The Fashion Designs at The Dalí program, now in its fourth year, will showcase Dalí-inspired fashions designed by students in grades 9 through 12. This year, it’s an online event.
To comply with CDC safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, participants met via Zoom rather than in the classroom. In previous years, the fully equipped Gibbs High School classroom at Pinellas County Center for the Arts in St. Petersburg provided specialized sewing machines, dress forms in all sizes, pattern drafting equipment, a resource library, a hands-on instructor, the camaraderie of live interactions and access to supportive tools and materials needed to create costumes.
With this year’s required pivot to online learning, students studied and worked primarily from their homes, always keeping their eyes on the prize. Value added — they honed their problem-solving skills, which will be effective in any field of study or profession.
Another benefit is the virtual format’s expanded reach. Two students living in the Orlando area were able to participate online this year without having to commute. So, rather than experiencing the excitement of the program culminating on the runway with a live fashion show, this year students are excited to experience the unveiling of their innovative designs online — for the world.
“This year’s theme, Dalí in Film: From Sketch to Screen, was chosen before we knew what was coming,” says the Dalí’s School and Community Education Manager Denisse De Leon.
She points out that the fortuitous theme choice of Dalí in Film paired well with the virtual format, motivating students to respond to the question, “How do I design something that will look really cool on film rather than on the runway? The timing was perfect. The films are all available on YouTube, so it was easy to send the links to students to watch.”
Students viewed and chose from three of Dalís collaborative film efforts – Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1929, with Luis Buñuel), Destino (1946, with Disney) and Spellbound (1945, with Hitchcock). Thirteen weeks of Zoom classes followed to discuss the films, fashion, Dalís symbolism and how to write an artist statement — also known in the costume design industry as a justification.
Patricia Kelley has been the Instructor for Fashion Designs at the Dalí since the program’s inception. And she is a member of the Theatrical Design and Technology Department at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA) at Gibbs High School. Kelley is a specialist in costume design and has been part of the Gibbs faculty for 21 years.
What does the instructor like most about teaching these students?
“I really, really like their creativity and how they take the concepts and fly,” Kelley replies. “My students at Gibbs are really gifted, and the Dalí Museum gives students another option to experience fashion programs.”
Fashion Designs at The Dalí is one of several meaningful art education opportunities the Dalí Museum offers to connect with the community. Students who wish to apply to this program are required to provide a portfolio with preliminary sketches and statements detailing what intrigues them about the program.
Once accepted, students manage the process of fashion and costume design from planning their initial concepts to showcasing their completed creations. Steps in the process include studying Dalí’s symbolism and how it can be woven into fashion, collecting fabric and upcycled materials, stitching by hand and sewing machines, repurposing recycled objects and materials, and sometimes gluing items to fabrics to create special effects.
For example, one student used Mylar balloons in her design, another integrated hula hoops. Another student built a chicken wire structure to support a stole of puffy white fabric depicting a split cloud floating about the model’s shoulders. Students’ artist statements and sketches can be seen on The Dalí website.
Guest presenters also provided Zoom presentations sharing their professional experience and encouragement regarding various fashion career paths. Presenting guests were renowned television and film Costume & Wardrobe Supervisor Marcia Patten, who also served as an awards judge, and the team from Tampa-based Fanatics, led by Vice President of Global Design and Creative Direction John Nite.
Judges for this year’s awards are Fanatics’ Chief Merchandising Ofﬁcer Carmen Bauza; Vice President and General Manager at Neiman Marcus Tampa Bay, Kim Biehl; Trustee of the Dali Museum and fabric artist, Jeannine Hascall; Co-creator of Three Muses, a sustainable, ready-to-wear brand by women, for women, Luisa Glumm; fellow creator of Three Muses and author of “Playbook” a weekly curated lifestyle newsletter, Chris Gentilini; and TV and film Costume & Wardrobe Supervisor Marcia Patten.
Patten says her Zoom talk with students, “was about highlighting job opportunities in film and television for people who work in fashion design… If you have the skills and the motivation, you will get hired. It doesn’t matter what your lifestyle is or your age. I sometimes hire 50 to 200 people to work on a film, and when the theatres open again in New York, there is an enormous amount of work.
“I was very impressed with all these students,” adds Patten. “They are so sophisticated and motivated. And I give a lot of credit to the Dalí Museum for making a program like this available so these young people are exposed to these opportunities. The Dalí is very involved in community outreach. It is a unique museum.”
On April 1 from 6 to 8 pm, Nieman Marcus in International Plaza, Tampa will host See, Sip & Shop, a fundraising event for Fashion Design at The Dalí.
Eight of the students’ winning designs will be featured during the event and displayed at Neiman Marcus through June 30.
You can preview students design sketches and inspirations in an online exhibit. Student designs will debut via the free online premiere event on March 25 from 7 to 8:30 pm. Advance registration is required. The event is free but donations to the Dalí’s education programs are encouraged.
Instructor Patricia Kelley concludes, “I love to see the students’ faces when they see their costumes onstage. They are so proud when they get it all done. When you watch their faces, you see the pride in their accomplishments.”