Black dress project is an exercise in discipline, vision

Lauren Carll

Lisa Wilson, sophomore fashion design major, and fashion design instructor Archana Mehta critique Heather Haden’s black dress. Haden said her inspiration came from Geishas.


Credit: DKS Editors

It has happened to every girl.

She’s walking through the mall, and suddenly stops dead in her tracks to look at a window display with the one thing that every girl needs: the perfect little black dress.

There it is on the mannequin: a not-too-glitzy, not-too-flashy, what seems to be flattering-on-any-shape black satin dress with a few small details to make it unique.

Simple, right?

Well, the sophomore fashion design majors will say otherwise.

Fashion design instructor Archana Mehta said the Little Black Dress project challenges students, yet also allows them to use their imagination.

“We chose a little black dress because we give everybody the same fabric, which is black satin, and they have the same instructions for construction techniques,” Mehta said. “This project helps the students see how fittings and finishings for these types of garments are done because this is kind of a semi-high fashion evening wear assignment.”

Mehta said the students must follow a specific process in order to make the garments correctly.

“The students had approximately four weeks to work on the project,” she said. “That includes making the patterns, making the first muslin piece, rechecking the patterns, making alterations and then making the final dress.”

Jill Krieger, a sophomore fashion design major, said she thinks it is a good idea students make the muslin piece first. Muslin is a plain, white cotton fabric used to make “rough draft” garments.

“The muslin is more of an experimentation,” Krieger said. “It helps you catch any mistakes that you make, and it also helps in deciding what the final garment should look like.”

Krieger said she drew inspiration for her dress from something she wears every day: a ring.

“I wear my butterfly ring every day,” she said as she pointed down to the silver and rhinestone ring on her finger. “I wanted to make all of the shapes in my dress like the curves of the butterfly wings.”

Krieger said in addition to the black satin, she used white satin with a black lace overlay to provide a different contrast. She said she really enjoyed the opportunity to get creative with this project.

“This has probably been my favorite project,” she said. “We really got to experiment more than we normally do, and since we really didn’t have any limits with this project, we could do whatever we wanted.

“It was hard, though, because since we did have so much freedom, we had to narrow down the many ideas that we had. It was kind of a blessing and a challenge at the same time.”

Dartanya Butcher, a sophomore fashion design major, said she enjoyed adding her own touches to make the dress unique.

“I didn’t have a specific inspiration,” Butcher said as she used a seam ripper to make corrections on her dress, “but I got some of my ideas from things I’ve seen on the runway. It’s a micro-mini dress with princess seams, an empire waist and a deep-plunging neck.”

Butcher, who hopes to design women’s wear in the future, said the project helped students master the basics, but still create something that is their own.

“We had a lot more freedom and options,” she said. “We still worked with the basics, but we had more room to play and make our own creations.”

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Lauren Carll at [email protected].