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April 26, 2013

Did You Know?: Apparel design labs at Purdue

Apparel design labs

Nancy Strickler, clinical associate professor of consumer sciences and retailing, and Susan Owens, clinical assistant professor consumer sciences and retailing, are shown in one of Matthews Hall's apparel design labs. (Purdue University photo/Steven Yang)
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Matthews Hall is home to three sprawling lab spaces in which apparel design and technology students illustrate fashion designs, make patterns and sew fabric, all in an effort to learn more about designing and making clothes.

These classrooms are filled with all the trappings of the apparel design industry. For example, mannequins populate one of the rooms by the dozens; in another, sewing machines sit in rows reminiscent of those in a small clothing production factory.

In the spring, students mill about these lab spaces from day to night as they prepare for the Purdue Fashion Association's annual fashion show, which takes place in early April. This year, the fashion show was held April 6.

"Every spring, about 80 apparel design and technology students work in our labs in preparation for the fashion show," says Susan Owens, clinical assistant professor of consumer sciences and retailing for the apparel and design technology major, which is in the Department of Consumer Science.

"Each student is required to have something on the runway. Seniors, for example, are required to have a collection of six to nine pieces, so the months of January to April are a very busy time in our labs."

At the fashion show, students can really show off their design talents, say Owens and Nancy Strickler, clinical associate professor of consumer sciences and retailing for the apparel and design technology major. The show's pieces run the gamut from casual clothing for men and women to full-blown formal wear.

This year, 20 senior collections highlighted the show. Although not all show participants were apparel design and technology students, students in that program have access to the three design spaces in Matthews Hall, Owens and Strickler say.

The design spaces have been in Matthews Hall for decades. Originally, they were part of the School of Home Economics, which dates to the 1920s, and the Department of Home Economics was established in 1905. Now, though, the spaces have a decidedly more modern purpose.

"The apparel design and technology program -- including its resources, such as the design labs -- are meant to teach students how to be fashion designers," Strickler says.

"We want them to learn about the industry's history as well as how to take part in the entire design process, from drawing designs to fitting clothes on a human body to sewing fabric into finished pieces. Our design labs allow them to put their knowledge to practical use before they enter the industry at large."

Writer: Amanda Hamon, ahamon@purdue.edu, 40-61325