Remember Molly Ringwald’s homemade prom dress in Pretty in Pink? Fast-forward a few decades, throw in Charleston’s burgeoning style scene and pop culture hits like Project Runway, and you get high-schoolers eager to hone their raw design talents in the classroom.
Last fall, Charleston County School of the Arts (SOA) turned a 12-year-old costume and fashion design elective into an academic major whose first dozen students are learning sewing and drawing techniques, plus marketing skills. Meanwhile, 60 Wando High-Schoolers per semester benefit from the tutelage of Bessie Allen-Holmes, who’s taught fashion design there since 2009. Beginners alter items for teachers during “Hem Week,” while advanced students publish mock fashion magazines featuring their clothes.
Indeed, recent grads from both schools have cut, sewn, and draped their way into reputable institutions like Parsons The New School for Design. Yet classes in fashion are valuable for any student, say the instructors. “It’s fun and creative, but also involves math and problem-solving,” notes Caroline Baker, the designer-owner of Maude Couture who joined SOA’s faculty this winter. Allen-Holmes agrees: “It’s not just learning to sew. It’s learning about an entire industry.”