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An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

Fashion midterm provides students with ‘cutting edge’ experiences

Stella Maximuk
DAINTY DESIGN: When junior and designer Anastasia Varenberg (left) approached junior Ella Thornbury (right) for modeling, Thornbury knew she had to accept. “She’s my best friend in the whole world, so obviously, I had to say yes,” Thornbury said. In return, Varenberg created an intricate dress fitted specifically for Thornbury. “I was trying to go architectural with a lot of these like leaves,” Varenberg said. “I also made a cool little thing where [the dress] folds over. It looks kind of flowery and dainty and reminds me of Vivian Westwood a little bit.”

For Midtown Fashion department’s midterm, students were asked to use an unconventional material to make their garments: paper.

“We were given a ton of paper last semester and when I touched it, it felt tactile,” Fashion teacher Kottavei Williams said. “When you’re designing, part of the challenge is always understanding how to be creative and innovative with non-traditional materials. We do this huge fashion show in the spring where they [use] fabric. This was a challenge of creativity and ingenuity to learn how to work with these materials and make them look fashionable.”

While the main challenge was working with the paper, Williams said she hoped the experience would allow students to consider the usage of sustainable materials.

“We’re used to drawing on paper, painting on paper, but making clothes out of paper?” Williams said. “Is that something, in the background or in the future, we will have to work with? If you think about the environmental impact of the stuff that goes into our land waste, is there some recyclable method where we can take an everyday material that’s discarded, like pieces of paper, and make something that’s wearable and viable?”

Because of the uniqueness of the project, Williams had a professional photographer come to photograph each student’s garment.

The Southerner is proud to present some of the designs.

ABOVE AND BEYOND: Unlike other designers, junior Piper Boatwright (center) successfully created two paper outfits, instead of one, because they liked both designs. Junior Ivy May (left) and senior Charlie Sellers (right) modeled them. 

“We had to make three designs for each outfit that we chose to make,” Boatwright said. “The design process was hard. I changed my designs three times over the course of making them, but in the end, it worked out. It took a lot of hot glue and a lot of pain, but it turned out really pretty.”

The result was two very different and creative outfits.

“For Ivy’s outfit, I was inspired by Little Bo Peep and a cutesy, little prairie girl kind of vibe,” Boatwright said. “For Charlie’s outfit, I went the complete opposite direction and went for a cult leader kind of thing.”

Photo by Stella Maximuk

CONFIDENCE IN PAPER: This project not only served as a unique experience for the designers, but also a new experience for the students who modeled their pieces. Senior Ava Gold decided to participate as a model for senior Rüya Cooke’s dress. 

“I was really excited to be part of our school’s fashion design program, and excited for this opportunity to help sponsor student work and be a part of something,” Gold said.

Gold also said that modeling this particular piece impacted her self-esteem.

“I felt really confident,” Gold said. “[I] felt pretty good about myself, you know, I just felt beautiful in Ruya’s beautiful dress that she made.”

Photo by Stella Maximuk

DUCT TAPE DESIGNS: Junior Sienna Kooby was one of a handful of designers who modeled the outfits they created. Kooby was also one of two students to make an outfit with pants. 

“My friend has these really cool pants called ‘Tripp pants,’ and I wanted to make kind of a grungier kind of pants,” Kooby said. “I knew I wanted to make pants, but I wanted them to be loose because it’s made out of paper and it’s easier to make them loose.”

Kooby’s final outfit was not her original design. She had to improvise by using other materials, besides paper, in order to execute her vision.

“I made another outfit and it ended up ripping because it’s paper,” Kooby said. “It was pretty difficult, but I ended up using duct tape to build it up and that helped a lot.”

Photo by Stella Maximuk

PUNK PANTS: The only other designer to create pants was senior Eleanor Welty. Different to Kooby’s design, Welty’s pants were more form-fitting and were painted. They were modeled by senior Gavin Horn.

“The paper doesn’t take paint very well. The first spray paint I used was Rustoleum, like primer and paint meant for literally everything,” Welty said. “[However] it scrapes off if you don’t put a finishing coat on it because of the paper texture. When Gavin was wearing them, any movement would scrape [the paint] off no matter how many coats I put on.”

Despite problems with the pants, they were part of Welty’s vision and could not be left out. 

“My inspiration stemmed from the 1970s London punk movement because I love that movement so much,” Welty said. “I was looking at photos and I saw a bunch of battle vests and jackets as well as fun pants. I said, ‘I’m not gonna put Gavin in a skirt, he needs to wear these pants’ [because] they would definitely compliment the jacket the best.” 

While working with the paper was difficult, Welty said she gained valuable experience from it. 

“I had a lot of fun,” Welty said. “I really enjoyed the jacket and it was a good time. It definitely helped me understand a bit more how pieces work together, especially when it came to the jacket and how structured it was. But I’m never making paper pants again.”

Photo by Stella Maximuk

ADAPTING MODELS: Welty (left) applies makeup to Horn (right). For Horn, working with paper also presented new modeling challenges. 

“Walking was really difficult,” Horn said. “If the pants hadn’t ripped it would’ve been perfect. We had to put tape where the pants ripped and just paint it black.”

The photoshoot was also different than the typical fashion show held at the end of the year.

“The main fashion show had a lot more prep for the models,” Horn said. “We were doing lessons on how to walk and we spent two hours just getting ready for the show. For this one, I got my clothes on and went out and took pictures as opposed to modeling it in front of a crowd.”

Photo by Stella Maximuk

QUEEN OF HEARTS: Senior Madeline Brandhorst was awarded the top design. Inspired by the queen of hearts, she created a ballerina-style dress using paper, magazines and flowers. Senior Sophia Lenhart modeled the dress. 

“[The dress] actually started as a queen of hearts costume,” Bandhorst said. “[However] I realized I didn’t have the time, materials, or money to make a full queen of hearts costume out of the paper. So I kept finding ways to minimize it but still hold that air of fanciness.” 

Improvisation played a large role in the design process.

“A lot of making that outfit was just coming up with new things that I could do on the fly because the material that we were working with didn’t really work with my original plans,” Brandhorst said. “It was kind of just a combination of different ideas.”

Photo by Stella Maximuk

 WALKING THE RUNWAY:  Lenhart has modeled for the end-of-the-year fashion show before and is always impressed by the skill of the fashion and costume students. 

“Whenever I’ve talked about [the fashion and costume program] to people who don’t go to this school, they’re always like, ‘wow, that’s really well done,’” Lenhart said. “When I show pictures, they don’t believe that high schoolers actually made these outfits.”

Despite wearing paper, she said she enjoyed modeling for this event.

“I was so excited,” Lenhart said. “I love modeling, it’s one of the most fun things to do because you get to [wear all] these cool outfits. Madeline’s dress was really cool and really pretty. I loved the idea.”

Photo by Stella Maximuk

FAILING FORWARD: Williams (right) helps a senior Yarethzy Vergara-Torres (left) pose. Through this project, she has been able to watch her students use this material to create actual clothes. She believes challenging projects like this have a positive impact on students’ work ethics and design processes. 

“It was challenging because in their head it is perfect, which is often with design; when you draw, it is perfect and you’ve imagined it and it’s perfect,” Williams said. “But when you execute, you see the flaw in your plan. And so for them to go through the process of what I call ‘failing forward’ and experimenting and finding out something doesn’t work or something isn’t as interesting, or they’re dissatisfied and totally starting over, getting to the end and saying, ‘wow, I wish I would’ve done this’ or ‘added this.’ It keeps that creativity and that creative process flowing.”

Williams said the project serves as a learning process for students before they have to create their garments that will be used in the spring fashion show.

“They’re about to start on their actual garments for the fashion show in May,” Williams said. “Now they’re even looking at that with a very different eye, ‘this looks perfect, but what am I gonna do to make it really feel special once it gets on that runway?’”

Photo by Stella Maximuk

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Stella Maximuk
Stella Maximuk, Editor in Chief
Stella Maximuk is a senior and has been on the Southerner for three years. This year, she is Editor in Chief of the comment section and helps manage the website. In her free time, she loves to listen to music, spend time with friends and read.
Diana Jachman
Diana Jachman, Multimedia Managing Editor
Diana Jachman is a senior, and this is her thrid year writing for The Southerner. She currently writes and produces video productions for the website. Outside of The Southerner, Diana is involved with Midtown's Theater program. She is so excited to continue working on the paper this year.

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