Archivists hard at work in Special Collections have unearthed a fascinating video of “ArtWear ’83,” the 4th annual juried fashion exhibition put on by fashion design students at North Texas State University. Those of us who grew up in the 1980s will enjoy flashbacks to the hot fashions of our youth (can you say …shoulder pads?). Project Runway fans should appreciate the time and effort involved in conceptualizing and designing an entire clothing line within a short time frame and then seeing those months of hard work walk down the runway on professional models.
ArtWear is the annual juried exhibition for exhibiting graduating senior student work in the Fashion Design program at UNT. The first ArtWear show was held at Papagayo, a disco club in Dallas on May 3rd, 1980, with help from art faculty members Betty Marzan and Henry Swartzand, and the annual event is still being held today. Artwear ‘80 was a significant show because it was the first time the senior fashion design show was held off campus, increasing its notoriety and stressing it as a professionalization exercise for the students involved. Fine line graphics, a studio operated by UNT Art students, came up with the Artwear name and logo for the 1980 show, and designed the tickets, promotional materials, and event advertising.
For over 30 years, this event has introduced students to many aspects of Dallas’s bustling fashion industry. In many years, students’ designs were displayed by professional models who donated their time in support of the event. The garments were then juried by industry professionals. Judges were often established fashion designers, retailers, and manufacturers. Noted American fashion designer Todd Oldham was one of the judges for the 5th annual show, Artwear ‘84, along with Eric Kimmel, notorious fashion bad boy and past-editor of the avant-garde fashion magazine Haute. For many of the exhibitions, submitted designs were required to be completely original, and students couldn’t use commercial patterns. Some students went so far as to print their own fabrics. Each student prepared between 8 and 15 fashions for the show.
In order to build a complete show, often times over 350 total garments were submitted by the students involved. Between 125-250 garments were selected the basis of marketability, creativity, construction, fabric choice, and overall design. The work involved often required students work on their garments for an entire year, each student vying for recognition within the industry and the coveted Brass Button Award. Randy Carrell won the Brass Button Award for best senior collection in the ArtWear ‘87 show. Carrell’s work included a line of menswear and wool suits, a new category added to the ArtWear ‘87 competition. Awards were also given for the most creative collection. ArtWear has been supported by many magnates of the Dallas fashion industry. Texas fashion staple Neiman Marcus has been a longtime ArtWear supporters, and Artwear ‘88 was made possible by a $20,000 grant from Foley’s.
Even before ArtWear helped put our University on the creative map, UNT had a history of supporting students’ fashion forwardness. During the early 1960s, North Texas State College students enrolled in the School of Home Economics could work toward a major in Clothing and Textiles in preparation for a career as a designer, buyer, and commercial home economist. Required classes for the program included “Art in Clothing: Fundamental principles of design and color applied to the selection and planning of becoming and appropriate wardrobe; standards of good taste,” and “Consumer Problems: Buying of clothing and textiles for the home, including a study of family wardrobe in relation to family needs and income” (Undergraduate Bulletin of the North Texas State College, 1960-1961).
In 1963, Costume Design Class instructor Mrs. Shirley Ezell started a Costume Design Club for her students interested in the field of fashion design. The first Fashion Design Club was created in 1968 to introduce students to the professional aspects of the fashion enterprise. In 1972, the Fashion Committee, under the direction of the Student Activities Union, hosted a number of fashion related programs along with the committee’s models, the Mam-Selles, a group that offered “young ladies a chance to relate with the fashion world by stressing femininity.”
The Center for Marketing and Design was formally established at North Texas State University in December 1981, a groundbreaking interdisciplinary effort to combine specific program strengths in multiple departments to better serve the student body and facilitate connections with the surrounding business community. The Center combined resources to provide students with experience across multiple aspects of the fashion industry, and by 1988 included the Art Department’s design program, fashion merchandising in the School of Human Resource Management, marketing in the College of Business Administration, and industrial technology in the College of Education. One of the key supportive elements that made the Center possible was the Texas Fashion Collection, donated to NTSU in 1972 by the Fashion Group Inc. of Dallas. At the time, the collection included over 3,500 pieces including works by the world’s leading designers. By 1987, the collection had grown to over 10,000 pieces. Now boasting over 20,000 objects, the Texas Fashion Collection is an excellent educational resource, and one of the most significant fashion archives in the U.S.
The 2016 ArtWear fashion show will take place on May 7th in room 314 in the new Union, and we can’t wait to see it. This event perfectly illustrates how at UNT, creativity is always in fashion.
— Courtney Jacobs, Special Collections Librarian
Watch excerpts from ArtWear ’83! Models for ArtWear ‘83 were professionals who donated their time in support of the program.