PHOTOS: Red Dress Project Highlights Heart Health in Women
Juniors in the “Pattern Development II” course designed dresses made of fabric in shades of red or red prints. With cardiovascular disease being the No. 1 killer of women, the red dress has become a symbol of efforts to raise awareness about heart health.
The project also strengthens draping skills and builds experience in eveningwear, say course professors Anne Hand and Amy Copeland. In addition, it teaches students about planning, problem-solving, fabric and notion selection, fit and presentation.
“They learn how to design within certain parameters,” Copeland says. “This is beneficial because in industry, they might be given a theme to inspire their designs. The project shows them how to take an inspiration and go through the design process to develop their final look.”
New this year, students researched the role race and ethnicity play in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in women and how the lack of affordable health care affects treatment and recovery.
“The hope is to engender empathy and raise awareness of the impact of heart disease in women, especially those in underserved and marginalized communities,” Hand says.
Inspiration for their looks came from numerous places, including Eastern Asian flowers and Chinese culture, arrhythmias and the scarlet peacock butterfly, and the Romantic Era. They also gained insights through their research and became stronger designers, the students shared.
Junior Dwayne Smith created the dress “Blood Diamonds” to honor the lives lost in conflicts surrounding diamonds mined in Africa during the ’90s. He took inspiration from basket weaving in Sierra Leone for the bodice and uncut diamonds for the big puff sleeves.
“Throughout the red dress experience, I learned more about heart disease and how it specifically impacts women of color,” Smith says. “I also refined my draping, pattern-making and construction skills and learned the technique of bias weaving over a bodice. This will be a strong portfolio piece to show my abilities as a fashion designer.”
Student Kierra Lee says the project helped her to become a better designer, but most importantly, crafting the dress allowed her to use fashion as an outlet to bring awareness to health issues women face.
“Black and Hispanic women are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease compared to white women,” she notes. “When looking at these statistics, I was in shock and decided to focus on Isis, the goddess of health in Egyptian mythology. I wanted to use her imagery to uplift minority women while also shining a light on the dangers of heart disease to populations that suffer at alarming rates from it.”
In making his look, “Emotions and Heart,” student Assim De Gabriel gained valuable experience working with high-end garments and improved his problem-solving skills by designing and executing the dress.
“This project will help people and potential employers understand my aesthetic as a fashion designer,” De Gabriel says.
The red dress project “completely turned around the way” Maisy Ingalls works and designs, she says, noting she struggled with pattern making at first.
“Being taught how to drape and manipulate fabric changed my life,” she says. “I never realized how much fun the challenge of draping could be, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I will be forever grateful to the faculty, this class and this project because it’s the first thing I’ve ever really made. I’m excited to see how far I will go and all the pieces I will make in the future.”
See below for a slideshow of all the fashion design students’ dresses and their inspirations: