Fashion with a Mission

Student working on sewing project

Audrey Estes, junior fashion marketing major, sews her Dress a Girl dress as part of her final class project.

With social distancing measures in place during the spring 2021 semester, UCO fashion marketing adjunct instructor Marsha Swift needed a new final project idea for her Basic Clothing Construction course. In a normal year, students would sew items based on their own measurements with the assistance of classmates, but the pandemic presented challenges to the traditional curriculum.

“Due to social distancing, I needed a project that avoided fitting a student’s individual clothing project on him or her,” said Swift.
“This is how Dress a Girl fit our needs by completing a project that utilized sewing techniques we learned earlier in class.”

Dress a Girl is an international nonprofit that provides new, hand-sewn dresses to women and girls around the world through donations from various organizations. The dresses are adjustable in size and must fit several pattern guidelines as outlined on the organization’s website.
With the new project in mind, Swift was able to secure the needed resources and even relate it directly to several of UCO’s central tenets of transformative learning.

“Phi Upsilon Omicron [National Honors Society in Family and Consumer Sciences] generously gave me money to purchase fabric for our dresses, and each student contributed color coordinated bias tape and thread,” said Swift.
“This project addressed two of UCO’s Transformative Learning Tenets: Global and Cultural Competencies and Service Learning and Civic Engagement.”

Student stands with completed dresses.

Fashion marketing student Yareli Ramirez with several completed dresses.

In total, Swift’s students sewed eleven new dresses in various colors and styles to donate to the organization which they learned will be delivered to girls in El Salvador later this summer. A memorable project for students that combined their craft with the chance to make an impact on people they may never meet.

“To sum up my students’ comments, they were grateful to actually get to complete a dress for someone else. So many students could not believe this might be the only dress a girl would have to wear. The Dress a Girl label, sewn on the pockets, was a lesson about empowering a young girl’s future.”

Rachel is the Communications and Public Relations Coordinator for the UCO College of Education and Professional Studies.