Top banner
Like us On Facebook
Monday November 28, 2016 at 2:43pm Age: 2 yrs
Category: District, High School


Creative minds are always after breakthroughs. With the inventiveness and industry you can expect from a 20-year veteran art teacher, a year ago Sylvia Morais began asking herself how to bring something fresh to the art department at Minisink Valley High School.


“I chipped away at the idea of art as an exclusionary, rarefied experience to identify art as something that is part of our lives, viable and marketable,” Mrs. Morais said.


Her vision would pave the way for two new art classes now being offered at the high school: Apparel & Fashion Design and Textiles. 


Twelve juniors and seniors are currently taking the apparel and fashion design class. They were drawn to it for disparate reasons, and their sewing experience varies from none to skilled. But for some the class is also a window of possibilities into the multi-billion-dollar fashion industry and market.


One student, Ava, a junior, has her eyes set on the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT in New York City). She is exploring the fashion world by committing to a six-weekend, portfolio-building class at FIT. Ava first learned sewing from her grandmother. “I love this class. I love learning about sewing, patterns, textiles, and fashion design,” Ava said. She has completed a summer dress and is currently designing and creating an outfit, palazzo pants and a top.


Nguyer, a senior exchange student from Vietnam, had never sewn before. She had doubts about her ability to succeed in the class, but Mrs. Morais’ coaching to take it one step at a time worked for her. “I never think about results. I just try to learn and enjoy it, step by step,” she said. Nguyer is making a pale pink, cocktail dress.


JP (Jason Patrick), a junior, took an interest in the class because he likes to think creatively, and has always loved clothes and shoes. JP is currently making a distressed shirt. He will be constructing the shirt and then using dying techniques to distress it.


Emily A., a junior, always saw fashion as a form of expression. She hopes to learn enough to express herself through her own fashion creations. She’s making a green jump suit.

Alicia, a junior, took art I and II, art history and photography. Apparel and fashion design was another chance to diversifying her art interests and skills. “There is so much more to do in this class. I like seeing results and being able to make something for myself,” Alicia said. She is making a long-sleeve navy blouse, with a boat neckline and straps over the shoulders.


Leonard, a senior with a sense of humor who’s used to being called Da Vinci, took the class to make an artistic claim of his own. He had tried sewing at home, and he finds the class easier than expected. He is constructing a shirt.


“I was very interested in this class, and I really enjoy being here. I’ve loved clothing forever, and learning to make my own makes me very happy,” said Evelyn B., a senior. She is making a skirt with a floral pattern.


The students work as a team. “I don’t do it for them. I show them. They get there by piecing things together, like a puzzle,” Mrs. Morais said.


The class’s next challenge is to make palazzo pants using the same fabric and design for everyone—and then come up with individual top designs: crop tops, long/short sleeves, vests or jackets. Logistical challenges include five sewing machines for 12 students and the absence of a cutting table.


For Mrs. Morais, the first year of the course has been about establishing the curriculum. “Fashion design starts with understanding the fabric. Past art classes can help, but illustrating fashion is nothing like illustrating anatomy, for instance,” she said. “You need to understand design and the nature and behavior of fabrics.” These skills take time to develop, which can make it difficult for committed students to build a portfolio in one year. “In an ideal world, this would be a two-year program, from foundation and basics of sewing, to drapery, sketching ideas and illustrating their designs,” she added.


As an art teacher and an artist, Mrs. Morais is excited with the diversification of art course offerings at the high school. “Art is a way of thinking and experiencing, and as such, it’s as important as English, math or science. It is part of our daily lives. And fashion happens to be an industry making billions,” she said.