Ohio’s first lady wears professors’ gown to ball

Christina Stavale

Associate professor Sherry Schofield-Tomschin and Assistant professor Linda Ohrn show their suit model they created for Frances Strickland to wear during her husband’s inauguration yesterday. KATIE ROUPE | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

Five members of the Kent State community had something to be proud of as Ohio’s new first lady made her appearance at the governor’s inauguration ball on Saturday.

As Frances Strickland, wife of Ohio governor Ted Strickland, took part in the night’s festivities, she wore a gown two professors of the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising created specifically for her.

When Strickland decided she wanted something unique to wear to the ball, she contacted Kent State’s fashion department. Professors Linda Ohrn-McDaniel and Sherry Schofield-Tomschin then volunteered to design her gown.

In addition, Professor of Arts Janice Lessman-Moss, Rumana Hawa, former textile art student and Marcy Herman, senior textile arts major, created a shawl to accompany the gown.

Designing and creating Strickland’s attire for the evening was a month-long process for those involved. Lessman-Moss said she and the students came into the textile studio nearly every day during Christmas break to hand-weave the shawl.

The gown designers worked just as hard, putting in an estimated 300 hours, Schofield-Tomschin said.

The process began when the designers met with Strickland and exchanged ideas for the gown.

“She was open to our ideas, very easy going and great to work with,” said Ohrn-McDaniel.

Schofield-Tomschin said Strickland’s only requests for the dress were that it be purple and “not too full.”

The designers presented Strickland with different gown designs. One of the ideas that struck her was Ohrn-McDaniel’s design for her own wedding dress, which had embroidered text on it.

“She really liked the idea,” Ohrn-McDaniel said. “We incorporated that into the design of her gown.”

The text is embroidered vertically and contains information about Strickland and her husband, his campaign and Ohio’s history.

Schofield-Tomschin said this project was unlike anything she has done before.

“I’ve done design work for museums and competitions before,” she said. “This was done for a specific person. I’ve never designed for someone of such status.”

Both Schofield-Tomschin and Ohrn-McDaniel said one of the most exciting parts of the whole process was seeing people’s reactions to the gown.

In creating the accompanying shawl, the textile designers worked alongside the gown designers and Strickland to create something to perfectly complement the dress.

“The biggest challenge was to make the shawl look interesting and drape in a way to make it wearable,” Lessman-Moss said.

The design for the shawl was based on one of Herman’s ideas for her senior show. She, Lessman-Moss and Hawa then adapted the design to match the gown. Lessman-Moss said they took into consideration factors such as the occasion and Strickland’s age and status when choosing a final design.

“The textile studio has so much advanced equipment, but we decided on a simple and basic structure,” she said.

An August 2006 graduate, Hawa said she never expected to be involved in something like this just months after graduating.

“I’ve made scarves before, but not for the governor’s wife,” she said.

The designers of Strickland’s attire all agreed it was a wonderful opportunity.

“It’s always great as an artist to see things being used and appreciated right away,” Lessman-Moss said.

Schofield-Tomschin said part of what made the experience so great was that Strickland was such a wonderful person.

“She was a dream to work with,” she said.

As an extra bonus, the designers all received tickets to the inaugural ball to personally see Strickland in the attire they designed.

“It just shows you should take every opportunity you can get.” Herman said.

Contact news correspondent Christina Stavale at [email protected].