Fashion program flourishes

Good publicity, internships cause enrollment increase

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Oct. 16, 2003 


In the past two years, more students registered for Costume Construction Technology and fashion design classes than in the 10 years before, program coordinators said.

"(The) Apparel Merchandising Organization became such a large presence on campus, many people are learning about the fashion design program," said Kate Rowold, professor of costume construction technology. "The Bill Blass exhibition received national recognition, and the Women's Wear Daily ranking also got us recognition."

The professors said they feel all this recognition influenced more students to register for CCT classes. This climbing interest has caused an overload of students, leaving the professors with little to no space. The fashion programs consist of the Costume Construction Tech Program and the Fashion Design Individualized Major Program. The CCT program is a two-year degree, and the IMP fashion design program is a four-year degree. Each program is competitive because of the lack of space and course work.

"We are only accepting 24 students this year, and we have overflowed in the past years," Rowold said.

Professor Deb Christiansen said the overflow has forced them to move some classes into the cutting rooms.

"Last year we accepted closer to 30 students because some of them drop -- two have already dropped this year," she said.

Forty-seven students applied for the program this year, and classes are already full for the fall of next year. Rowold said there are still people on the waiting list.

"It's not an endless university -- we are not going to get new professors or more space anytime soon," Rowold said.

Space is not the only reason the program is so selective. The course work is time-consuming.

"We have a rigorous technical program," Christiansen said. "No one expects Costume Design Construction to be that rigorous. People think sewing is menial; you have to treat it like a class and then some. You also have to have some kind of math skills."

The program went through the same kind of boost about 10 to 12 years ago. At the time, program directors added prerequisites to scale it down. Now, the program requires an application to get into the IMP fashion design program.

"We do a pre-application process for a year," Christiansen said. "I gauge their motivation, dedication, technical and creative skills."

Out of 11 potential individualized major fashion design students, only four or five get accepted into the program.

Carol Coelho, a junior in the CCT and AM programs, said she wants to apply but isn't sure.

"I am thinking of applying, but I'm not sure; I didn't take the prerequisite," she said. "Now I'm questioning if I want the extra work."

Christiansen said the program seeks to create well-rounded fashion designers.

"Fashion designers are smart and savvy and pull inspiration from a lot of different disciplines," Christiansen said.

Students in the fashion design program have to take more languages than those in Apparel Merchandising, and they are required to take music and theater appreciation and two semesters of costume history.

Program directors recommend students take art history, two to three fine art studios and fashion illustration, if it is being offered, Christiansen said.

Senior Marianne Marks has been sewing for a long time. She said the AMP and CCT programs have allowed her to perfect her skills and work in a costume shop. But Marks wants to graduate in May, so applying to the IMP would not make sense for her.

"I can do what I want with a AMP and CCT degree," she said.

Students have three semesters to create and present their own line, including 20 to 25 pieces based on a theme. The program directors also require written documentation about the line, Christiansen said.

Some students go on and work in the fashion industry and some don't. Christiansen said she has noticed more students going into the industry over the time she has been teaching in the program. This summer, IU students interned with designers like Betsey Johnson, Anna Sui, Diane Von Furstenburg and other top designers.

Three of last year's five graduates went on to work with designers such as Gloria Vanderbilt, James Caviello, The Limited, and costume companies.

"After all the work doing fashion, many of the students figure out they would rather be doing costume design," Christiansen said.

-- Contact staff writer Patrice Worthy at


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