It was the year 1935, the location Paramount Picture Studios, an unsuspecting scene for fashion history to be made. The studio was working on a comedy film called “The Jungle Princess” and asked Edith Head, one of Paramount Studios top designers, to create a dress for the actress Dorothy Lamour — but not just any dress.
The studio wanted Head to create a costume fit for a jungle princess that was sultry, culturally appropriate and met the censorship code.
Head decided to make a variation on the sarong, a southeast Asian piece of clothing originally made for men to wrap around their bodies like a kilt. She put her own design on it, of course.
When her piece hit the screen, not only did it gain Head notoriety, but the dress also become a international hit. Over the decades Head’s designs inspired countless fashion designers, including American River College student Crystal Barrett.
“What I loved about Edith Head is that she never settled for mediocre,” Barrett said.
Applying the same mentality that her idol held, Barrett is working on a collection that brings old Hollywood glamour and everyday wear to life on the runway at Metamorphosis, ARC’s annual spring fashion show on May 5.
“I designed it with the everyday in mind, but my heart runs a little fancy where fashion is concerned,” Barrett said.
Like other fashion students, Barrett enrolled in Fashion 382, Collection and Design Production, which provides students a chance to display their talents and create their collection for the spring fashion show at ARC.
“This is the last class where the students can display what they have learned,” said fashion professor Anne Dieu, who teaches the class. “The overall feel of the collection class is friendly and [the students] are nurturing and caring to each other.”
Dieu understands the amount of work that the students put into their collection and admires their dedication to see their designs through.
“Having commitment to this class is outstanding and says a lot to the program,” said Barrett.
Inspired by the Hollywood glam fashion of the 1940s through 1960s, Barrett’s collection is called “Jolie Plissage,” meaning ‘lovely pleats’ in French. The collection consists of pleated garments complete with jewel tone colors such as royal blue, rusty orange, and rich reds.
“Women are like gems; they are very unique and vibrant, so I want the colors to reflect that,” Barrett said.
Barrett says she feels that the prime time for fashion was during the old Hollywood days and she wants to bring that to her collection.
“The clothes back then were actually tailored to fit women, not like the clothes we have today,” Barrett said.
It seems that fashion was always part of her genetic makeup. Her mother would take her window shopping and choose what she liked, then go home and sew together the latest trends for her daughter in their living room.
Following Head’s path, Barrett dreams of creating costumes for movie studios and creating her own fashion legacy and expanding her small business.
Barrett says she lives by her business motto: “Let me make your vision come to life.”
Barrett has a strong definition of what true fashion is.
“If the article of clothing does not make the woman feel good and amazing then fashion is not doing its job,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s advice for future fashionistas is quite simple, she advises them to learn basic math skills, continue to sew, and have passion.
“If you aren’t willing to stay up all night working on a collection then you should consider another profession,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s work, along with collections from other designers, will be on display on the runway May 5 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in the Student Center at ARC.