Freedom with Fashion

Bryce Parr

University of Wisconsin—Stout’s apparel design and development students are stepping into the roaring ‘20s this semester for WEAR Fashion Association’s annual fashion show. Influenced by the Art Deco movement from early 1900s France, over 30 students, 13 of them seniors, will showcase their work in the great hall on May 5.  

The yearly show is hosted by WEAR, a student-run campus org for those interested in fashion and apparel design.  The show will take place in the Memorial Student Center Great Hall on May 5 at noon with another show at four. Tickets are $5 or a non-perishable food donation at the door.     

Student designers are encouraged to consider the Art Deco theme when designing, but are offered the freedom to create designs of their choice. Senior Jessalyn Bennet is one of the seniors showcasing her senior collection. According to Bennet, the freedom of expression is important for the design community at UW-Stout. “Other universities are really selective about who can show what and how [they present] in their shows, and it’s really incredible that self-expression, as people and as designers, is so celebrated at Stout,” Bennet said.

Designers are also allowed to choose their models. Many of the individuals walking the catwalk on May 5 will be community members and friends of the designers. Senior designer Mary Cross emphasized the importance of the Menomonie community to the UW-Stout campus. “Building communities not just within the fashion community, but also outside the fashion community, is huge,” Cross said.

The freedom allows students to design personal pieces inspired by their own experiences that they would otherwise not have the chance to share. “The most satisfying thing about apparel design is that you can have an idea that you can actually implement. It doesn’t stay as an idea on paper, you can actually bring it to life. You’re crafting and forming shapes to a body,” Cross said.

Bennet’s collection, titled “Constringent,” is a fall and winter collection that physically represents anxiety in a physical medium. “I wanted to send a message of resilience and strength in the face of an internal battle and paint a new picture of the individuals who struggle with mental health,” Bennet said.

Cross’s collection, titled “Adverse Reaction,” is inspired by the varying array of side effects experienced by individuals prescribed pharmaceuticals. “Sometimes you get weird side effects that you’re not used to. Having to hone that in and explain it to people has been very difficult. It’s a hard one to articulate,” Cross said. “Some people design something solid like the sunset or the tropics. For me, it’s a platform to talk about something that isn’t just affecting me, but it’s affecting society. I see a lot of people struggling with chemical imbalances.”

The show will present student works in front of peers, family, friends and even industry professionals.