Mirror selfie of instructor Emily Westenhouser in the workshop of Sewing Circle Studio.
In March and April, a room in the upper levels of Mershon Auditorium became a busy workshop for the teenage fashion lovers selected for Sewing Circle Studio. Inspired by the DIY ethos of designer Todd Oldham, the weekly class brought together a group of young men and women to learn sewing basics and how to repurpose old clothes for new looks.
"My focus for any of my Sewing Circle projects is to grow skills, be creative, and build community for participants of all ages," explained Emily Westenhouser, the local artist and longtime Wex friend who taught the workshop and took photos of the process (she also runs an ongoing Sewing Circle project for all ages in Weinland Park). "Sewing Circle Studio has truly been a community-built effort, with some clothing and most sewing supplies like fabric and notions donated from community members across Columbus. In the spirit of 'bring your own project' sewing classes, our teens drew inspiration from their diverse interests, designed and created individual ensembles, and grew skills tailored to the needs of their sewing projects."
"I am so honored to have had the opportunity to work with these incredible youth!" she continued. "I know they will each continue sewing on their individual paths and the skills they grew in our workshop will enable future projects."
The workshop ended with a party and fashion shoot on the Mershon stage to allow students to model their new outfits for pro photographer Dru Batte. A few of them took a break from pizza and posing for the camera to share the ideas behind their looks.
As Nijah explained, she brought some previous skills to the workshop. "I’m a cosplayer and a thespian, so we’ve done a lot with putting different patterns together, et cetera, just to make a general costume or even a big wizard costume."
But she had a lot of fun with this hands-on opportunity, and she used it for something ambitious: to merge her ideas with inspiration from a look straight out of a Klimt painting, worn to the 2017 Grammys by one of the most stylish women in the world.
"My look is inspired by one of my favorite singers, Beyonce... She had on this beautiful gold gown and I wanted something like that, but simpler."
"It was pretty fun," Parker said of the workshop. "Before this, the largest thing I made was a jacket with scales and I had my mom sew it together because I didn’t know how. Now I know how to do it."
The mixed print look with lacing and unique vertical pleating on the top was designed specifically for him to wear at Ohio's Renaissance Fest this fall. "I don’t usually have an outfit for it, so it’s kind of awkward," he said. "Also, being trans, it’s sometimes hard to come up with stuff if you’ve lived your whole life without masculine clothing, so I made something. This is for a little deer [character]. Part of the reason for the pleating is that I wanted to have space for when I switch out of my binder."
"I really enjoyed the workshop experience. It was nice to work with others and throw ideas off each other," Kumiko said.
Fond of jackets and blazers, Kumiko turned a simple, standard-length jacket that was donated to the workshop into a cropped statement piece that shimmers with metallic stitching and stenciling done by hand, plus something smartly repurposed: "I had the idea of using this curtain tie as a trim," she said.
Kumiko also worked on the dress she wears beneath it, creating a whole new top to go with the bright floral-print skirt.
We loved hosting Sewing Circle Studio as part of the Wex's ongoing education programming. Congrats to all the students for creating such great looks! And sincere thanks for sharing your talent and dedication.
Fashion shoot images by Dru Batte; additional photos provided by Emily Westenhouser.