Sewing success: Student’s apparel designs among new Avenir exhibitions

Caitlin MacLaughlin has come a long way since she started tinkering with her mom’s sewing machine at age 5.

“I call it the systematic tangling of my mom’s machine,” recalls MacLaughlin, who is currently an apparel and merchandising master’s student in the Department of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University. “She’d be cooking dinner, and I’d be trying to sew.”

Now CSU’s Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising is showcasing MacLaughlin’s work in The Richard Blackwell Gallery — including her earliest fashion drawings as a child.

“Evolution of a Colorado Clothing Designer” is one of several new additions that the Avenir unveiled on Aug. 22, including the second half of the exhibition of Guatemalan textiles and a collection of “New Threads.”

MacLaughlin will deliver the Avenir’s first evening lecture of the fall at 7 p.m. on Sept. 22 in classroom 157 at the museum. For more information, or to provide feedback on how to improve the clothing market for plus-size women (she needs to contact at least 100 prospective customers by the end of the semester for the Venture Accelerator Program), visit her Facebook page at


MacLaughlin, whose new startup Caitlin Mac Clothing Company was accepted into the College of Business Venture Accelerator Program for 2016-17, received her bachelor’s degree in apparel design and production from CSU, in 2012. Then she moved to Los Angeles, where she worked in the fashion industry for the socially conscious brands Reformation and Em-bé, raising her awareness of the environmental and social concerns facing the clothing industry. She returned to Fort Collins and will complete her master’s degree in December.

That social awareness is reflected in MacLaughlin’s primary collection on display in The Richard Blackwell Gallery through Dec. 16: “Beautiful Prints for Beautiful Women.” It’s a line of clothing, produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way, for plus-size women.

“I wanted to make clothes that plus-size women would feel comfortable in,” she said. “I wanted to create designs that you could feel good wearing all day long.”

The digitally printed textiles, which MacLaughlin designed as the final project for earning her master’s, were made with modal, a type of rayon made from repurposed beechwood pulp that she said is more sustainably produced than cotton. Accompanying the clothing line and hanging on the gallery walls are fabric panels that MacLaughlin created using organic cotton sateen.

In addition to being environmentally conscious, MacLaughlin meant her collection to be socially responsible by incorporating fair labor as well as local sourcing and production when possible.


Which outfit is her favorite? Definitely one of the hooded ones.

“I’m a hoodie person,” she said. “But it’s hard to choose one; you get really attached to them. I’m going to wear several of them when I’m done.”

For MacLaughlin, her 22 years of sewing has been a family affair: Not only did her mother sew, but several generations of her maternal grandmothers did. Included in the exhibition is a display case with fashion sketches she did as a child — and her acceptance letter from CSU.

“It was the only college I applied to,” MacLaughlin said. “I’ve always known this is where I wanted to be.”

And now it’s where her work is exhibited.

All of the exhibitions will be on display through Dec. 16.

The Avenir Museum is part of the Department of Design and Merchandising in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.