Fashion design students showcase talents


Photos and stories by Jessica Heerten

Coffee cups and half-eaten lunches litter the tables of the sewing lab. Fabric spills out of shopping bags, backpacks and over-sized purses. The buzz of voices, whir of sewing machines and metallic slice of scissors fill the room.

The line development class is just days from being done. Twenty-two senior fashion design students have spent the past few months in blur. They have designed garments out of re purposed fabrics, analyzed trends, researched consumer demographics and sketched idea after idea in the process of developing their individual fashion lines.

The lines are composed of three complete outfits that work together to create a cohesive fashion line. Each student has tailored her line to a specific demographic.

By dead week, each student has two outfits finished and a final one in progress. Their line books, a compilation of costing, garment specifications and styled photographs of their finished garments, are nearing completion. On Dec. 16, the students will be done.

After weeks of intense work and hundreds of dollars in fabric and supplies, the students are left to reflect: was it all worth it?

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Line development functions as a capstone course in the textiles department.

“In previous classes with the textiles department, you do specific assignments that aren’t related at all,” Alycia Nielsen, a student in the course, said. “It’s pretty cool that you actually get to follow through with a whole thought or concept.”

The course allows students to bring together the fragmented lessons they have learned over the past three or four years in the textiles department. The class feels more relevant to her future career than previous classes, Nielsen said.

Erica Huesinkvelt, another student in the course, agreed. “This is the first time we have gotten to create a whole line of clothes and learned how to make it cohesive and geared toward a specific target market,” Huesinkvelt said. “So you’re actually making clothes for the consumer. You’re not just learning how to make clothes on the form. They actually have a purpose this time.”

Barbara Trout, who teaches the course, schedules 2.5-3 weeks of work time for students to take each individual look from sketch to completion. Students get six hours of in-class time to work on their garments each week, but that is only the start. Students spend around 5 hours out of class time a week on the garments. And when due dates approach, Huesinkvelt said she spends the entire weekend in the lab.

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Creating the line of garments takes more than just time. The class can be expensive. Students spend anywhere from $200-$600 dollars on fabric, which is just a portion of the cost.

“You have to consider how much you’ve invested in the tools you already have,” Huesinkvelt said. “If you have your own sewing machine, you have to have it serviced and kept up. It’s not even just the fabric that’s the problem.”

Students track their expenses throughout the semester to know how much each garment would cost to produce. Huesinkvelt has spent around $300. Another student, Mai Do, has spent closer to $600.

Inspired by dress during the 17th century French Revolution, Do used heavy wools and rich velvets. The fabric was expensive but worthwhile.

“When you’re investing in fabric it’s always good to spend time looking for good quality fabric,” Do said. “In the long run it will be a lot easier to work with, versus if you have something cheap.”

Trout agreed that fabric is an investment. Quality fabric has body. It’s moldable. It accepts the needle without a fight. Quality fabric means the work will go faster, Trout said.

The garments and line book produced in this course often becomes the backbone of a student’s portfolio, Trout said, and that alone is a reason to invest time and money in the final product. In a creative and detail-orientated industry like fashion design, these portfolios can make or break a student’s job interview.

The department added line development to the curriculum around five years ago as a way to give students a near-industry experience. Employers want to know if students are capable of the research, planning and execution necessary to create a line.

Trout heads the internship program at UNL, helping students find quality internships and fielding calls from potential employers. Trout often bases her recommendations for students on the work they have done in line development: To what degree did they research trends? Did they meet deadlines? Did they focus their work to a niche? Did they organize their time to be productive? Did they take initiative?

“These are the things employers ask me,” Trout said.

While the class can be expensive and time consuming, in the end students agree the costs are worthwhile. No other class offers such a real-life experience. And no other class is as influential in getting them a real-life job.

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