Some Enchanted Ensemble

November 2, 2015

When Mary Davidson Cohen arrives as the guest of honor for Some Enchanted Evening, she will be wearing an original design created by a Johnson County Community College student from the Fashion Merchandising and Design department.

For the gala Nov. 14 that honors her as Johnson Countian of the Year, Cohen will wear a custom-made silk brocade jacket, trimmed in teal, and black dress pants with appliqued details.

Kimby Sweeney, who has attended JCCC as a part-time student for four years, designed the outfit, drafted the pattern, created the prototype and altered the garment to fit her client using the skills that she learned in her classes.

Earning the Honor

Cohen first noticed Sweeney's designs as she sat in the front row of the annual spring fashion show in March 2015. She took notes on what she saw, and she remembered Sweeney's work.

"It wasn't my style, of course. It was all black and white. But I did like how she executed it — good lines, straight seams," she said.

When Cohen was named Johnson Countian of the Year, she asked Joan McCrillis, department chair of fashion merchandising and design department, if she could commission a student to create her outfit for the fundraising gala.

She said she wanted to bring attention to the quality of JCCC's fashion merchandising and design program while also providing financial assistance to a student designer.

Supporting the Department

Joy Rhodes, fashion merchandising and design professor, helped devise a contest so Cohen could choose the winning designer.

"We had them turn in drawings and (fabric) swatches," she said. "From there, we came up with three finalists and then narrowed it down to the winning look."

After much discussion and reflection, Cohen chose Sweeney's design.

"All I can say is cream rises to the top," Cohen said.

In addition to a design scholarship, Sweeney will also receive a commission from Cohen. The student designer said she plans to use the money for a coverstitch machine, a kind of a sewing machine especially helpful for knits and other stretchy fabric. 

Working Together

The fabric Cohen and Sweeney chose for the brocade jacket came straight from China. After the fabric was delivered, Sweeney realized what they thought was a blood red was really more of a mulberry. She suggested to Cohen that teal might complement the magenta-like hue, and Cohen agreed.

Cohen described the project as a partnership involving the student designer (Sweeney), the client (herself) and the fashion merchandising and design department (to include Rhodes, McCrillis and Britt Benjamin, associate professor in the department).

"It's been a good experience," Cohen said.

Sweeney works a full-time job and takes JCCC classes in fashion merchandising and design when she can fit them into her schedule. Her goal, she said, is to develop her own line of clothing someday.

"She's done a great job," Cohen said. "She deserves to be designing for a place that appreciates her talents … and I'm her first client. She learns to work with a client, because if I look good, she looks good."