Student makes fashion statement with glass dress
Yolanda models the dress, which was created by Kelsey Pushkarewicz.

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2:09 p.m., June 4, 2010----Call it savoir-faire with inspired design, but any way you look at it, the stunning new dress creation by University of Delaware student Kelsey Pushkarewicz makes a fashion statement like no other.

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For starters, the dress is made entirely of silicon-mounted glass beads.

The eye-catching turquoise and white one-shoulder cocktail dress also adds about 25 pounds to one's evening out ensemble.

A fashion apparel student and member of the Synergy Fashion Group, Pushkarewicz saw her conceptual creation featured on the runway at the registered student organization's annual spring Synergy Fashion Show held last month in the Trabant University Center Theatre.

“There are three competitions at the show, including collections, open submissions, and a blank canvas category, which has a different theme each year,” Pushkarewicz said. “This year's blank canvas competition theme was to make something out of recyclable materials, including trash, metal, plastic and, of course, glass.”

While the glass beads Pushkarewicz used can be found at A.C. Moore, Joann's Fabrics and similar venues, fashioning the half-inch wide and quarter-inch thick discs into a wearable outfit took some expert UD professional advice.

The journey from conception to creation began when Pushkarewicz discussed her idea with Dana Chatellier, an education specialist who teaches in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“I asked Dana if I could try to manipulate the polished glass beads in the chemistry lab, and he steered me toward Doug Nixon for more ideas,” Pushkarewicz said. “When I told Doug that I wanted to drill holes in the beads and link them with wire, he suggested using silicone instead.”

A master glass technologist in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Nixon said they discussed structure options that would allow the design to become reality.

The connecting material had to be strong enough to hold together, yet flexible enough to wrap around the model, Nixon said.

“We decided on using silicone on the back, with reinforced strips between each piece to meet both objectives,” Nixon said. “The design and assembly was totally Kelsey's creative masterpiece. I was very impressed with the finished product and proud to have been able to assist her.”

Nixon did drill a number of beads that could be hooked down the side of the dress, while Pushkarewicz turned to the universal standby of duct tape for the next step, which would give the dress shape and structure while allowing for movement when being modeled.

“I used duct tape to cover a dress form, with the sticky side facing out,” Pushkarewicz said. “Then, I placed the glass beads facing into the tape. I designed the bodice and used silicone glue to fill in the spaces and connect the beads.”

She compares the process to grouting stones in an outdoor pathway.

The bottom half, formed over a tall, turned over flowerpot, was affixed by the drilled beads with strap hooks that connected the two sections of the dress.

“Allowing 24 hours for both pieces to set, I took the skirt off the flower pot and fastened it around the dress form, and filled in the part where there bodice meets the skirt with more silicone and waited for it to dry,” Pushkarewicz said. “When it was all dry I rolled it up like a poster and took it to the show.”

To prepare students for the competition, the Synergy Design Club conducts a material studies workshop to encourage creative thinking when it comes to putting traditional and nontraditional materials together to form fashion creations, Marsha Dickson, chairperson of the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies, said.

“It takes considerable talent and skill to design fashion garments, but the task is compounded when a designer attempts to put together hard objects such as glass in a way that works with the more organic curves of the human body,” Dickson said. “I was stunned by the level of creativity that Kelsey and the others demonstrated in their designs.”

Designing and creating cutting-edge fashions is just part of a daily semester regime that includes classes during the day followed by many hours in the sewing lab, Pushkarewicz said.

“I made costumes for theatre production while in high school, including Willy Wonka, Eliza Doolittle and Maria from West Side Story,” Pushkarewicz said. “The sewing lab is the place where costume designs come to life.”

Pictures of the dress modeled by Yolanda, as well as garments designed and fashioned by other Synergy Design Club members, can be found online.

Article by Jerry Rhodes

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