Senior stitches support for Haitian children
Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 00:02
Like many Americans, Kimberly Cignarella felt she had help the victims of the Haitian earthquake, which happened in January. But instead of sending a donation using her cell phone, Cignarella turned to her sewing machine.
The senior apparel design major was home in New Jersey over winter break beginning work on her senior design collection when she began seeing commercials asking for donations to the Red Cross.
"I kept thinking that I wanted to send money. I wanted to send them the $10," Cignarella says. "But I was always hesitant and I didn't know why, and then four days later I thought about how I wanted to do something more."
After approaching her mother about her desire to help, Cignarella developed the idea to make dresses to send to young girls in Haiti.
During the time when the New York Jets were in the playoffs, Cignarella heard that the team's apparel was being donated to boys in Haiti. Since the boys were already receiving clothing, Cignarella says she wanted to focus on the girls.
"I wanted to do something for a young age group because I was really upset about how they lost their families," she says. "I am one person, but I knew I could help a young child by giving them something that would put a smile on their face."
Cignarella choose to make dresses for the girls because of the hot weather in Haiti and because wearing a dress can make any girl feel special, she says. In the original design, the dresses had buttons and straps, but Cignarella decided to change the design to a halter style.
"I just knew I needed to keep it basic, so I wanted to do something simple enough and easy for them," she says. "I came up with a basic little sundress."
To add special touches, Cignarella added hearts to the front of the dresses and a personal label to each dress.
"On every single dress on the back of the neck I put little hearts," she says. "It's kind of my label, and I stitched my initials in them to make it more personal and show how much effort I put into it."
Since she started the project with her own money, Cignarella chose to go to Wal-Mart and purchase fabric that she could buy in bulk for a cheap price. Although she initially bought the fabric herself, Cignarella started receiving donations from friends and family who wanted to donate to Haiti and gave their charity money to her instead.
Her boyfriend's mother, an interior designer, also donated 80 yards of fabric to the cause. Cignarella chose to use cotton because it was easy to sew and easy for the children to care for, she says.
The name of the project, AdDRESSed With Love, encompassed everything she wanted to get across with the project, she says.
Since the time her plan was developed at the end of January, Cignarella has been waking up most mornings at 8 or 9 a.m. and putting in nine- to 12- hour days to reach her goal. Cutting takes the most significant amount of time, she says, but after awhile she started to form a system.
"I would cut probably 50 dresses a day — sometimes 30, sometimes 50 — and then I would kind of do an assembly line and do the side seam and then the next step and then the next step," Cignarella says.
Cignarella says on average, each dress takes approximately two and a half to three hours to complete. With just one sewing machine and one iron, she has already completed 160 dresses and is approaching her goal of 200 dresses.
"I picked a number that I thought would be large enough but would be something I could accomplish, so I picked 200," she says. "I thought it would be a good goal for my first batch."
Although most of the work Cignarella has completed most of the work herself, she says she has had some help with cutting and ironing from her mother and her friends now that she is back at school.
Cignarella says she took a five-day break when she first returned to campus to prepare for classes and get settled, but now she is back to sewing to finish the last couple of dresses she needs to reach her goal.
Once back at school, the president of Synergy, senior Beatrice Mistretta, contacted Cignarella about wanting to help.
"Two hundred was my personal goal, and I want to reach that myself," Cignarella says. "If we get Synergy involved we can make another 200 and make it even bigger."
At the first Synergy meeting of the semester, Mistretta brought up Cignarella's cause to the group. Thegroup began to brainstorm and came up with the idea of having a sewing marathon.
"We said we could just have one day in which people could come in and sew and it just evolved from that – everyone said one idea and it kept going from there," Mistretta says.
Even people that don't know how to sew can still be involved by helping with cutting and other elements, Cignarella says.
UDress is also planning on having members come to the marathon event, says Editor-in-Chief Jessica Lapidos.
"We are going to promote it through UDress and we are going to cover it in the magazine," Lapidos says. "We're hoping to have a film crew there too."
Synergy is hoping to get most of the fabric for the dresses donated from local community members, scraps from the fashion students and from local companies such as Wal-Mart and JoAnn Fabrics.
The marathon is scheduled for March 20 in the sewing lab in Alison Hall. Mistretta says if the event goes well, another marathon day will be planned.
"We are just going to see how many we can make," Mistretta says. "It's just a tryout and if it goes really well, we can do another."
Cignarella has already donated 100 dresses to an organization, Lifeline Christian Mission, which should be shipping the dresses to Haiti this week, she says. The organization sponsors children at a Haitian school, and they will be sending Cignarella photos of the children once they receive her dresses.