The mentor¬-apprentice relationship, which was so crucial to the transference of these very specialized skills, has been lost to fashion design education. BDL is dedicated to the mentoring of Boston's young designers by empowering them with the Stylometrics system, enabling them to profitably produce their own couture designs on any scale, and settingup collaborations for business success.

Boston Fashion Week Ladder Award (below) was presented to Shirley in collaboration with Fashion Group International for her work in helping many young designers climb the ladder, through BDL, her work as Organizer for the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup Group, and a business consultant for the Center for Women & Enterprise

September 29, 2006
My Successful Chemise, 1957, Fad to Present Market Theory

In 1957, when working as a designer for a moderate dress house in Boston, I was inspired by the famous Balenciaga's "chemise" dress, and designed my own unique version with a bow on the back, for me to wear. It is a great story I have told hundreds of times since - "How fads are created, die, and sometimes reincarnated with a new name or form."



Read more....

                                     Sunday, September 24, 2006
My Famous Suede Evening Gown, 1971

This gown, in a very soft lambskin suede, has probably become the greatest highlight of my career: as a creative haute couture design, as an elegant FASHION SOLUTION IN ENGINEERING DESIGN and PRODUCTION, and as a very financially successful fashion business product. As you can see. I am most proud of the engineering design solution, and it has a fascinating story that has helped many young designers in recent years through mentoring them. ... Read more

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Over the past 25 years since I sold my high fashion design & manufacturing business, I taught occasionally some evening classes in fashion, one called “Fashion As A Business”, & another “Fashion/Pattern Design”, Most students were women in their 30s & 40s, who had gone to work after college in fields such as real estate, computers, administration, education, biology & health ­ none of which tapped their human ability & NEED TO CREATE. Fashion clothing & crafts offered them this opportunity, .... There are so very few that have learned these skills in engineering, or that want to sell for any beginners’ fashions. However, a few over the years have been persistent and realized they can learn & CREATE the technical & engineering solutions for their own creative designs. Some of these have become my protégés, and I’m very proud of them. .... Read more

Friday, September 15, 2006
I. ENGINEERING DESIGN, 2. Improving Engineering Education

.... The National Center for Technology Literacy (NCTL) at the Museum of Science is designed to work with educators, government and industry leadersTO INTEGRATE ENGINEERING AS A NEW DISCIPLINE AS EARLY AS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and continue it through high school, college and beyond.” ... “Engineering education has become too specialized É graduates can’t see the big picture. [And] American students are shifting away from engineering.” From my experiences for a decade working on engineering design grants in fashion from the National Science Foundation, I learned that these are some sad truths. I am attending the forum to offer to play a part repeating some creative seminars I did in the 1990s, “HAT ENGINEERING PROJECT” for 140 seventh grade students , and later 40 third grade students. The motivation for math and geometry to understand the 2-D & 3-D translations in pattern engineering of hats - was amazing! ..... Read more 

Thursday, September 14, 2006
I. ENGINEERING DESIGN: A. American Culture; 1. Engineering design in the fashion industry.

As we become more global and multicultural, we learn about all the cultures of the world. I asked what is America's culture? We have given many things to the world, but I believe they all boil down to fundamentally two concepts: ENGINEERING and CAPITALISM. My simple definition of engineering is “the planning for building or producing a product or a system”. Designing by itself is “the planning for the realization of an idea, whether an original idea or the implementation of an existing idea.” Together, engineering design, involves the planning, building or producing of an innovative idea into a product or a system, within specific industries. The fashion clothing industry has undergone both revolutionary and evolutionary changes in the 19th and 20th centuries. I would call every beginning of each part of the industry, engineering design. ....... read more


About Boston Design Laboratory
Boston Design Laboratory founder Shirley Willett has developed a new production pattern system called Stylometrics, which makes possible the efficient production of haute couture designs. Her experience reaches back a lifetime to when she worked as a stitcher in the very first apparel factories where European Jews and other skilled old-world tailors of Boston were using the world's first production patterns. She took this knowledge into her own couture manufacturing, selling to top stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bonwit Tellers, etc. Today she consults with many in fashion businesses.

        A panorama of some of my fifty years of vintage collections. The 7th, polka dots, is me at 25.

           Also I will gradually have larger photos of each in an album.