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September 14, 2007
Turning up the seam stress
VIKKI ORTIZ Staff Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sewing an outfit for a real person — not just a mannequin — is nerve-racking enough for third-year fashion design students at Mount Mary College.

But this summer, students in Sandra Tonz's tailoring class were handed the kind of assignment that leads to nail biting. The college's new president, Linda Timm, asked them to create an outfit she could wear to today's inauguration.

Not exactly the type of customer you want to accidentally poke with a pin.

"Not a lot of us have worked with a client before, and she is such a client," said student Jessica Frantal, who, along with other members of the class, weren't planning on sewing fancy buttonholes in executive silk when the course began. "I think we were all a little apprehensive when she first came in."

Timm, who will be sworn in today as the college's 10th president, had been impressed with work of other Mount Mary fashion design students, which she had seen during the program's annual spring fashion show last year.

So, inspired by a peer who made a similar request at another university, Timm asked the tailoring class to create something "feminine, but very professional" that would hold up well through a busy day of inauguration activities.

"I really enjoy getting to know students and working with students," Timm said. "I wanted to have the opportunity to showcase what our students are doing in the fashion area."

Consultations on Timm's custom-made ensemble began early in the summer, with discussions about design, material and color. Timm told the students she would prefer a long jacket, and brought in a blouse in her preferred shade of blue.

From that point on, it was one challenge after another for the students. The exact blue Timm requested was not available in the correct material at local fabric stores.

Students, as well as Tonz, their teacher, made treks to Chicago to find the silk crepe in the right hue.

Next, the students created a version of the three-piece outfit in muslin, a tough, basic material used before making patterns, which took several weeks. When the group was finally ready to sew the ensemble, there were still more setbacks. The fabric the students chose to line the skirt, blouse and jacket was so slippery, students wondered how they would finish.

"It was like ice on ice, it was terrible," said Neenee Lor, 20, another student in the class.

The project was so involved, students — many of whom juggle school with caring for their families — came in on their own time, children in tow, during weekly fittings with Timm.

In the end, however, the students did finish, with a few added flourishes, as well. During one of the last fittings, the class surprised Timm with a monogrammed inscription on the jacket's inside pocket:
Inauguration 2007
From our Hands
Mount Mary Tailoring Students

Timm's eyes filled with tears when they unveiled the inscription. She said she was glad she chose not to shop at a department store or online for her big occasion.

"It wouldn't have been nearly as special," she said.

 

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