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Last Saturday, CU’s Fashion Design Student Association put on a fashion show at Absinthe House. The event was an impressive display of the talent and dedication of everyone in the club, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it. As the only club of its kind on campus, FDSA offers a unique opportunity to learn how to design and sew clothing on a campus that doesn’t offer a fashion major. The members of the club are all self-taught, and most of us had never sewn anything more complicated than a pillowcase before joining. We learn the basics from older members of the club and then start to discover new techniques on our own. Many times, it’s a lot of trial and error, experimenting and hoping it all turns out somehow.
Some of the members of the club see a future in fashion design. In fact the founder of the club, Rachel Hurst, has gone on to create a successful fashion line in Denver called the Fashion House of Rae Marie. She was even invited to show some of her work at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York as part of a promotion for Diet Pepsi.
For me, however, designing has always been more of a hobby. A stressful, frustrating hobby, but a hobby nonetheless. Designing is challenging. Coming up with ideas is fun, but it also can be hard to come up with something interesting and new. We usually have an overall theme that all the designers have to stay within, like “culture” or “decades” or “fairy-tale.” This time we decided to let each designer take whatever route they wanted. This resulted in a very eclectic show with a variety of inspirations, from thunderstorms to Helena Bonham Carter to animals to angels and demons to geometry.
My own theme was difficult to come up with. I knew I wanted to do something involving nature, particularly flowers. My pieces ended up being tied together with a kind of kitschy quirkiness, exemplified with the unifying feature of bright plastic flower beads that I purchased from Joann’s for about a buck. I realized that the most important element to me is color. In this case, my color scheme told a story of the transition between spring and summer, from light pale pastel colors to brighter, bolder summery hues.
The sewing itself is even more challenging. Conceptually, it’s difficult to work out how all the pieces of fabric fit together, and it’s very easy to get things wrong. You somehow mess up and put something inside out or sew the front to the back or otherwise ruin everything, and then you have to take out a seam ripper, tear out all your hard work and start back at the beginning. Or the sewing machine that was working fine suddenly malfunctions and there’s a snarl of thread where seconds before there were nice, straight stitches. After you work through the setbacks and everything seems perfect, you do a fitting with your model. And it’s too small. Or it’s too big. And then you get to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to alter it to make it fit.
The process isn’t helped by the fact that the show always comes right before finals. So I end up staying up until 2 a.m. finishing my collection the night before when I really should be staying up until 2 in the morning writing papers or studying.
Even once I had decided on a theme and finished sewing, the actual day of the show was a slow descent toward a quiet, internal panic session. I’ve been in the club since freshman year and have done six shows, yet I never seem to get less nervous. This year was our first time using Absinthe House as the venue, which presented a new challenge.
I could tell as soon as we got there; however, that it was going to be a great show. The dark, ambient atmosphere lent itself nicely to a fashion show. We all squeezed backstage into the VIP room. It was a bit crowded since there are 10 designers, with between one and 14 models each. The energy and anxiousness began to rise as show time approached. I can only imagine what it must feel like backstage in a professional fashion show during New York Fashion Week.
Occasionally I glanced out at the audience. There was a steadily increasing crowd, filling 80 chairs and then another 20 or so people standing. I went out second to last, so I had to wait and feel even more nervous while everyone else goes and returns, carefree. I shouldn’t have felt so anxious. After all, the models were the ones walking down a catwalk in stilettos. But I knew that I would have to go out and talk about my collection and the inspiration behind it, and I was a little afraid of sounding like an idiot. And the thought of seeing everyone’s reactions to my clothes always makes me nervous.
The moment finally came and went in a rush of adrenaline as I fumbled through my speech and watched my models take off. But when I saw my friends in the audience smiling as my creations sashayed down the runway, I felt a sudden rush of satisfaction and pride.
The show only lasted about an hour. We all were a bit surprised when we realized it was over at 7 p.m. All the long hours sketching up ideas and toiling away over a sewing machine, all the model coaches where they practiced walking and posing over and over again… all our hard work for a few fleeting minutes on the runway. But those few minutes and the applause that follows are thrilling. Yes, sewing can be a stressful, frustrating hobby, but it’s amazing to be able to share my creative outlet with so many people as part of such an exciting event.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Karyssa Cox at Karyssa.email@example.com.