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UD group designs clothing for special-needs children

Model and client Faith wears one of the outfits designed and sewn by members of Sew Baby Sew. Each client is part of a fashion show and photo  shoot once their design is finished. // Photo courtesy of Sew Baby Sew

Model and client Faith wears one of the outfits designed and sewn by members of Sew Baby Sew. Each client is part of a fashion show and photo shoot once their design is finished. // Photo courtesy of Sew Baby Sew

Emma Zuckerman recognized a groundbreaking movement when she saw one. So when the UD student was presented with the chance to start a sewing club that would design clothing for kids with special needs, she grabbed it.

“I founded it in the fall of 2015” said Zuckerman, a fashion major who graduated in May. “I had previously taken a class and for one of the design projects, the professor reached out to families in the community who had kids with special clothing needs. I saw firsthand the difference that those designs made in these families’ lives.”

When the professor of that class stopped teaching to pursue a doctorate, she asked Zuckerman to start a club that would continue the work she had started.

Sew Baby Sew works with local families rather than other students on campus. As it continues to grow, the members have begun to work with several other clubs on campus to expand its reach, according Zuckerman.

For example, one of their “supermodels,” Faith, was recently featured in the fashion show of another campus organization, Synergy Fashion Group. The show attracted an audience of more than 500 students and fashion industry members. Members of the club also hope to work with Adaptive Mobility Transportation, a club that modifies mobility devices in innovative, cost-effective ways for young children.

According to Sew Baby Sew President Nicole Riportella, making the clothes involves a back-and-forth process with the clients and their families.

“First we have a design meeting. We speak with the family and the child to discuss their needs and sense of style,” said Riportella a fashion merchandising major. “The most important thing is to make sure we design clothing that they want to wear. Then, the child’s design team comes up with three sketches, which we send to the family and ask for feedback.”

Several fittings later, the outfit is finished and delivered and both outfit and child are featured in a fashion show and photo shoot.

The club is made up of 20 to 30 people who work to bring these designs to life for the children in need.

Families and children are chosen by a few simple rules.

“We consider any child whose family contacts us,” said Riportella. “We base our final choices on the number of designers we have in our club each semester, the experience and skill level of each designer, and the geographic location of the family because that affects their ability to come to campus for meetings and fittings.”

To ensure that each family takes something away from the experience, even if they are not chosen for an outfit, the club hosts fashion shows and photo shoots with the children. The club has also begun to send out monthly newsletters informing families about club updates and news in the adaptive fashion community. In each newsletter, a supermodel is featured in a supermodel “spotlight” that shows off their favorite outfit, and some fun facts about them.

Recently, Sew Baby Sew was named the best new Student Run Organization at UD for the 2015-2016 school year. In the future, club members hope to increase engagement in the community, which involves increasing student involvement. They also hope to see Sew Baby Sew established at other universities.

To apply for an outfit from Sew Baby Sew, contact the club at sewbabysewud@gmail.com.

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