When asked, “How do you put on pants?” Air Force veteran Judy McCombs answered with a laugh. “In bed with a lot of wiggling. It’s like putting on skinny jeans.” Erika Morales-Hernandez, Technical Design ’15, listened carefully and took notes. McCombs, a patient at the Veterans Affairs St. Albans Community Living Center, has multiple medical problems and has been wheelchair-bound for three years.
In the spring, Morales-Hernandez and four other Technical Design students at the Fashion Institute of Technology worked together to engineer clothing that is comfortable, stylish, and easy to put on for veterans who use a wheelchair or prosthesis.
Nastaran Rivera ’15 worked with Army veteran Pamela Winfield, who lost her left hand while saving an elderly woman in her neighborhood from a man wielding a sword. Rivera found her consultation” At the VA center, students met with an occupational therapist and prosthetic technologists, to discuss which fabrics are least likely to snag on prosthetics made of thermoplastics, acrylic resins, and often metal.
Over the semester, students developed many design strategies. They substituted magnets or Velcro for buttons; incorporated special pleating so a skirt can expand to be put on easily but then contract and look good; and created a tailored jacket with an open sleeve that could be clipped and snapped together, an adjustable fly for a man, and pant hems that could be adjusted with magnetic closures.
The project originated in FIT’s Technical Design capstone course, taught by Assistant Professor Luz Pascal, who says the assignment was “to engineer garments that will improve someone’s life.” (Other students in the course chose to work with Parkinson’s patients.) Department Chair Deborah Beard said the garments are more than simply one-off designs: “The students put everything they’ve learned in four years into this project. These items are ready for production and ready for wear.”
Morales-Hernandez eventually partnered with Air Force veteran Anna Smith, who uses a wheelchair. It took four separate fittings, first with muslins, before the cape, pants, jacket, and top fit right, Morales-Hernandez said. “I had designed the cape to be shorter in back to avoid bunching in the back of the wheelchair, but now I understand it has to be shorter in front as well to ensure freedom of movement.”
The veterans came to the capstone presentation and modeled the clothes. Smith said she was delighted with the whole outfit. Regular pants tend to cut in at the waist and ride up, but Morales-Hernandez’s design didn’t, she said. The inside seams were covered with fabric so they didn’t rub against her skin, causing blisters. “There’s even a pocket for my iPhone 6 Plus!” she said. If these designs ever become an actual line, Smith is ready with a name: Options. “It should be available for all people with disabilities,” she said.
FIT’s Bachelor of Science program in Technical Design trains students how to ensure that garments are manufactured to the correct fit and shape and conform to industry specs and standards. The program was established in response to industry demand for professionals who can precisely communicate the details of a garment to patternmakers across town or across the globe. Students are involved in almost every phase of product development—patternmaking, specs, grading, fit, and production.
2015 30 Days of Giving
- Day 1: Binghamton University hosts Welcome Week Service Project
- Day 2: Brockport hosts a Saturday of Service
- Day 3: Niagara CCC Penny Wars for St Jude’s Children Research Hospital
- Day 4: Farmingdale Little Flower Event
- Day 5: Onondaga CC works to help K.I.D.S.
- Day 6: Tompkins Cortland Participates in Cancer Resource Charity Walk
- Day 7: SUNY ESF Contributes to the Food Recovery Network
- Day 8: Literacy Matters at FMCC
- Day 9: HVCC Builds Walls for Habitat for Humanity
- Day 10: Oswego’s Positive Community Impact Through SEFA
- Day 11: Dutchess CC Organizes Clothing and Food Drives
- Day 12: Morrisville Holds Back To School Drive
- Day 13: Charity on Ice at SUNY Cortland
- Day 14: Delhi’s Out of the Darkness Event for Suicide Prevention
- Day 15: Dare to Care Day at Buffalo State
- Day 16: FIT Students Engineer Garments for Veterans with Disabilities
- Day 17: SUNY Ulster Sends Text Books to Kenya
- Day 18: Niagara CCC Tackles Breast Cancer Awareness
- Day 19: Herkimer CCC Supports Gram Lorraine Children’s Christmas Program
- Day 20: Jefferson CC Gives Gift of Comfort
- Day 21: SUNY Canton Giving Tree
- Day 22: Alfred State participates in ELK Charity Challenge
- Day 23: Old Westbury goes Shopping for Service
- Day 24: SUNY Oneonta Giving Tree
- Day 25: Purchase College provides free ESOL classes
- Day 26: Tree Trot at Fredonia supports Big Brothers Big Sisters
- Day 27: Geneseo Continues to Provide Hurricane Relief
- Day 28: Rockland CC luncheon raises funds for Alzheimer’s Foundation
- Day 29: Stony Brook Bike-A-Thon For Disabilities
- Day 30: Suffolk County CC volunteers at Special Olympics event