Kate is a talented young fashion designer with big dreams, and with a few clicks of the mouse you can help take her gorgeous clothing creations from the fitting room to the catwalk. It’s all part of Fab Fashion, the latest time management game from Fuzzy Games and RealArcade.

Other casual games have explored the retail side of the fashion industry (Fashion Craze and Fashion Fits being two good examples), but Fab Fashion takes you to where it all starts: the designer’s studio. Kate’s big break comes when famous fashion critic Hans Linsenbigler takes her under his wing and gives her the opportunity to participate in her first fashion show. She only has a short amount of time to prepare, so every second counts.

At the beginning of each session, bath-robed models will begin arriving at Kate’s studio. She must take their measurements, cut the right color swath of fabric for each garment (as indicated on little pages on the backs of the models’ chairs), sew the garment at the sewing machine, then take it back to the model for a fitting. The outfit might also require accessories like a handbag or hat, and the model might need to get her hair styled to complete the look.

You can earn bonuses for chaining commands together and attending to the models quickly – depending on the color of the model’s robe, some are more impatient than others. If you manage to fill the meter at least half way before time runs out (achieving 3 stars out of 5), you’ll pass the level and get to participate in the bonus stage where Kate’s models strut their stuff and show off her designs on the catwalk. There’s a short mini-game here where people make offers on her outfits and you must quickly click on the highest bidder to maximize Kate’s profits.

In between levels you can spend money in one of three ways: upgrading the machines in Kate’s studio to run faster, buying turntables or bottled water to keep your models happy, or investing in new patterns for even more elaborate and beautiful outfits to make. This last step is the most important. Elementary outfits might be enough to satisfy small-town tastes, but Kate soon outgrows the mall fashion shows and heads for the big city, where tastes are more refined and snooty. If Kate doesn’t keep investing in fresh designs, she’ll become yesterday’s news and will find that her outfits don’t demand as much money.

Fab Fashion is a fast-paced game and does get quite hectic at times (and with no relaxed mode, you’ll always be battling the clock), but the learning curve is manageable and the difficulty is superbly balanced across all 48 levels and 6 bonus levels. Kate’s ability to hold an item in each hand and click ahead to queue up commands in advance are both welcome features. Another nice touch is the way you can stack two pieces of cloth on either the cutting machine or the sewing machine so that when the first one is finished, Kate can quickly get started on the second. The machines will work automatically when left alone, but you can complete a garment faster by clicking on it and making Kate finish it manually.

The most delightful part of Fab Fashion is definitely the outfits. There are an incredible 120 garment styles to purchase in the game – I didn’t run out of things to buy until the game was almost finished. Add to that five possible color choices, 110 accessories, 18 different hairstyles and five different model characters and the result is well over a thousand possible looks to create and enjoy.

And the outfits get more elaborate as they go – after all, high fashion isn’t just about clothes, it’s about artistic expression! Poofy dresses with fairy wings, futuristic anime-style cargo pants and jacket combos, and Valkyrie-inspired wearable armor are just a few of the outlandish outfits you can expect. My personal favorite: the Hydraulic Dress, made from actual rubber hoses and hydraulic parts.

Each show is recorded in a Scrapbook that shows pictures of all the outfits that Kate has created, as well as any achievements that have been earned (such as sell a dress for over $300, or create ten 5-star designs).

Complaints with Fab Fashion are few. The game has a nasty habit of stacking two garments on the same sewing machine unless you manage to very quickly click on two machines in time (which was my preferred way of doing things). I also found myself wishing that the turntable actually played music when it’s turned on instead of musical notes simply flying out of it. It’s easy to get engrossed in the action and not notice that the record has stopped playing, meaning it goes unused for the rest of the level. And finally, I was kind of hoping for some male models to eyeball.

Still, when it comes to time management games, Fab Fashion is right up there with the best of them. The game won us over with its superbly balanced gameplay, exquisite pacing, and by the sheer number of entertaining outfits to create. It’s a budding fashionista’s dream.