Fashion Without Fabric: Redefining apparel

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By Billy Tuite —

University of Wisconsin-–Stout’s Family Weekend is chock full of fun sights and sounds, but there’s one event in particular that always draws a huge crowd. “Fashion Without Fabric,” a fashion show put on by this semester’s freshman 3D Design students, will take place Saturday, April 11.

“A big part of this project is the limitations it presents,” explained Professor Tamara Brantmeier, director of The School of Art and Design. “The design problem students are faced with is to create a wearable garment, designed around a theme or topic, which is made from anything but fabric.”

“What students learn is that a wide variety of things can be used as fabric they’re just not your typical textiles,” added Professor Robert Atwell, Furlong Gallery director and advisor of the annual fashion event.

This year’s theme, “Nobel Creations,” was inspired by an exhibit of the same name at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. Small groups of students have been tasked with reinterpreting the history of Nobel Prize laureates in the form of apparel, and this obviously presents some unique challenges.

“Once the students are assigned their prize-winner, they have to ideate in terms of how they’re going to connect, considering some of the prizes in physics or chemistry are pretty difficult to understand for people who are not well versed in those subjects,” Atwell said. “They have to find the more elementary version to understand the concepts and then somehow translate that into fashion.”

Of course, before concerning themselves with the more creative aspects, students have to make sure their garments will actually work as wearable clothing.

“If they’re making something out of popsicle sticks, for instance (and we have had someone make a suit of armor out of popsicle sticks), they have to figure out the underlying structure that will hold everything together and make it wearable,” Brantmeier said. “They’re developing these garments from the inside out.”

The two winning students of the event will be rewarded with $1,000 scholarships, and other standout students will have their garments on display at the aforementioned American Swedish Institute. Aside from being just a fun activity, “Fashion Without Fabric” can clearly have an impact on students and their future artistic endeavors.

“This project, in a really fun way, prepares art and design students to solve a design problem within given limitations,” Brantmeier said. “They’re required to do research, figure out how to make it work from a nuts and bolts standpoint and then make the final product beautiful and impactful.”

With this being a family weekend event, parents and siblings will also have the opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for the art their students are creating.

“I think people will be able to see the potential of our students,” Brantmeier said. “It will allow people to see what creative problem-solving can look like through a different lens.”

The show starts at 8 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center. General admission tickets are now sold out, but a live video feed of the event will be shown in MSC Ballroom C. Those tickets are $4.00 and are on sale on the UW–Stout website and at the MSC Service Center.

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