VPA’s design program moves fashion forward

SU alumna Emme Aronson’s initiative, Fashion Without Limits, works to change the conception of body size in high fashion.

The first limit that Syracuse University alumna Emme Aronson’s initiative, Fashion Without Limits, ran into was mannequin size. Emme approached SU professor Jeffrey Mayer about offering students an opportunity to create clothes for the size 16 model.

“I said, ‘Well, the problem we are going to have is that our dress forms are all size 6 or 8,’” Mayer said.

Emme resolved that challenge by going to Wolf Form Co., a sizing company, and having her measurements taken to create custom dress forms.  Students will use the dress forms to construct clothing that flatters fuller figures.

“They are all called Emme forms, and the smallest size is actually her size,” Mayer said, “So we have sizes 16, 18 and 20. We ended up with a dozen of them.”

Emme became a successful model after graduating from SU, but she found it impossible to maintain her figure without extreme measures. Since getting healthy, she has been an advocate for loving your body.

Looks from Fashion Without Limits will be shown in the Milestone show — a collaboration between the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Students are challenged to create a gown for Emme, who will select and wear the winning look to an event. The designer will also win a trophy and a prize of $500.

Participants meet with Emme to learn about her preferences. Junior Hannah Ballinger said she looks forward to getting outside of her comfort zone and working with her new client.

“We are doing something that a lot of other students in other fashion programs don't get a chance to do,” Ballinger said. “We are designing for a body which is something that we don’t really get to do until senior year when you get to build clothes for models.”

Draping professor Claudia Gervais said that it is important for students to feel comfortable designing for individual women.

“We try to get students to understand that you are not doing it for yourself. But it is difficult, because the dress forms are very close to this age group in size,” Gervais said. “That should be the first thing that they say in freshman year, that it is not about us.”

Junior design student Alex Summers distinguishes between women who want to embrace their bodies and women who want to appear thinner.

“There are ways to make someone look smaller with different cuts or different styles,” Summers said. “But if someone is just like, ‘I want to embrace my butt,’ and it’s big, then there are ways to do that, and there are ways to make it look smaller.”

While the program currently is geared toward larger sizes, Mayer hopes to expand the program into petite women as well.

“We really felt that Fashion Without Limits was better for us, because on the other extreme many of our students who are very tiny feel like they are trying on their moms clothes,” he said. “So next year we want to incorporate a class that will encompass this entire range.”

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