit. None of them have ever met a fashion designer.

And for the record, internet-land, stop telling me that you are elderly and would never wear a house dress. Unlike you, our “customer” is not middle class or better, educated, financially stable, anglo or concerned about keeping up “appearances” in town. Our contact says that the ladies are very, very excited and can’t wait to get nice, new house dresses to replace the ones they’ve been wearing. Moving on.

Our designers got their assignments today which were:

1. Make an appointment to interview a social worker or nurse at an elderly care center in your community. Or, visit a senior center.
Note: we are not making apparel for nursing home residents but we do need to know about any special dressing needs our customers may have. Keep in mind that our customers are not likely to ever go into a nursing home, even for low income, based on cultural parameters. Meaning, our customer is most likely to be cared for by family members in their own homes.

2. Collect a list of limitations our customers may have with respect to dressing and come up with features that address those.

3. Make note of sizing variations, particularly with respect to height and weight. Beth (our contact) says that we should only need two sizes S and M and while you can’t confirm that in your community (hopefully can confirm in Cuba), it will give you an idea.

4. Come up with at least 3 sketches reflecting the above.

5. You are welcome to create patterns and samples if you like and have time but this is not required. You can also bring samples if you have them.

6. Come up with fabric sources for cotton poly prints. We will be purchasing the fabric. I mean, if we get lucky with a donation, I will be over the moon but I don’t want to always be going to people with my hands out or they’ll start to avoid me. And my customers.

That is all for today -if you are interested in participating, we still have 7 openings left for the 4 day production phase. You can find out more and register here.





6 thoughts on “Spring 2016 Boot Camp, update #1

  1. Yes, people can get over the housedress thing. They were/are very practical, cool in the summer, and dressy enough to meet someone at the door. My mother wore housedresses, as did the women of the town i grew up in, and my father was not poor. Funny that these days we can call a dress a shirtwaist and it is OK and another dress a housedress and it is not. Anyway, I applaud your endeavor and if a small donation would be acceptable, I would like to do that.

  2. Sounds great, Kathleen!

    Years ago, I found a “designing for disabled” textbook that opened my eyes to the design issues/solutions when designing for handicaps.

    I look forward to following this project!

  3. I used to follow your blog, but with a computer crash and forgotten UN/PW I not longer have full access to your site.

    I just saw this post and I think it is a wonderful idea to make new housedresses for women in need. In the 60’s and 70’s when I was a girl some of the neighbourhood ladies and one of my grandmothers always wore them.

    A couple things I remember clearly were the front closure, sometimes a zipper, sometimes snaps and pockets, nice deep pockets. Mostly floral prints, sometimes seer sucker.

    They were very practical dresses.

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