Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Students turn castoffs into cool

UC fashion majors transform thrift-store finds into stylish looks

By Gina Daugherty
The Cincinnati Enquirer

UC design student Katie Keller (front) and three of her models: Karla Lockhart (left), Lauren Borcherding and Stephenne Moho, all wearing Keller's designs.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
You'll be surprised at how fashionable thrift store castoffs can be when they get into the hands of University of Cincinnati fashion design majors.

Give each student $20, free reign at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and design freedom, and the 80 students in Design Construction studio can turn leather into lace. Well, almost.

For the last two years, sophomores were given only one rule in spending their $20 gift card: They could buy whatever they wanted so long as it could be sewed.

They returned to the classroom with lingerie, lace curtains, belts, baby blankets, men's ties, prom dresses and nursing uniforms. Their assignment? To transform the items into something else.

Old items, new uses

Katie Keller stitched men's ties together to fashion herself a tube top, and turned women's pants into a jean skirt. Erica Schultz made a tablecloth into a skirt. Jamie Goodfriend made women's blouses into a dress.

Belts became skirts. A leather purse became a shirt. The sleeves of a fur coat were made into leg warmers.

The new items, along with more conservative business attire and casual dress wear, will be modeled by the students who created them during RetroFittings Thursday.

Tricking the eye

Like what you see? You too can be fashion forward, as many of the garments will be up for grabs by silent auction.

"I wanted to make something that looked classy but still stylish and on the edge," says Keller, a junior from northwest Ohio. "I wanted to make it look like it truly didn't come from a thrift store. It tricks the eye and makes people do a double take. They wonder about it."

Keller admits her design is hard to describe. The tube top is made exclusively of men's ties, sewn together lengthwise, wrapped around the body and snapped in the front.

Ann Firestone, adjunct professor of fashion design, encouraged students to think of garments in a different way.

One student, Akarasun Seanglai, of Bangkok, took the advice literally. He turned a white, button-down shirt onto its side. One sleeve became the collar while the collar became an arm hole. The shirt now buttons down the side of the body.

Phyllis Borcherding, assistant professor of fashion design, says she saw the same button effect on fashion runways and recently in Vogue magazine.

Margaret Schroeder, also an assistant professor of fashion design, taught the course with Firestone and Borcherding. The three agree that given the freedom, students will surpass their expectations.

"Because they are young and on the edge and highly creative, they are able to do great things," Firestone says. "They had learned to sew 47 different kinds of seams and five different hems. They were delighted to do something more personal, and they wanted to make a statement."

Goodfriend, a third-year student, says she wasn't really a thrift store kind of shopper before the assignment. But with a $20 gift card in hand, she ended up with 35 shirts in an array of colors.

By the end of the assignment, she had patched the shirts together and made a dress.

"It was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be," Goodfriend says. "With shirts, you can only get so much material. Usually when you buy fabric, you account for a seam allowance."

Several students expressed surprise at how far $20 can go at thrift store. Some returned with bags and bags of items, purchased on discount days.

"You had to really look beyond the item and see what kind of potential it had that would make it more beautiful than it is now," Keller says. "The fact that this was our first creation, you can see how we have evolved. Some of us will go on to have our own shops or design for Abercrombie and American Eagle. It's something to see where we started and where we can go."

If you go

What: RetroFittings, a fashion show and auction by fashion design students from the University of Cincinnati, who made new clothes from thrift store finds.

Where: Empire Night Club, Newport on the Levee.

When: 6-9 p.m. Thursday

Cost: $10 in advance online at www.svdpcincinnati.org, or $15 at the door. Proceeds benefit the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Details: 562-8841, Ext. 25


E-mail gdaugherty@enquirer.com

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