A passion for fashion and a heavy dose of STEM education = Fashion FUNdamentals

Video by Avery Martin

When you think of fashion, you may not immediately associate it with science and technology.

A summer program for middle-school girls at Colorado State University aims to inspire girls’ interest in the STEM disciplines through the lens of the apparel industry. In June, 23 girls participated in the Department of Design and Merchandising’s fifth annual offering of Fashion FUNdamentals.

Fashion FUNdamentals is a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) enrichment program that enhances young girls’ self-efficacy, knowledge and interest in math and science. The program is founded on the notion that highlighting technical learning within a creative discipline, like fashion, will spark girls’ interest in the STEM disciplines.

Middle school students visited CSU to participate in the annual Fashion FUNdamentals program hosted by the Department of Design and Merchandising.

Social and technical programming

The two-week camp consisted of both technical and social programming units.

The technical programming focused on the STEM disciplines and included units on fiber science, computer-aided textile design, 3D body scanning, textile laser cutting, apparel construction, apparel costing and pricing, merchandise assortment planning and historic costume and textiles.

The technical programming involved challenging math and science, and this year’s participants were excited to learn. The programming offered girls the chance to have fun and enjoy learning outside of a classroom setting.

“It’s nice not having to be graded on stuff,” said one participant.

“My favorite part of math and science is knowing that in the future I can use this for a career,” said another participant.

A young girl looks excitedly upward after climbing an indoor rock wall.

Participants had the opportunity to take on challenges such as climbing an indoor rock wall at the CSU Recreation Center.

The social programming included courses on body image and media literacy, nutrition, physical activity, anti-bullying and internet safety. These units aimed to positively influence self-confidence, self-esteem and academic performance by addressing topics of concern among adolescent girls.

This year’s camp also involved some social justice education, during which girls learned more about where their clothing comes from and some of the environmental impacts and shortcomings of the fashion industry.

The program culminated with a fashion show and reception, where the girls got to show off a garment they created from start to finish over the previous two weeks. The girls’ friends and families were there to celebrate their completion of the program, watch a video detailing the purpose of Fashion FUNdamentals, listen to a successful keynote speaker in the fashion industry and see the outcomes of the girls’ engagement in the program.

Keynote speaker

Nogah Seidemann, a 2019 outstanding apparel and merchandising graduate from the Department of Design and Merchandising, served as the keynote speaker for the reception.

Seidemann, an activist and advocate for sustainable fashion, told the girls that “creating something is one of my favorite feelings in the world. Whether it’s fashion or apps, self-driving cars or starting an organization of people, you have the ability to make ideas come to life, and that is your power.”

Girl looking at apparel

The annual program taught students about fiber science, computer-aided textile design, textile laser cutting and apparel costing and pricing, among other topics.

The program was developed in 2014 by faculty members in Design and Merchandising and has been funded by grants from the American Honda Foundation, the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Program and generous gifts from private donors.

More information about Fashion FUNdamentals is available on the program website: www.fashionfundamentals.org. The Department of Design and Merchandising is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.