By Designing Childrenswear, Students Flex Their Creativity on a Smaller Canvas
Junior Hannah Holton loves the creativity and whimsy behind designing childrenswear, but beyond that, she knows the impact her work can have on the younger generation.
Childrenswear plays a crucial role in Jefferson’s fashion curriculum, making it an outlier for most schools, says fashion professor Anne Hand. She has worked at the University since 1992, and for much of this time, she has taught the introductory pattern development class that all fashion design sophomores take.
Students learn the fundamental flat pattern design method in this course, Hand says. Many professionals use this technique to construct childrenswear, so focusing here teaches vital skills and allows students to stretch the idea of what fashion design means as they take their looks from research and development to pattern making and construction to final fittings. (Unfortunately, the pandemic nixed any in-person fitting plans this spring.)
“They have to completely retool their brains and rethink proportion,” Hand explains. “They learn about scale and, for example, how a ruffle they put on a woman’s dress won’t necessarily be the same size or volume they would use for a children’s garment.”
However, a tinier canvas doesn’t deter imagination and innovation, stresses Hand, noting students often use surface embellishment, fabric manipulation and embroideries to bring their concepts to fruition.
“They get really excited when they see the possibilities of what will work on that small piece of real estate,” Hand says.
Recent fashion design alumna Meredith Levy spent much of her time at Jefferson working with childrenswear. As a sophomore, she showcased her children’s looks at the annual University Fashion Show, and during her senior year, she won a $7,500 YMA Fashion Scholarship for her project of a hypothetical collaboration between the Jim Henson Company and Gucci.
With Levy’s senior capstone, she took inspiration from stuffed animals, coloring books, and kinesthetic learning and sculptures for her playful childrenswear collection. In it, she hand-embroidered her “Sloth and Robot” characters to update and add texture to a classic graphic T-shirt.
“You can be a little crazier, a little more mismatched and have fun with materials and color choices with children’s fashion,” says Levy, who moved back to Portland after graduating in 2020 and plans to work in childrenswear or adult or children’s activewear.
Holton, too, can see a career in children’s fashion and loves the lighthearted aspect of this sector poised to be a $325.9 billion global industry by 2027. “You won’t have any more fun than designing childrenswear,” she says.
As part of her for-credit internship with Egg, she heads up to its New York City office twice a week. She handles an assortment of tasks for the popular brand, including updating line sheets, helping tech designers with fit and measuring garments, and most notably, designing a print for Egg’s spring 2021 line.
“It’s a surreal moment to have this opportunity during the pandemic,” says the first-generation college student. “It makes me feel what I’m doing every day at Jefferson is worth it and has paid off. To have this experience before I even graduate as a designer is something I will be forever grateful for.”