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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Make it Work!

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Dad Cell

9/29 10:32 PM

Hey daughter of mine! Did you watch Project Runway tonight?

Gretchen Cell

9/29 10:33 PM

Yes I did. Crazy how the winner made a garment with less than $20!

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My hand hovers over my wireless mouse and in 3 clicks, I’m looking at my Twitter feed of tweets, 140 character messages, from users I follow. Then I spot the recent tweet from Project Runway and I click their page, complete with a profile picture of the host, Heidi Klum, to view the tweets from tonight’s exciting episode.

ProjectRunway Project Runway

New episode starting in 30 minutes!!

1 hour ago

ProjectRunway Project Runway

$11.50 for materials! Insane! #makeitwork #projectrunway

25 minutes ago

ProjectRunway Project Runway

Moment of truth! #projectrunway

7 minutes ago

ProjectRunway Project Runway

Surprised by who won? #projectrunway

5 minutes ago

ProjectRunway Project Runway

Did you think the right designer went home this week? #projectrunway

2 minutes ago

For a show in Season 10, you might write Project Runway off as just another reality TV show, catering only to the fashion-crazed, and simply an excuse for 15-16 complete nobodies to show off their skills and over-sized personalities, under pressure every week. With 1,118,630 Facebook fans, 10 seasons of designers and original fashions, and 3 well-known judges critiquing the designs weekly, a new wave of DIY, or ‘do-it-yourself’ youths emerged. Whether designing a new original piece or repurposing an existing garment, Generation X embraced sewing as an outlet for free expression and practicality.

Before Project Runway existed, I took basic sewing classes at 8 years old from the local sewing store with other girls and sewed crafty projects like a doll quilt and pillow. My mom also took classes and made my first dress I envisioned: a periwinkle blue, knee-length dress.


One day when I passed my parents’ bedroom, I heard a German woman say, “Kirsten…you’re out” which made me stop and walk in. I asked Mom if she knew what this show was and she answered it was a fairly new program called Project Runway.

“They’ll re-run this episode before the new one on Wednesday,” Mom told me as she sat next to me on her bed. “I think this was a good episode to watch.”

And so I did; Episode 2 of Season 2 asked 14 designers to create a brand new garment from the clothes they wore to a party hosted by Heidi Klum. It was after that single 45 minute episode that I quickly became a devoted fan of the show and a lover of fashion. This newfound love for Project Runway encouraged me to enroll in Sewing 101 during sophomore year of high school to learn the foundations of creating a garment and proper sewing techniques.

Unlike the Project Runway designers, who construct new garments in a 1 day time constraint, I can’t devote days to sewing as a full time student. I talk the talk but sometimes can’t walk the walk, which results in projects ending up on the back burner courtesy of laziness or fear of messing up complex techniques needed for proper fit, quality, or design. At the end of the day, I remind myself that the true benefits of making a garment are endless: creative innovation, perfect fit, and personal satisfaction of mastering sewing techniques correctly.

I fall between the extremes of transforming fabric into a boutique-worthy dress and turning an old shirt into something new and stylish. However, I prefer manipulating old into new, especially when it costs less than yards of fabric, a zipper, hook and eye closure, thread, and lining to make a brand new garment. Emerging DIY personalities such as Erica Domesek embody a spirit of being thrifty but creative. When interviewed by Wall Street Journal about why DIY, she replied, “People took a beat and said, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t spend the money. I don’t need to spend the money.’ ” Instead she and many others flock to crafting stores such as JoAnns and Michaels to design their own pieces. According to IBISWorld, a market-research company, both stores are expected to see 2% increase in sales per year for the next 5 years.

Even if people aren’t making clothes, they shop during sales at department stores, resale stores, and at chains such as Target, for designer collaborations. On a recent Tuesday, the “Missoni for Target” collection, available at all US stores at 8am, flew out the stores in just 2 hours. While most purchased items for their own use, more than 30,000 of the items were listed on eBay by noon of the same day for profit.

One Saturday afternoon, I visited my favorite resale store, Buffalo Exchange, in Hillcrest to shop and conduct a field study. They accept only certain items listed on a blackboard above the buying counter. Any items accepted are priced, tagged, and placed into a bin for the sales floor. Once the total is calculated, customers selling their clothes can take either 35% of the total in cash or 50% in store credit. Unless you’re convinced you’ll never shop here again or if you make more than $50, you typically take the store credit.


“Hey how about these for me?” a guy asked as he held up a size 24 pair of mint-green skinny jeans.

“No way man, put those back!” one friend yells at the guy. “Those look like True Moo man!”

I snickered as I rifled through the racks Unfortunately, the racks had only about 2 inches of free space because they were packed with far more items than normal. If Yahoo financial blogger Zachary Roth thought all clothing sales were down, he didn’t include the Buffalo Exchange for sure. Earlier when I arrived, people stood in line to sell clothing for some quick cash. Many lugged several heavy shopping bags packed with items spilling over the top and saw less than 5 of their items accepted for sale in the store.

“Put those back man! I’m not wearing pink spandex to the party!” the friend yells at the True Moo jeans guy. “I need something fancier for the Fancy Pants Party!”

True Moo jeans guy laughed loudly as he put back a pair of pink spandex shorts. He left his friend to his own devices and looked for his own ‘fancy pants’ for the party. Ah, so that’s what they’re here for, I thought. Not a bad idea, especially when there’s loads of things here for cheap. Me, I wanted anything superhero, comic book related to manipulate for my collection for Chapman Runway’s spring fashion show.

Chapman Runway started as a general fashion interest club, then evolved into a proactive organization running a student fashion show every year. If you are interested in designing, fashion photography, modeling, or helping out, this is a club for fashionphiles. I designed for the past 2 years, with a single garment to my current goal of 4-6 designs for this collection.

Then I saw a flash of white, black, red, and blue out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see Dad waving a men’s shirt complete with Spiderman crawling down the front.

“How about this for your fashion show?” he asked. “You can change it into something else for your collection. Kind of fits with the superhero, comics theme you have going.”

“This is awesome!” I declared as I studied the print closely.


Signs are everywhere that fashion conscious people adapted their behavior to the new economic reality. Retail giant, Costco, saw a significant increase in the sales of sewing machines to teens and young adults as sewing is a cost-effective way to create their own fashions.This is driven as much by economic necessity as by the latest innovations in sewing machines themselves, making clothing design easier and more fun. I left Buffalo Exchange with 4 mens’ t-shirts and innovative ideas. Look for my designs next spring.

Photo taken by Dad