UW Today

August 17, 2012

Wearable art youth class is a perfect fit for summer

News and Information

Coco Sack, a student in the Fashion Design: Creating Wearable Art class, and instructor Michael Cepress.

Coco Sack, 12, a student in the UW Summer Youth Programs class Fashion Design: Creating Wearable Art, tries out the mylar wings she created as class instructor Michael Cepress looks on.Mary Levin

Every young evil villain needs a good cape, and the UW’s Summer Youth Programs class in wearable art is just the place to put one together — and lots of other great stuff, too.

“Fashion Design: Creating Wearable Art” is one of a variety of classes offered by Summer Youth Programs, a division of UW Professional and Continuing Education. It’s a two-week class where middle school students learn some fashion theory and history while designing and building fun creations all their own.

Summer Youth Programs, which wrapped up its sessions Aug. 17, offers classes each year in art, robotics, community architecture, computer programming, writing, playwriting, book arts, sustainability and more. This summer even featured a class in circus arts for elementary school students.

The wearable art class took place in a sunlit room on the second floor of the Art Building. It was taught by Michael Cepress, a clothing designer who earned a master’s of fine arts from the UW and who has his own studio in Seattle.

Many of the students spent mornings in a fiber arts class also taught by Cepress, then spent the afternoon using the fabrics they’d dyed for their designs.

Cepress stood nearby, assisting, adjusting and consulting as the young designers tried on their creations.

“You could say it’s an evil villain’s cape,” said Lilly LeBlanc, 10, steepling her fingers bad-guy style as she modeled her checkered-green design. Meanwhile, Coco Sack, 12, gently fluttered a set of long, thin Mylar wings that she said were a good deal harder to make than she’d expected — and indeed seemed as much a matter of engineering as clothing design.

Nicole Tsai, 14, drew a cool design for “a suit, like for a man but for girls,” and then tried on part of the coat with Cepress’ help. They worked together to figure out how to work the complicated back of the piece.

Many in the class also designed paper dresses that Cepress said were like prototypes — a white canvas awaiting further innovation.

The class seemed nearly as fun for its teacher as for the young students.

“There’s something about when a student has no real background and is learning something new like dyeing cloth,” Cepress said. “When you come to it fresh you can’t help but be innovative in so many ways — there are no preconceived notions about how it works or doesn’t work.

Leslie Rome-Nagata, who oversees the Summer Youth Arts program, said the class “gave the students a chance to work at their own level. Some were very advanced in terms of sewing and design and even brought in their own sewing machines, and others were newer.

“The beauty of the class was that Michael was able to cater to whatever experience level the students were at. Everybody felt like they were accomplishing something and ended up with products that were really quite good.”