Friday, January 2, 2009

The Simultaneous Inauguration of My Pride and Humility: A Rant and A Revelation

On December 31, I already knew the 'inauguration gown competition' story would be posted by USA Today online as well as in the paper. I had informed everyone I work with, all my family, everyone in my phone, and all those who keep up with me via facebook that I would be in the news! My fellow students and I had been told that there would be a reader vote option in the online version of the article, but I was barraged with texts and phone calls that morning, asking "WHERE DO I VOTE??" Of course, now we all know, there was no democratic vote in this competition.

When I logged on to, I was so excited that I didn't even read most of the article, I just skimmed through the images (found at: I looked for a close-up of one or more of my sketches, with a sidebar reading something like "Tim Gunn's Take: ..." But they must have left out that part of the article. I flipped through again, thinking, "They didn't even include images of any of my designs?" They did, actually, at But I was devastated: not only would I not win the non-existent reader pole (thanks to my fan base of friends and family), but the 9 dresses that had published comments from Tim Gunn did not include any of my designs. I have to be honest, I told my boyfriend I needed some time alone, and tears did come to my eyes for a few moments. "Screw Tim Gunn, who is he, what does he know?" asked a supportive Joseph. But I was wrecked for a few hours.

Rewind to the day of the photo shoot, Monday December 15: I arrive right on time, luckily before some of my classmates so as not to look bad (there's only so far the "fashionably late" joke can carry a design student). 5 girls arrive before me, and when I see their work laid out on the table, I am relieved. I have a creative process, specifically with fashion illustration: I labor over the tiniest details for hours, I always spend the entire night before the deadline awake preparing, and I am always nervous that my artistic interpretations will not be received well. I have spent a long time (like all my life) self-punishing, coveting, practicing, and tweaking to reach a point, as an artist, that I can draw what I see, and what I draw looks just how I imagined. And the only area in my life I feel absolute pride for is that when I walk into the room in which my work is to be presented, and I look around at everyone else's work, I feel that mine is the best there.

On the morning of December 15, I had the same worry I always have that others would turn their noses up at my designs, and that there would be other students whose work I would WISH was mine. And just as it always does, the fear washed away when I saw my competition. I did admire the work of certain peers- I always do. I love Silvia's clean and cute style, and I share some facial and shading inspirations with Jessica. But I have developed a style that is really my own, no matter how reliant my fashion figures are on Japanese animation. My favorite aspect of my personal style is that I design for real women, not "ten head" stick figures. No matter how cute a drawing is, the purpose of a fashion illustration is to communicate a guide, at least, for a future garment that someone is actually going to wear.

I took a day to meditate on my confidence in myself, then re-visited the article. I realized three things. 1, if Tim Gunn didn't like my work, he isn't the only person on earth. There is plenty of room to spread my fashion sense around without stepping on his toes, and I am proud to do so (this was the more important realization of all, because it's self-empowering)! 2, If the second and third place designs were deserving of such Gunnian criticism, and mine were not even mentioned, maybe I need to step it up a little. And 3, When I actually took the time to read the article, I noticed something I hadn't before: "Once the 26 entries were winnowed down, Tim Gunn... picked his favorite in each category," it said. Wait, once the suddenly fashion-conscious staff of USA Today eliminated some drawings, a small handful was then delivered to the busy and oblivious Tim Gunn? What criteria was said winnowing based on? Did Tim Gunn even see ANY of my work? What a total bummer. I should harass Olivia Barker for the details, I have her e-mail AND her New York office phone number, after all! What do you guys think? As Mr. Gunn would say, "It's make-it-work time!"


Peggy Johnstone said...

Boover, I'm a gi-normous believer in having the knowledge so as to know how to proceed. I definitely think you should pursue this, if only to understand what the constantly changing project and attendant standards were. From start to finish, this whole thing changed dramatically. It might set your mind at ease. And, there are still opportunities for people in Grand Haven, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Indy to see your work through their newspapers! I'll single-handedly be your promotion manager! :-)

Lindsey said...

I should and will update my blog about this matter, but I did e-mail Olivia Barker, and she was very apologetic, kind, and timely with her response. To be continued...!