Each February, fashion takes center stage. Models strut the catwalks for Fashion Weeks in New York, Paris and Milan. Celebrities walk red carpets in couture and perennial cable hit “Project Runway” puts a new group of designers into its reality TV pressure cooker.
And Huskers in the Textile and Apparel Design program watch it all while creating their own wearable works of art.
In classes like Experimental Design, Product Development, History of Dress and more, students majoring in textile and apparel design at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln craft garments running the gamut from wide-leg pants to dresses with lighted belts. Many pieces will be included in the juried student showcase in Omaha’s Fashion Week Feb. 26 at the Omaha Design Center.
Striebel came into the program after earning her master of fine arts in costume design from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.
“As part of that process, I got to take classes over in this department, and I just completely fell in love with it,” Striebel said. “It’s really given me a broader range in design, how to look at garments and fashion.
“I love costume design. I’m so used to being driven by a script — it was weird to step into this, have just a few parameters and go — but it was very freeing. I found myself thinking, ‘This is awesome.’ I can just create, and it expanded me as a designer.”
As a doctoral student and graduate assistant for assistant professor Sandra Starkey, Striebel also mentors undergraduates, like Alex Scarpello, a junior from Omaha.
“Everyone is so drastically different in their designs,” Striebel said. “But everyone’s brain is so creative. It’s really cool to see how students just take a prompt and run with it.”
Scarpello had never sewn anything before enrolling in the program. He just loved fashion. He asked his grandmother the summer before he started classes to show him how to sew a pair of pants. Now, he’s spending a lot of time in his apartment’s living room-turned-miniature sewing studio, finishing a nine-piece collection of his own for Omaha Fashion Week.
“I wanted to accelerate the learning process for myself, so I applied to do my own show,” Scarpello said. “I like to work outside of class and keep learning how to make garments because I barely made anything before I started in the program.
“I love it because I realized that I think of myself as an artist and I’ve been able to express myself that way with my sewing and fashion design.”
One of his show pieces is a jacket made from a striped green camper awning. The jacket was developed from an upcycle prompt in his Flat Patterns class.
“I typically design for myself — a lot of my wardrobe I’ve made myself — but I probably won’t wear that piece,” he said. “It’s a little stiff.”
Scarpello wants to work for a menswear brand after graduation to learn the industry ropes, but his goal is to break out on his own.
“This is my art,” he said. “If I stayed under a brand, I probably wouldn’t find it as fulfilling as doing my own thing.”
Striebel, a former high school theater teacher, plans to teach again while continuing to make costumes for professional productions and designing garments for all body types.
“I want to design for everybody and make something someone could wear in a size 16, and it would look just as great on someone who is a size 22,” she said. “That’s really important to me, because that feeling of wearing something that looks great should be available to everyone. It’s where the industry needs to go, and it is starting to, but it is slow moving.”
Her next venture is taking over as costume designer for “The Bell Affair,” the new docudrama from the university team that produced the award-winning animated short feature, “Anna.” They will shoot the movie in June.
“I’m really excited to be a part of it,” Striebel said. “I’ve worked on plays and musicals but not in film yet.
“My husband and I are both movie buffs, and I pay attention to the costume design in films. But I think the best costume design disappears into the film. If I’m really consumed by what someone’s wearing, I’m not paying attention to the story, which is the goal of the movie.”
Striebel said she’d be watching the Oscars, for the red carpet fashion, as well as for the costume design award. If she was voting, she said she’d pick Jacqueline Durran for “Little Women.”
“Historical costumes are hard to do and I thought she did such a great job,” Striebel said. “You could tell that she made really conscious efforts to distinguish every single character with color palette and with her choices of garments.”