Everyday Items Become
Fantastical Fashion

Students push the limits at Jefferson’s experimental Design X show.

Spoons, Q-tips, paper plates, water bottles and pasta may sound like basic household items, but for fashion design senior Shannon Frawley, the odds-and-ends perfectly aligned to help form her unconventional outfit inspired by the blue crowned pigeon.

“I just wanted to make it super fun, colorful and playful,” she says of the dress that also included pine needles, chicken wire, cardboard, tulle and confetti.

Frawley displayed her red and blue piece at Design X, Jefferson’s signature fall fashion show that features work from the University’s problem-solving course. The class pushes fashion students to develop new and often unusual solutions to answer the basic design problem of covering the body.

To produce the experimental looks showcased at Downs Auditorium, students received abstract starting points and visited places like the Philadelphia Zoo and Adventure Aquarium as a muse. They had just a few weeks and a $20 budget to complete their designs that used little to no fabric or required them to explore zero-waste construction techniques. For instance, students wildly repurposed a wedding dress and an old Army jacket.

With Frawley’s second look, she relied on a combination of dryer lint, foil, netting, coffee filters, plastic bags and cardboard. The deep sea and a “spooky and eerie” black sand beach inspired the dress.

“This course let me think out of the box,” Frawley says. “I got to go for it and take a risk and see what happened.”

Fashion professor Carrie Collins teaches the popular class along with Carly Kusy. Collins loves seeing how the students’ hard work and artistry sparkle under the bright lights on stage.

“They come up with really cool techniques to use ordinary materials in ways that you would never expect,” Collins says. “It amazes me every time.”

Jay McCarrol speaking on runway
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In the show presented by Jefferson’s Fashion Industries Association, 38 students displayed 54 avant-garde pieces, all modeled by fellow students or the designers themselves.

Senior Chloe Swidler, who donned her own look inspired by the vulturine guinea fowl, pieces together muslin, cardboard, water bottles, bristol, paper and lentils. Through trial and error, she nixed the sugar for texture and figured out how to best cut the cardboard to move and shape the body.

Working with unconventional materials allowed Swidler to step away from traditional fashion and gave her a whole new skillset for her career. “So much time, effort and hot glue burns go into making these projects,” she says with a laugh.

The creativity on display wowed Design X host Jay McCarroll, Jefferson alumnus and “Project Runway” season 1 winner.

“You never think of Q-tips going on a dress or pasta becoming a beautiful part of the shoulder,” he says. “So often, we see boring, grey sweatshirts, and this is the opposite.”

To succeed in such a project, students must be resourceful to keep costs down and explore the limits of their imagination, says McCarroll, who used to teach Jefferson’s problem-solving course.

“This class prepares students for the future in ways they don’t yet know,” Collins agrees. “They’re learning how to approach problems from wide angles and different lenses.”

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