June 15, 2024

Fashion Design

Fashion Designs that Enlighten the Soul.

Fashion assistant professor uses technology to reconceptualize fashion design – The Creative School

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Caron Phinney and students craft dress forms from 3D scans of diverse body types

By: Chloe Bard

February 27, 2024

Fashion Professor Caron Phinney, along with PY Chau, Sandra Tullio-Pow, Ben Barry, and research assistant Delfina Russo collaborated with the Design + Technology Lab to pilot the integration of designing for diverse body types into fashion design courses. The students utilized 3D scans of women with diverse body types to develop croquis and sketch clothing concepts. They then constructed foam dress forms to match these body shapes and created basic pattern blocks tailored to these forms, enabling them to design apparel in non-standard sizes. 

“Fashion can include all sizes, and all bodies deserve to be clothed in properly designed and fitted garments,” said Phinney.

Five body forms made of white foam on a table in the Design + Technology Lab

Foam dress forms created in the Design + Technology Lab

Clothing is an essential aspect of our daily lives. Although the retail landscape includes a seemingly vast array of clothing choices, there is a gap in styles for women who do not conform to the standard ready-to-wear sizes. Phinney believes the gap is reinforced by fashion education that prioritizes thin-centric, hourglass-shaped dress forms and excludes diverse body types from the fashion design process among students. 

With more than a decade of experience in technology-based fashion education, Phinney teaches students how to leverage 3D body scanning, computer-aided pattern making, and Gerber technology to become technically proficient and socially conscious designers.

Designing for diversity using technology

A Kuka robotic arm carves a 3D form out of white foam on a table in the Design and Technology Lab.

3D form carved by a Kuka robotic arm in the Design + Technology Lab

A hand uses sandpaper to smooth the white foam carved forms

Sanding the carved forms 

The process of creating diverse dress forms starts with a quick body scan of women that is completed in a matter of seconds. Then these scans are modeled and fabricated using a 3D development software called Rhino at the Design + Technology Lab. The resulting body mesh made up of foam is then sculpted using the Kuka robotic arm and glued together to replicate a traditional form. Once the form had been carved, students refine the form through sanding to accentuate the body contours and then apply a paper mache mixture to coat it. 

“We started the process in October with the scanning,” said Phinney. “The last part, which was just completed last week, was to apply the base to the form. But if we were to complete it now, with no breaks, I would say that the entire process would take about one week.”

Caron Phinney stands beside a slideshow of her work titled Designing For Size Diversity: Reconceptualizing The Fashion Design Process Through Technology. She is talking into a microphone in front of a seated audience in The Catalyst.

Caron Phinney presents her work at RUBIX 2024

Phinney hopes designing with diversity in mind will become the standard, in both the classroom and in the fashion industry. 

“Size diversity can no longer be a box that is checked,” she stated. “It is not enough to have a singular plus-sized model on the runway or in an ad. We need to change our perception of the ideal body form and teach how to design for a variety of sizes.”

Caron Phinney stands beside a slideshow showing images of three participants, each standing beside a white foam 3D model of their torso. Caron is talking into a microphone in front of a seated audience in The Catalyst.

Participant pose with the models created from 3D scans of their bodies


The Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University

The Creative School is a dynamic faculty that is making a difference in new, unexplored ways. Made up of Canada’s top professional schools and transdisciplinary hubs in media, communication, design and cultural industries, The Creative School offers students an unparalleled global experience in the heart of downtown Toronto.


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