Students in field

Fiber & Fashion Design Major Designs Her Own Wedding Dress

June 21, 2019

Finlandia University Art Student Designs Wedding Dress

Most little girls dream of what their wedding dress will look like someday. Jessica Shields a senior Fiber & Fashion Design major couldn’t shake the idea of what her wedding dress would look like after getting engaged. So, she took matters into her own hands.

“I had been to a wedding for a family member and fallen in love with the bride’s dress, but after looking at a few online shops I knew I could never afford the dress of my dreams,” said Shields. “Thankfully I was in Phyllis (Fredendall)’s Fundamentals of Garment Design class where I learned how to make all the different parts of a garment, and decided that I could probably make my dream dress myself.”

She did just that, and in the summer of 2018 she walked down the aisle in a dress perfectly made for her.

“I’ve known forever that I wanted to be in the arts,” she said. “Ever since I was young, I’ve had my own style. I was always taking different things apart and putting my own things together. I didn’t know then that it would become my major but it just felt right.”

A transfer student from nearby Bay College, she felt as though she couldn’t stay connected to her Upper Peninsula roots and be in fashion.

“I was originally in graphic design because I always heard that I would have to move to New York or California to be a fashion designer,” Shields said. “What I wanted more than anything was to be able to create things close to my family and here in the Upper Peninsula.”

Shields is a recipient of the Dave & Elsa Brule Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to two incoming International School of Art & Design students each year and is designed to help students with the cost of tuition while getting their Bachelor’s in Fine Art.

“When I came for my scholarship interview, I’d never had such an intense critique,” she said. “It was nice to be able to talk about my art and what it meant to me. I was over the moon to get the scholarship because I knew I had that support that I needed to pursue my dream.”

She chose to make her dress as part of a project management course intended to prepare her for her senior project known at FinnU as Diploma Works.

“Jessica is a terrific student, a graceful and warmly inclusive human being,” said Fredendall, Professor of Fiber & Fashion Design. “There were many stages, some back steps and reconsiderations. She researched the history of wedding garments and gave a fascinating final presentation. She persisted through sampling and sketch ideations to create her marvelous dress.”

The relationships she formed during her time at FinnU, she believes, helped her to achieve her goals.

“I look up to Phyllis in so many ways, both in the art community and just the way she lives her life,” said Shields. “She was incredibly supportive during the whole process, and always knew I could make the dress even when I wasn’t sure myself.”

The ability to create her own wedding dress gave her both the acceptance and drive to continue to create her art for herself and for others.

“The way everyone reacted to the dress made me feel so great about something that I made,” she remembered. “It’s one of my biggest accomplishments to this day and I couldn’t have done that without the support I got from the Finlandia community.”

This article on Jessica Shields originally appeared in the Spring 2019 Edition of the Bridge magazine. If you would like to receive your own copy of the Bridge please visit our publications page. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be releasing digital copies of all stories from that publication. Read more stories for the Bridge

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