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DIY design: Usdan campers sew their own back-to-school looks

Two campers chose the same pretty floral fabric.

Two campers chose the same pretty floral fabric. Zoe Mirsky, 17, of Great Neck, left, wears a flowing floral kimono over a pink romper, while Brittany Polevikov, 13, of Port Washington made a shorter jacket with high-waisted pink shorts. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

A handful of girls at Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts can check one important task off their back-to-school to-do list: finding the perfect first-day attire.

What's more, they can be certain none of their classmates will show up sporting the same thing. Because this summer, instead of scouring shops for just the right outfit, campers in Usdan's Sewing and Fashion Production class made their own.

"I want to wear something that will make me stand out," says Brittany Polevikov. "I know no one will have anything like it because I made it myself."

Many campers had never touched a sewing machine before they arrived in Sonya Korder's class, but they quickly graduated from learning basic techniques and executing instructive first projects to designing a back-to-school look. Korder -- a former Usdan camper who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in May -- had them collect inspiration in mood books and keep an eye on trends.

"I think most of them are definitely looking to have something that's trendy and matching what's in the store, just with a twist," says Korder, 23. Many gravitated toward floral and vintage prints, while one student heeded the return of '90s grunge.

Polevikov and her fellow camper Zoë Mirsky both chose a sheer floral fabric as their starting point, inspired by the kimono. Polevikov, 13, of Port Washington, added a pair of pink high-waisted shorts and a white crop top she could later mix and match. Mirsky, 17, of Great Neck -- who hopes to apply to FIT or Miami International University of Art & Design -- opted for a pink romper.

Creating tailored pieces and incorporating new types of fabrics into the two-week assignment presented some challenges, says Korder, but it was worth it.

"They definitely love when they take it off the sewing machine, put it on and look in the mirror," says Korder. That's when they realize that all the hard work paid off."

Though at 12 the youngest camper to create her back-to-school look, Amy Dolan was perhaps the most ambitious. The soon-to-be 8th-grader from Manhattan says she combined a bit of '90s grunge with her more preppy style to create a look that was both easy to move around in and worthy of the first day of school. She paired a quilted pleather skirt with a sweater inspired by the classic letterman jacket -- and turned an old hardcover book into a clutch.

"I don't have to go to a store and pick something that I sort of like," says Dolan. "If I can imagine it, I can just make it now."

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