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U student Rachel Carlson stands next to one of her dress designs.

University senior Rachel Carlson with her winning design, "Sculptural Feathers: Tailored Suit."

Clothing design senior wins trip to Paris

By Patty Mattern, University News Service

From eNews, March 4, 2004

University clothing design senior Rachel Carlson learned to sew in 4-H when she was seven. At 13, she stopped using patterns and started designing the clothes she wore. Recently, one of Carlson's creations won her a month in Paris. "Fashion design is the way I express myself artistically," says Carlson, whose Barbies were some of the best-dressed dolls in Waseca, Minnesota. Last fall, Carlson submitted several pieces to the International Textile and Apparel Association juried exhibition in Savannah, Georgia. The judges accepted three of her designs for the exhibit and awarded her Best Wearable Art and Best In Show/Excellence for her creation, "Sculptural Feathers: Tailored Suit"--a black velvet pantsuit complete with a headgear of colorful feathers. Carlson, who competed against more than 270 clothing design students from around the world for the top prize, will spend July studying at the Paris American Academy in France. Her goal is to earn a master's degree in fashion design from Central Saint Martin's School of Art and Design in London, and eventually own a design company. "Rachel has the perfect combination of skills and knowledge to succeed as a designer--technical know-how and a keen eye for developing the visual package," says Karen LaBatt, associate professor of clothing design in the University's College of Human Ecology. Carlson's designs are focused on wearable art and couture techniques. She finds little joy in designing for the 5'10", size 2 model, but instead prefers working with people's unique bodies to make the garments that work well on them. She incorporates a lot of corsets into her creations and prides herself in detailed work. Her interest in historical silhouettes from the 1800s and 1920s drives some of her designs. "That was a more glamorous period of time," she explains. "I take those ideas and make them more modern, so people can wear those styles today." Carlson is a self-confessed perfectionist who "can spend endless hours on one garment." Yet time is not her only investment. "[Pursuing clothing design is] very expensive," she says. "You not only have to buy books, but you have to buy fabric and supplies." Despite spending an estimated $2,000 on her senior project, Carlson says the investment is worth it. During the University of Minnesota student fashion show in February--a required event in order for student designers to graduate--Carlson stood backstage as models took her art onto the runway. "I heard everyone cheering when each of my models walked out on stage," she says. "It was the most wonderful feeling to have the audience really appreciate what I am doing." To learn more about the University's clothing design program, see

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