This June, 30 middle-school girls participated in the second annual offering of Fashion FUNdamentals at Colorado State University. Fashion FUNdamentals is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) enrichment program in the Department of Design and Merchandising founded on the premise that girls’ interest in fashion can be tapped to nurture their skills in the STEM disciplines and to foster their self-confidence and self-esteem.
During the two-week program, the girls participated in a variety of classes and activities that aimed to increase their understanding in the topics of fashion, science, technology, engineering and math. The camp consisted of technical and social programming units. The technical programming units focused on the STEM disciplines and included units on fiber science, historic textiles, computer-aided design, store design, 3D foot scanning, wearable technology, sewing, and costing and pricing.
The girls spent time at the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising, where they learned about the history of textiles and how to best take care of garments so that they don’t deteriorate over time.
The social programming units aimed to positively influence self-confidence, self-esteem and academic performance by addressing topics of concern among adolescent girls. The units were delivered by project team members and invited professionals, and included body image and media literacy, nutrition, physical activity, anti-bullying and internet safety.
One of the primary components of Fashion FUNdamentals was teaching the girls how to make an original outfit from start to finish. The girls determined fit, selected a shirt fabric and style, chose a skirt design, designed and printed a fabric, sewed the completed product and accessorized their designs with LED (light-emitting diode) technology.
The project was a favorite among the girls. Gabriella, 11, said, “My favorite part about camp is the sewing class because we get to explore and create whatever we want — there are no limits. I like that we get to design our own outfits and use [fabrics] to accessorize.”
Fashion FUNdamentals was open to girls entering 6th, 7th and 8th grades in fall 2016, and was offered at no cost to participants. It aimed to focus on populations that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education and served a diverse group of adolescent girls.
The program culminated on June 24 with a reception for the girls and their families to celebrate the girls’ completion of the program. At the reception, attendees viewed a video that highlighted the purpose of Fashion FUNdamentals and the outcomes of the girls’ engagement in the program, as well as what they learned about the application of STEM concepts to fashion. The girls also presented their finished apparel designs in a fashion show.
Olivea Borden, a 2016 graduate of Polaris Expeditionary School and founder of Oli-Bo-Bolly, served as the keynote speaker for the event. Borden inspired the girls to explore their most ambitious ideas and share those ideas with the world. The reception allowed students, parents and faculty to come together to celebrate and recognize the girls’ achievements. Evidence suggests this type of parental encouragement can foster confidence and academic achievement in math and science.
When asked why she chose to do the program, Ella, 11, stated that she chose to do Fashion FUNdamentals because “I really like fashion and I thought that it would be a really interesting and cool opportunity.” Her favorite part was “laughing, getting to meet new people, and probably sewing our shirts, because even though it was a challenge, it was still fun.”
Sophia, 11, reflected on her experience at Fashion FUNdamentals, remembering all that she learned during the two-week program, “I learned how to do more things on the computer and I learned how to sew and use different kinds of sewing machines,” she said. “I also learned about the different types of fibers in the clothing you wear. I learned a lot of things, so this was really a great program.”
Fashion FUNdamentals is the brainchild of Karen Hyllegard and Jennifer Ogle, faculty members in Design and Merchandising. The program gives girls a place to be creative, continue their education and beat the heat during summer vacation. It inspires young girls to realize their greatest potential and acts as a catalyst to ignite girls’ interest and aptitude in the STEM disciplines.
Fashion FUNdamentals was made possible by a grant from the American Honda Foundation, as well as support from Antigone Kotsiopulos, former department head in Design and Merchandising and former associate dean in the College of Health and Human Sciences, and her husband, Jerry Culp. Culp is the retired internship coordinator from Design and Merchandising.
The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of the College of Health and Human Sciences at CSU.