Move over, little black dress.
February is Heart Awareness Month. In an effort to raise awareness about women’s cardiac health, Marist College’s student fashion designers have produced a collection of red cocktail dresses — the official icon of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women initiative. The swanky smocks will be shown off at a February 27 luncheon hosted by the Dutchess-Ulster branch of the AHA, and also at Marist’s annual Silver Needle Fashion Show in May.
Each student designer submitted sketches of three cocktail dress designs, from which one was chosen by a faculty jury. Each student’s final entry was brought to life using only satin, jersey, and chiffon fabric in the AHA’s signature bright red. Senior Meghan McKay of Albany says she shaped “the most eye-catching, attention-grabbing thing” she could imagine — a bubble-skirt dress with a corset top. “It actually inspires you to be more creative,” she says of the project’s specifications. “You still want yours to stand out, to express your designs. It’s a real challenge.”
This same challenge taught the students about the importance of their own heart health. “It’s not really the first thing on a college girl’s mind,” McKay admits. “You’re not getting enough sleep, not eating right… I found myself asking family members what our history was. I recently had a physical, and I actually paid attention to my numbers this time.”
In recent years, more Marist students have become involved in community outreach programs (the well-known Marist College poll is one example), so the Go Red for Women project fits right in. By showing off their dresses at the luncheon and fashion show, the students help promote the importance of making heart-healthy life choices. “We met a lot of heart attack survivors who came to see our dresses,” says McKay, “and they loved them. It’s really great to see people who might not know anything about fashion design, but could appreciate our work — because this is all for them.”
The students only had a scant two and a half weeks to complete the entire project, but Radley Cramer, director of the college’s fashion program, is thrilled with the results of their efforts. “They all rose to the challenge quite well,” he says. Does he have a favorite among the designs? “I couldn’t pick one,” he diplomatically admits. “I’d get myself in trouble!”