By: Esmeralda Nuhanovic
Mallory Wheeler, a senior at the University of Northern Iowa, is a textiles and apparel student who has a talent of designing clothes. She has been involved with creating fashion ever since she was a young teen. Mallory’s dedication, passion, and hard work has brought many of her ideas to life throughout her college experience. With the knowledge of designing from the University of Northern Iowa and skills obtained from interning at Kohl’s, Mallory will be ready to graduate this December and start her new endeavors.
Mallory discovered her ability to sew ever since her grandma taught her the skill. The first thing Mallory knew how to make were pillowcases. From there on, she started to make more progress. At 15 years old, she began putting her talent to work by making aprons. At that age, she got her first job as a waitress and the aprons her job had offered were boring to Mallory. She wanted to wear something more creative, perhaps original. One day, she decided to sew her own aprons and she became very noticeable. Customers enjoyed her aprons as they would complement her and ask for recommendations on where she bought them. That was a turning point for Mallory. She opened her own apron business and kept it active for three years until she started college. Before entering college, Mallory had never made clothes that included shirts, dresses, jeans etc. She had only made pillowcases, aprons, and a few hats. UNI was the place where her skills started to expand immensely as she had been assigned to make multiple outfits in a semester.
There are many steps in the process of creating a piece of clothing. One of the very first things Mallory does is conceptualize. Once you have the design thought of, the next step is to analyze how difficult it’ll be to make the product. This is where the designer either adds/removes something or they just forget about the idea. Along with the step of analyzing, drawing it out also helps them eliminate any unnecessary elements. Once everything looks great and is set in stone, the fourth step is to buy the patterns for the project. The last step is prototyping. The designer can make any alterations needed to finally complete the finished product in this step.
“The steps are easier said than done,” said Mallory, “It took me about 30 hours to make one prom dress for the UNI Fashion Showcase last spring.” Even with the time and effort put into making a product, there are still setbacks in the end and not just through the process. For Mallory, this meant buying and using patterns that didn’t work and hating the finished result in the end. Last semester for one of her assignments, she had to create a blouse and restarted the whole plan from scratch after it turned out to be much lighter and see through than expected. It wasn’t a big deal for an assignment, but for a perfectionist like Mallory, every detail must count. “The assignment was due the next day and I restarted from scratch at 2:00 in the morning. That’s how bad I thought it looked and didn’t want it shared,” said Mallory.
With setbacks and struggles, there are always accomplishments that follow, especially in a field like this. Mallory’s favorite accomplishments were the wedding dress she created for her own wedding this last August and her prom dress line of 5 dresses she completed in one semester. One of her models was a high school student at that time has seen one of Mallory’s dresses from start to finish. “I saw big improvement from the dress she made me try the first time until the very end. It’s interesting to see how you can start from one idea and then completely change the sizing, styling, and even color throughout the process,” said UNI freshman Arijana Omanovic. “Even though you get more of no sleep and less of actual sleep, watching the line of dresses you created appear on the runway gives you a high rewarding feeling of satisfaction,” said Mallory. With Fall 2018 being her last semester, she is making sure her experiences and skills don’t go to waste.
Towards the end of her spring semester, she landed a job as an assistant manager at Kohl’s and is involved in an independent study with Kohl’s visual merchandising team. For one of her assignments, she had to choose 3 clothing pieces and recreate a Lauren Conrad inspired design with her own ideas. She has also been working on a project for one of her classes that involves bringing back a certain look from the 80’s with a modern twist.
Mallory is more excited than she claims to be with her semester wrapping up soon. Mallory will be moving to Springfield, Missouri and will take it easy for a little. “I’m ready to sew for fun and make my sister and maybe her best friend’s prom dress since I have more time on my hands and don’t have due dates that I have to be working with,” mentioned Mallory.
She also wants to start her own non-profit organization that sells feminist tee shirts. “This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” says Mallory, “I have a folder on my laptop dedicated to various tee shirt designs with feminist sayings. All of the profits will go to women and children in shelters who are homeless, have been abused or raped, and those struggling with mental health.” Mallory’s future job would be to only design clothes and have someone else sew as sewing to her is more of a personal hobby. According to Mallory, that’s what fashion designers do in the real world.