Jemicy Students Collaborating with Penn-Mar on Unique Fashion Show Event - Penn-Mar

Jemicy Students Collaborating with Penn-Mar on Unique Fashion Show Event

Posted on February 24, 2023

By Pauline Savage, US Visual Arts Department Chair, College Counselor for the Arts | Jemicy School

Headshot of Pauline smiling at the camera.

I teach fashion design at the Jemicy School in Owings Mill, MD, a school that educates students with dyslexia and related language-based learning differences. My students are brilliant visual spatial thinkers, ingenious when it comes to problem solving. They have a talent for making unusual connections that allows them to see opportunities that many people cannot.

Just prior to the pandemic, Tina Chan Sweenie, Penn-Mar‘s Associate Director of Development, Volunteer and Donor Relations — whose daughter Leila is one of our students — told me that Penn-Mar was planning to organize a Fashion Show for the people it supports. Would our students be interested in designing clothes for them?

My immediate response was “we can totally do this!” The Jemicy community is built on a foundation of inclusion. We honor and celebrate neurodiversity. Our gifted young creatives shine brightest when they engage in real-world design opportunities.

Luckily, we have two very large fashion design classes with 18 students. Their goal is to have all of their original fashions ready for a May 19 live streamed event staged at Penn-Mar’s Central location.

Three people talking at a table with a boy recording them with a camera.In the midst of all this planning, I shared our assignment with Jemicy’s videography teacher when she realized that this would be a perfect storyline for her students’ documentary project.

What could be better than documenting their peers meeting with their clients about their fashion preferences, following them through the creative process and final fittings, and watching them on the sidelines cheering on their models during the Show?

This is yet another example of what is so exciting and special about Jemicy that we as teachers have the flexibility to expose our kids to real work.

As I write this, our students have completed their measurements and created storyboards with a picture of each Penn-Mar model that includes their goals, style and clothing preferences and colorful images of fashion examples and material swatches to inspire their work.

A student measuring the leg of a woman. Twenty original designs are now in work that address each person’s sensory issues. Where appropriate, clothing is designed to slip overhead easily, utilizes stretchy materials with minimal seams, and relies on large zippers, magnets or ties to secure.

During the measurement and subsequent design sessions, Cindy from Penn-Mar expressed a need to feel good and comfortable in a dress that is easy to put on. She prefers rainbow colors, a drawstring waist and pockets.

Daryl was very specific about wanting a “cho-cho train bucket hat;” Laura asked for a pink purse; and Gene was looking for a dragon shirt and belt.

Nick preferred a slim fit gold shirt with sequins, swirls and fancy buttons paired with black pants and gold-lined cuffs with additional sequins.

Derek asked for a dark colored jogging pant that would be loose enough to accommodate his leg braces and made with a “Velcro-friendly fabric.”

Two students and two Penn-mar individuals talking.

Julia noted that she was allergic to cashmere but would be comfortable in a royal blue off-the-shoulder wool dress with straps.

These are just a few examples of the unique collaboration between our designers and Penn-Mar’s models that are allowing our students to work with purpose. I can assure you that they have a lot of joy in their hearts while they are completing their assignment, not something you usually hear about with high school-age teenagers!

We are so grateful to Tina Chan Sweenie for approaching us with this idea and to her daughter Leila who is a leader in this inclusive Fashion Show initiative. Our Jemicy creatives are thrilled to share smiles, creative vision, and most importantly, a fun experience with the wonderful people at Penn-Mar.   

A large group of people in a classroom.
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