Success by Design

One current MTSU textile student is well on her way to a professional career in clothing design

by Mike Browning

When Alycia Gillaspie was just 12 years old, she threaded her mom’s sewing machine with no problem. Soon after, she taught herself how to make prom dresses and took an interest in sculpture.

“I think that is what helped lead me into doing design and especially apparel because it’s like a sculpture on a human,” she explains.

Gillaspie enrolled at MTSU and began the concentration in apparel design within the textile, merchandising, and design major. Recently, Project OR, a competition held by the trade show producer Outdoor Retailer, contacted five universities, including MTSU, looking for talent. They chose Gillaspie.

In the competition, Gillaspie and four other national top competitors were limited to 48 hours to create a backcountry ski jacket.

“The challenge was figuring out what I was making because the brief actually says a convertible, backcountry ski/snow jacket with an ear covering accessory,” she says. “So I had to read it about six times to break it down. I also had to include the ear covering accessory, some sort of hat or head band and something—that was probably the first challenge.”

The next challenge was figuring out what she could do in the 48-hour time frame without sleep.

“I chose to do just enough design elements that I thought I would have time to completely complete, to sew and finish, all the way until it was done, there’s nothing more you could do with it.”

Even though it wasn’t required, she also made it finished on the inside.

“I think that’s what really made a difference for me—being able to sew it and construct it really well,” Gillaspie says.

A double-hood feature on the jacket allows a skier to fit a larger outer-shell hood over a helmet.

“I made a hood that was separate from the collar but was still attached to the jacket so the collar could be pulled up around the face without having the hood on, and then the hood would come up and over the helmet,” she explains. “Then it would have a bungee cord system inside it where you pull the bungee and it tightens down on the helmet.”

The rather complex design did the trick, despite some initial reservations on the part of the judges. Gillaspie won the Judges’ Choice Award.

“I about cried,” she says. “I was shocked. I could have sworn that the girl who made runner-up won. All I could do was hold my composure, so I didn’t cry on camera.”

Gillaspie and her design were featured in the March edition of the national outdoors magazine Textile Insight.