The Fashion Show 2021 encapsulates a year of change with metamorphosis theme

The 2021 Iowa State Fashion Show took place outside at Reiman Gardens.

Morgan Durick and Sadie Besch

Dating back to 1982, The Fashion Show at Iowa State has been a longstanding tradition. As one of the largest student-run fashion shows in the nation, it serves as a notable annual event — involving nearly 200 students each year. The Fashion Show 2021 proved its uniqueness starting Friday. During the first night of a two-night event, a nearly sold-out audience watched in awe as the work of over 75 apparel, merchandising and design students came to life on the runway. 

Adrenaline was pumping backstage as producers, directors, models and committee members alike prepared to put on a never-seen-before version of the annual student-run show. For the first time, The Fashion Show 2021 was hosted outside at Reiman Gardens, with limited capacity and safety precautions in place. This year’s show theme, “Metamorphosis,” proved to be fitting.

“Going off of Metamorphosis, we wanted to focus on change and adapting to our new environment,” Annie Fitzpatrick, managerial producer and senior in apparel, merchandising and design, said. “With COVID, we’ve had to change pretty much everything of what we do and so [the theme] has just been quite fitting overall.”

Incorporating this year’s “whimsical” theme, student-models embodied metamorphosis through bubble braids embellished with pearls and highly saturated eye makeup.

“Our favorite part of the theme was the way we could bring it into the makeup. I think it was so fun because we got to do a bunch of bright and vibrant colors,” Liv Makeever, modeling committee co-director and junior in apparel, merchandising and design, said. “We kind of went with the butterfly vibe of [metamorphasis], so it was just kind of exciting to get to do really bright colors. Especially with the masks on because that’s really the only part you get to see.” 

Each year, around 50 student-models wear pieces uniquely designed by Iowa State students. This year’s show was no different as pieces ranged from streetwear to sportswear to glamorous ballgowns. Muted earth tones and vibrant colors coexisted in an eccentric paradox. High heels with socks served as a common accessory to student work.  

“Even though [The Fashion Show] has an overall theme, it definitely has its individuality,” Carley Wyble, a student-model and senior in apparel, merchandising and design, said. “It’s super cool to see it all come together.”

Bright purple and orange triangles lined the walkways winding through Iowa State’s Reiman Gardens as Joji’s “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” pumped through the air — setting an alternative mood in anticipation of the annual event.

The show opened up with acknowledgements of the dedication and hard work of involved students and faculty and thanking the donors who helped The Fashion Show 2021 exceed their monetary goal, raising over $34,005. Shortly after, models began showcasing numerous student designs as they winded their way through the garden.

Each year, the modeling committee makes it a point to be inclusive in casting, deeply valuing diversity and representation among student-models. 

“Diversity is something that is super important to incorporate every year, it shouldn’t even be a question,” Garret Hanson, modeling committee member and junior in apparel, merchandising and design, said. “My personal goal would be just to make sure everybody is comfortable while we are working with them and they feel safe.”

Due to the extenuating circumstances of last year and everything moving digitally, last year’s student designers were not able to showcase their work on the runway. To honor their hard work, a brief segment of this year’s show was dedicated to acknowledging some of their pieces.  

“We added that extra section in the first half [of the show] to highlight the designs of the 2020 designers so they got to see their stuff on the runway too,” Sarah Bennett-George, faculty adviser, said. 

As a short intermission took place, the gardens filled with rumblings from awestruck attendees. 

“I love it. Honestly, I’m not a big fashion person, and so it’s really cool to see everything put together and people’s ideas because I feel like I put together a really basic outfit,” Peyton Silvers, a sophomore in finance, said. “They’re very unique and bold and different, which I like a lot.”

After intermission, Makenzi Marek and Megan Szabo, outreach producers, introduced the show’s guest designers. Unique to this year’s show, these three guest designers doubled as guest judges as well. Guest designers included Heather Brown, founder of NIGHT DIVE SWIM, Jennifer Coughenour, owner of Wanderlust, and Gretchen Bohling of Gretchen Bohling Design. 

“I really love Gretchen Bohling Design’s work,” Bennett-George said. “There are a few pieces in there that I’m thinking I’m going to have to save up a little money to invest in myself.”

Closing out the show, a flood of nearly 50 models circled the gardens in one last grand display. Following the flood, all students involved in the show were honored for their hard work by stepping onto the runway. Apparel, events and hospitality management graduate student Jasmine Ambrosio was also recognized for being awarded the annual “Best in Show” scholarship for her gown collection “Eventide.”

The opening night of The Fashion Show 2021 was deemed a great success and anticipation builds for the remainder of the show wrapping up Saturday. 

“Everything went perfectly, this is even more than I expected that we’d be able to pull off when we started planning back in August,” Kaitlyn Collins, managerial producer and senior in apparel, merchandising and design, said. “It’s surreal — I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!”

The second half of the metamorphosis-themed show will start at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Reiman Gardens. Check the website viewing options and follow @isufashionshow on social media handles to stay up to date on events and happenings.