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MSU students help hats stage comeback
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Hats once were an essential element of a woman’s wardrobe, but some Mississippi State University students have reinvented this accessory as cutting edge fashion for their design class.
Phyllis Bell Miller, MSU associate professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising, teaches a course every fall called Visual Design in Dress. Students learn basic design and marketing principles of fashion in this class.
“The consideration of such elements as color, light and texture are what make fashion memorable, desirable and exciting,” Miller said. “Our students need to understand how these elements work together to create a successful fashion piece, display or advertisement.”
Miller selects a student project each year that involves the application of these principles. The project does not necessarily require sewing ability, and some past projects have focused on the design of flip flops, denim garments and bags.
This year, students designed hats, and Miller encouraged them to use imagination in creating an item to express their approach to fashion.
“I told students to design a hat and apply the elements of design that we talked about in class,” Miller said. “I was pleased with their commitment to the design and the creative flair they used in making their hats fashionable and fun.”
Students had the option of constructing the hats themselves using suitable foundation materials or buying plain hats. They used sequins, netting, feathers, ribbons, jewelry or crochet to represent a theme, and spent the semester developing the look.
In the meantime, Miller recruited a panel of faculty, senior students, graduates and business owners to judge the hats and pick the top five. She often asked her students to give progress reports and also bring the various stages of design development to class for critique and discussion.
Sophomore Christine White of West Point chose singer Lady Gaga as her fashion muse. White wanted a futuristic design the singer would wear. She constructed a wrap-around wire foundation and covered it with a stretchy, gunmetal-colored sock when other fabrics would not work.
“I played Lady Gaga’s latest album for inspiration, got caught-up in the mood and created something edgy and fun,” White said.
Other hats produced for class were just as unique. In the mix were basic hats, such as berets and cloches, that sit close to the head, and other shapes with crowns and bands, such as fedoras and derbies, that stand away from the head.
Hana Ali, a sophomore from Madison, won first place with a black beret inspired by a top runway model. She bought the beret and incorporated a neutral beige crochet overlay and black zipper detailing.
“Several people wanted to buy my hat,” Ali said. “That was really encouraging after the work I had put into the design.”
Sophomore Jessica Phillips of Olive Branch remembered how she loved “Alice in Wonderland” as a child. She said she decided to make a hat reflecting the character of the Mad Hatter when she read that Johnny Depp would be playing that part in a movie version from director Tim Burton.
“I had a blast gathering my accessories at the hobby store and adding elements that were a part of the story,” Phillips said. “The hat is rather heavy with all of those additions, but I think it befits the fantasy of the Mad Hatter.”
The hats will be part of the apparel, textiles and merchandising program’s first fashion exhibition on campus at the end of the spring semester. Clothing, fashion accessories and wearable art created by students and faculty will be on display.
“The enjoyable aspect of the project was the approach students took to design their individual looks and to motivate one another to do their best,” Miller said. “This is an essential part of the learning process.”
Next fall, the hats will have their own special exhibition in the Mitchell Memorial Library, and Miller may enter many of the hats in national and international competitions sponsored within the fashion industry.
Some students have their own ideas about where the hats will go next.
“I eventually may send my creation to Lady Gaga because she is so supportive of her fans and she loves to design her own hats,” White said. “The sock hat fits her persona and would be so cool on her.”
Contact: Dr. Phyllis Bell Miller, (662) 325-8783