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Students fuse history with creativity in design challenge

November 12, 2014

  • Julia Duerst '15 (left) and Julie Oatfield '15 await judges' critiques.
    Demi Glidden '16
  • Erin Law '17 models the Mexican Revolution.
    Demi Glidden '16

Deriving inspiration from the popular television program Project Runway, Lewis & Clark’s Department of History established its own annual fashion design competition in 2013. This fall, the third installment of Historical Project Runway challenged 10 teams of three students to interpret the past in creative and entertaining ways.

Prior to the event, student coordinators Olivia Davis ’16, Julia Duerst ’15, Jesenya Maldonado ’15, and Tyler Wayne Patterson ’16 collaborated with Assistant Professor of History Reiko Hillyer to brainstorm a diverse array of historical topics that would be conducive to visual representation. They also took a trip to Portland’s Goodwill outlet store, where they acquired a vast collection of clothing and accessories to be used by participants.

After selecting a topic, each team had less than an hour to develop their artistic vision, search for appropriate items, and dress their model. While permitted to cut, paste, and even sew, students felt the constraints of limited time.

“Once you began to put your ideas into effect, it was hard to make changes,” Patterson, both a coordinator and event participant, said.

The design process culminated in a competitive runway show, where faculty judges offered amusing critiques of historical accuracy, creativity, and wearability.

“A team assigned ‘suburbia’ will not do well if all they do is create an outfit that a suburban housewife would wear,” Hillyer explained. “Instead, they must dig deeper into the social, cultural, and economic implications of suburbia and find a way to convey those ideas aesthetically.”

Ultimately, two teams tied for first place. Duerst, Maldonado, and Molly Simon ’15 received praise for their thoughtful conceptualization of the South African Gold Rush, while Emma Cranston ’17, Erin Law ’17, and Kate Wackett ’17 were lauded for an unconventional take on the Mexican Revolution.

Like its predecessors, this year’s Historical Project Runway aimed to foster community building among history majors while also being of interest to students hailing from other academic departments.

“It was great to see so many people at the event, both in the crowd and on the runway,” student coordinator Olivia Davis said. “We had more participants than ever before and hope that Historical Project Runway will continue to establish itself as a lasting tradition.”

Katrina Staaf ’16 contributed to this story.

History Department

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