Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPIB: Project Fashion

True confessions: I am a fan of Project Runway and have been watching it for yours exclaiming – this would be a great teen program, except for the part about the sewing.  But I have mulled over in my head for years and kept thinking someday, maybe.  Then they produced Project Accessory, which suddenly becomes a much more realistic program goal.

The first question we ask ourselves when designing a program is what should it look like; although I certainly think you could have this as a one time program, I think it would work better as a series.  The benefit to having a program series is that you capture and keep teen interests over a period of time, keep your library programming out in the public eye, and you get time to try and build relationships with teens for the future.

In my mind, I see this as a series of 4 events with each event ending in a fashion show.  You could determine a winner at that time or broaden your audience by taking pictures and allowing online voting.

Challenge 1: Accessories
Simply provide a variety of beads and beading “stuff” (I am sure that is the technical term) and let teens be creative.  You can be as specific or as general as you want to be.  On the more general end the challenge is simply create 3 unique accessories of your choice.  On the more specific end you ask them to make accessories to complement an outfit or an event (say, prom).  Or you can name the specific types of pieces you would like them to make: a necklace, a bracelet, a hair piece, for example.  Don’t forget that you can make paper beads out of discarded magazines and manga!

Challenge 2: Shoe alterations
Through places such as Oriental Trading, you can buy make your own flip flop kits.  You can also buy them at most craft stores.  You can glue gemstones, tie pieces of cloth, etc. to create a unique flip flop look.  Or you can use white canvas shoes (think white Keds) and provide fabric markers and gemstones.  Flip flops are obviously on the less expensive end of the scale.

Make fluffy flip flops
Make your own flip flops from a yoga mat
DIY Diva Flip Flops

Challenge 3: The bag
There are a wide variety of ways that you can challenge teens to make handbags.  Some of them involve cutting old jeans (which you could cut and sew beforehand and then just provide the elements to decorate).  Or you can buy a variety of canvas tote or nylon drawstring bags at the craft store for teens to decorate and embellish.  To make blue jean purses, I recommend buying jeans at a place like Salvation Arm and doing any sewing before the event to keep costs down; this also helps with the issue of having access to enough sewing machines.

How to make a Jean purse

Challenge 4: The modified t-shirt
There are tons of ideas online and in our collections for ways to modify t-shirts, often without even involving any sewing.  The most basic would involve fabric markers, non mess tie dye with permanent markers, bedazzling and cutting and tying.

Here are some examples of no-sew t-shirt modification
Generation T is a blog dedicated to t-shirt design ideas (and there are great books to go along with the site that I hope you have in your library collection)
Wren’s T-shirts also has some good examples
T-shirt surgery

You can include some unique variations like: Make Steampunk jewelry, Make a futuristic (science fiction) look, Summer fun fashions (flip flops, hats, beach bags, and sunglasses), and my personal favorite – zombie fashions (deconstruct clothing to make it look like you are a zombie and do zombie make-up). Guys can do it to: they can make studded collars and cuffs and flip flops, for example.  You could also make cell phone bling, zipper pulls and pet fashions.

Shredded ends, strategically placed cuts and tears and some red paint make a t-shirt look like a zombie shirt

Sellers Library did a Project Runway event using trash bags and duct tape – genius!

Getting Prepared for the Program:
You’ll want to spend some time outlining what specific projects you will want to do before you get your publicity together.  You’ll want to do registration, either single or in teams, to make sure you have enough supplies on hand.  The specific challenges you choose will greatly influence your cost, so I would mix and match to keep cost at a reasonable level.

Running the Event:
I would recommend having each specific session run for an hour and a half.  During the first hour teens can make their fashions and then during the last half hour you can have the runway show.  I would make the runway show open to other teens and provide refreshments.  And as I mentioned, I would also take pictures of the runway show to allow for online voting.  Then, the next week, you could announce who was eliminated (if you choose to go the elimination route) and announce the next challenge.  I don’t know that you have to eliminate each week, you could just have a weekly “winner” and then choose an overall winner if you so chose.

If you have some great craft ideas that would be fun for a project fashion event, please share it with us in the comments. Also, please share if you have done this type of an event: how did you set it up? What activities did you do? And do share pictures please!

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