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Students toil -- designing, pinning, sewing, fitting -- to produce fashion show

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Joe Schwartz
fashion student
Robyn Wishna/Cornell University Photography
Candice Elliott '11 prepares for the Cornell Design League fashion show in a fiber science and apparel design studio.
fashion show
Robert Barker/University Photography

More than 200 original designs were shown in the 26th annual Cornell Design League (CDL) fashion show at Barton Hall, March 13.

The completely student-planned and run show featured original designs by 70 student designers, including 25 full-line collections by 11 third- and fourth-year design students. The spring show was the culmination of months of planning that began at the start of the school year.

"A lot of people do not understand how much detailed work goes into producing such an event," said Olesya Dergounova '10, a fiber science and apparel design (FSAD) major and CDL's vice president of events; she was in charge of organizing all of the music, stage design and front of house production for the show.

For student designers, the final weeks leading up to the show meant long hours in the studio sewing, making revisions to their designs and fitting the garments on models.

"You're completely in charge of sourcing all your fabrics and accessories. It's a lot to manage when creating 10 separate looks, and you're doing it all yourself," said Samantha Krotz, FSAD '10, who was responsible for coordinating the publicity for the show.

"Patternmaking is definitely the toughest part of the creative process because you make your pattern with muslin and fit it on the model, and then continue to refine the muslin. It's kind of a long process," said Laura Kung, FSAD '10, who experimented with textile design in her collection.

"I'm doing a lot of surface embellishment and surface design. I used the digital printer to print on fabric and also traditional silk printing by hand. I made sheer petals to sew on the surface for an additional decorative element," Kung said.

The designers -- many of whom are fashion design or apparel management majors, but the club welcomes students in any field -- drew inspiration from varied sources, including films, paintings, photographers and the fabric itself.

"I borrowed design lines and prints that are found in Jean French, a photographer who was really important in the '50s and '60s. I used a lot of presence of the shapes and lines that he used in his photographs, with kind of a Joan Jett rocker attitude," said Krotz.

For seniors, CDL offers a particularly unique opportunity to showcase their creative talents.

"It's important to put photos of garments on models in portfolios next to the conceptual and technical sketches," said Nicole Castelli, FSAD '10, who described her collection as having a Native American feel from the fabric she chose to use. "A great print fabric, inspired the colors for my line."

The designers choose their own models, who often must come into the studio for multiple pre-show fittings.

"I really like fashion, and I don't get to talk to people who are interested in it, so for me it's a lot of fun," said Melina Blees, a physics grad student who modeled for Castelli in the show.

"CDL offers students the opportunity to create without the restrictions of the client. In fact, the only restrictions are self-imposed," said Van Dyk Lewis, associate professor of FSAD. CDL also offers younger designers a chance to gain exposure to the fashion design process.

"It's a good experience to throw myself into, because I didn't have a lot of sewing experience, and they don't assume you do coming into the program," said Sally Schultz, FSAD '13, who designed an evening dress for the show. "The deep end is a good place to start."

Kristen Tauer '10 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.

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