Wayne State Professor Susan Widawski was given a “Best Construction” award by Threads Magazine for a sheath dress inspired by an art form.
Each year, Threads Magazine challenges members of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals to create an out-of-the-ordinary design. This year, designers were asked to use seams, silhouette, texture and construction techniques to communicate their vision, according to Wayne State’s website.
Contestants were given nine months to design their garments, create an inspiration board, photograph their final pieces and write a description of their design process. Out of a total of 40 design entries, 20 finalists were chosen and announced in the Threads Magazine June/July 2016 issue.
Widawski said the inspiration for her design originates from the theme of fashion rebellion in the 1967 film “To Sir with Love” and through her admiration of female-leading roles, such as Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day and Janet Leigh in other 1960s films.
“Gaining acceptance for being different is the continuous theme in the 1967 film ‘To Sir with Love.’ Youth rebellion against the establishment challenged the entire way of life and fashion through the emergence of plastic and synthetic fabrics, pop-art clothing, acid colors, space age chic and pop art fashions,” she said. “Drawing inspiration from the British pop culture of the time, I dramatically reinterpreted the iconic elements of the 1960’s sleeveless sheath with geometric features and sculptural fit.”
The design is a high neckline and vibrantly colored pink dress paired with earrings and bracelet accessories. The object of Widawski’s design is Lulu, a fashion trendsetter, who played the character of Barbara Pegg in “To Sir with Love.”
“It was Lulu’s plastic disk earrings that inspired the repetition of the circular patterns,” Widawski said. “I used a crisp polyester fabric that added definition to the tone on tone circle insets and seams. The varied circle sizes and asymmetrical placement enhances a sense of pattern movement. The high voltage pink puts a fresh, contemporary perspective on a classic silhouette. And so it was that I named my piece, Harmony.”
Widawski said that growing up, she was inspired and influenced by a number of Polish and Italian tailors and seamstresses. As a European-trained custom tailor, many of the tailoring and couture sewing techniques Widawski learned as an apprentice are carried to her designs today, as well as her teachings at WSU.
“I feel that, presently, there is a lost art of dress. I challenge my students to create designs beyond the current trendy fashions by placing more focus on the materials, processes and craftsmanship used to create original designs,” she said.
Along with encouraging her students to create original designs, Widawski also pushes her students to embrace what sets them apart.
“We are very fortunate to have such a beautifully diverse student population in the fashion department. Each student is unique and draws inspiration from their own culture, tradition and life experiences. Blending and sharing their experiences stimulates the design process.”
According to Widawski, every garment she creates follows three elements of design — helping her to win “best constructed” with Threads Magazine, which Widawski described as a “tremendous honor.”
“For every garment I create, the three elements of design I evaluate for specific body types are silhouette, the outline or shape of the design; proportion, the relationship of all the parts or sections on the body and fit, the proper size and desired fit on the body,” she said.
Widawski also said that as a designer, she enjoys working with all body types and sizes.
“I want all women to look and feel beautiful no matter their size or shape.”
In the fall 2016 semester, Professor Widawski will be lecturing AFA 2410 Textiles, which offers an introduction to fibers, yarns and fabric construction, and 3420 Fashion Design: Advanced Construction, which will discuss advanced methods of garment construction and skills for fitting and shape techniques.
For more information on Fashion Design and Merchandising at Wayne State, visit here.
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