July 14, 2024

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MCHS Fashion Design team bound for nationals | News, Sports, Jobs



LEWISTOWN — Four Mifflin County High School students are packed and prepared for their flight to Orlando on Tuesday.

But their minds are far from having fun in the Florida sunshine. Instead, the four — who comprise the Mifflin County High School Technology Student Association (TSA) Fashion Design and Technology team — are focused on competing at the National TSA Conference to be held in Orlando, starting Wednesday through Sunday.

“This is a huge achievement,” explained Rebecca ConnerMiller, a technology education teacher for the Mifflin County School District. “Being first-year students, it’s amazing to see what they have been able to do.

The students — Reina Cirota and Andi Miller, who will be seniors in the fall; and Emily Banks and Oak Yeater, soon to be juniors — competed and took home top honors at the Pennsylvania-TSA State Conference earning them a transfer to the national event.

The fashion design and technology event asked teams to create an original, student-created, professionally-fabricated garment that matched the theme they were given. This year’s theme was Avant Garde, which is a style of fashion that pushes the envelope of what is up-and-coming.

Cirota said, “The design is a dress with an empire waist and full skirt with lighted tentacles, created to mimic the Aequorea victoria jellyfish.”

“They really put their skill sets and abilities out there,” ConnerMiller said. “I think seeing other kids at the competition like them will be inspiring.”

Additionally, students created a research portfolio that could make or break their score. Their portfolio consisted of research they had done on the history of the Avant Garde style, describing which fabrics they used, why they used that type of fabric and what influenced their choices.

Because technology was required to be incorporated into the garment for the competition, the team tried to play into the “glow in the dark sea creatures: theme for their garment.

Students said they were inspired by jellyfish and the unusual silhouettes in a lot of Avant Garde fashion.

The state competition had multiple rounds of evaluation before the team was finally named as the winners. They dropped off their garment for judging and had to wait and see if they advanced to the semifinals.

Once they learned they had qualified, they formally presented their garment in a fashion show and went through the interview process.

For nationals, the team made a few changes to the garment, including changing the wave that goes around the neck of the dress. They’re hoping the third competition — to be held at nationals — will be the charm and land them a national crown.

ConnerMiller is so proud of what her students have accomplished but isn’t certain they quite understand what it means to compete on such a national stage.

“I’m not sure it’s sunk in,” she said. “They’ve never been to a national conference like this. There will be people there from all over the country and out of the country. I don’t think they realize the scale of this event.

“There’s a huge awards ceremony there, and I think once they see that they’ll realize the magnitude of it,” she added.

ConnerMiller said the students’ success has been earned because they listened to the judges’ feedback, including helpful hints, and worked hard to come up with new ideas.

She recalled one judge — a professional seamstress – telling the students about some errors in their sewing for their garment that would not be seen by untrained eyes but certainly would be caught by other judges.

“She suggested going back and redoing those areas,” ConnerMiller said. “They perfected the elements that were hidden.”

In addition to preparing their garment, the students also had to raise about $4,000 to cover their fees, travel expenses, accommodations and meals. “We appreciate the community support for the kids,” she added. The students raised more than $1,600 through a GoFundMe page and held some other fundraisers for the balance.

“I’m happy with how it worked,” ConnerMiller said. “They sent a sponsorship donation letter to local businesses. This gave them the legwork to go out and make a connection with community members.”

Regardless of how they finish at nationals, these first-year students certainly can be proud of their accomplishments. All four of these students joined the TSA organization for their very first season in October 2023.

They selected the Fashion Design and Technology event and began working their way through the competition requirements, knowing their first stop was the regional event held at Cambria Heights High School on Feb. 3, 2024.

At regionals, the students submitted their research portfolio for evaluation and participated in a private judge’s interview and garment showcase. At the conclusion of regionals, the team qualified for the state conference with a third-place finish.

Going forward, the team started planning a strategy for the future. They worked with a former MCHS TSA mentor, created design modifications, upgraded and enhanced their portfolio, conducted research on the fashion design industry and collaborated as a team many times a week, ConnerMiller said.

From April 17 to 20, the team attended the PA-TSA State Conference at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. At this national qualifying event, students initially submitted their research portfolio and garments for evaluation. Upon the conclusion of the primary evaluation round, the team was 1 of 12 invited to participate in the live runway show and public judges interview sessions.

“These students rocked it with intelligence, grace and charm,” ConnerMiller said. “In front of judges and a large crowd, they described their design process, their fabrication techniques, the connection of the garment to the theme, and more.”

All while music played in the background and the model showcased the elegance of the garment, its enhancements and overall presentation.

At the end of the state event, the team learned they had won first prize, earning them a transfer position to the National TSA Conference in Orlando.




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