79th Annual Fashion Design Show caps Saint Louis Fashion Week

The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts — home to the nation’s oldest four-year fashion design program — will present its 79th Annual Fashion Design Show at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 30. The show, a fully choreographed, Paris-style extravaganza, is the concluding event of Saint Louis Fashion Week.

The hour-long show takes place downtown at the Lumiere Place Casino & Hotels, 999 Second St., which is the site of several runway shows throughout the week.

Senior fashion design major Chelsea Murphy works on an evening gown for the 79th Annual Fashion Design Show, scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Lumiere Place Casino & Hotels.

Chaired by alumna Susan Block (BFA ’76), the Fashion Design Show will feature dozens of outfits created by the program’s 11 seniors and 11 juniors. The show will begin with ball gowns inspired by Cristobal Balenciaga (1885-1972), a Spanish designer whose spare, elegantly chic apparel exerted a strong influence over mid-20th-century fashion. Next up are “class-action” suits and daytime dress groups, the latter created as part of a larger merchandizing research project.

“The dress group project addresses the ‘real life’ fashion design issues of a fashion career,” said associate professor Jeigh Singleton, who has directed the fashion program since 1987. “Customer profiles, geographic locales, current socioeconomic trends and fashion trends play equally important roles in the development of a wearable, believable product.”

The show continues with tailored coats inspired by shoes from the collection of the Missouri History Museum, followed by dramatic cloaks and evening dresses in which silhouette is defined by movement.

“Draping in fashion design requires spontaneity, recognition and activity,” Singleton said. “It is a spiritual realm where creativity thrives and also a domain of endless struggle for perfection, expression and accomplishment.”

As in past years, the show will conclude with a single wedding gown. This year’s gown, by graduate student Katie Trout, is a bias-cut silk dress that fuses contemporary design with traditional forms inspired by Chicago’s 1882 Elite bluebook.

In addition to designing and sewing garments, students have developed choreography for the runway segments and recently organized a call for models that was attended by representatives from several local agencies. During the show, they will work backstage with the technical crew and with stylists such as Dominic Bertani of the Dominic Michael Salon, who has done the models’ hair for the past 16 years

“The fashion show is a great learning experience,” Singleton said. “Students run almost every aspect of the show. There’s a real sense of ownership.”

The show dates back to 1929, when Irving L. Sorger, merchandise manager for Kline’s, a tony St. Louis department store, visited the University’s recently established Dress Design Program, as it was then known.

Sorger was hoping to get a better sense of what young women wanted to wear. Impressed by the students’ work, he organized a showing for local garment manufacturers. From that show, eight dresses were selected for production, and, with sales surpassing all expectations, juniors’ fashions soon became a staple of the city’s garment industry.

Though St. Louis is no longer a manufacturing center, alumni of the fashion program include celebrated designers such as Paula Varsalona, Carolyn Roehm and Ellie Broady.

Recent graduates work for many of the industry’s major fashion houses and clothing retailers, including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Nanette Lepore, Lane Bryant, J. Crew, Target and Kohl’s.

Tickets for the show are $65 for general seating and $35 for standing-room-only and are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets. A limited number will be available at the door.

A special VIP reception at 6 p.m. will immediately precede the show. Tickets are $150. Proceeds will support scholarships in the fashion program.