Monika Horvat

May 7, 2014

Grace House GroupOne great thing about studying fashion at Dominican University is the multitude of opportunities to take classes in which you can give back.

For my cultural perspective of dress class this semester, we were required to volunteer at a variety of resale shops and projects such as the Glace Slipper Project and New to You resale.

By volunteering 6 hours at New to You resale, an upscale resale shop that benefits Chicago Westside Christian Schools, I have become curious about the ethics of clothing production and consumption. Americans are unaware of who is making their clothing, how those people are treated, and how well they are paid. We also consume so much fast-fashion clothing that we give away millions of clothes to our local thrift stores, who cannot handle the mass amount of merchandise. They can only choose the clothing that will sell and send of the rest for pennies to large companies that deliver the clothing to be sold in underdeveloped countries. This creates a market for cheap second-hand clothing, ruining the countries existing textile industries.

While volunteering at New to You, I was asked to sort donated clothing into giveaway piles or onto hangers to be put into the store. I also had the chance to put quality garments on the floor and press them to look alluring. In this process it was clear that Americans believe that even the worst-stained garment can be donated and put into a thrift store. These garments were immediately put into a bag to be sent off; only the best looking garments were kept to be placed into displays.  

I learned that the thrift store was seasonal, and only garments that fit the season would be placed on the floor. Also, by seeing the piles of clothing that was donated and turned away to be sent elsewhere everyday, I have decided to do my best to not contribute to this cycle and keep my clothing for as long as possible by fixing and changing the garments myself. 

This experience has changed my attitude about the expected trajectory for second-hand clothing.  From reading about how clothing is expendable in mainstream American culture, I have decided to avoid fast-fashion products and purchase garments of great quality that will last me a lifetime.  I also hope eventually to purchase only American-made products, to be guaranteed that the workers were paid well in the process.

This Lent season, I also made a pledge to wear only six items of my wardrobe: a sweater, a white button up shirt, a teal tank top, a pair of jeans and two skirts. I did so to see if I could still be fashionable by living with less clothing of better quality. I found this idea reading about The Six Items Challenge, a UK-based campaign by Labour Behind the Label, that challenges participants to only wear six articles of clothing for six weeks.  The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of the dangers of fast fashion and give us the chance to change our relationship with the garment industry. 

I am so grateful that Dominican University takes the time to make students aware of social issues even when it pertains to the fashion students. This educational experience is something I could not have received anywhere else. 

April 9, 2014

Monika's design from concept to finished garment. Portrait by Tori Soper.

This year as a part of my custom tailoring and fit class, design students had an opportunity to use our talents to give back.  

I remember Professor Johnson asking us last year if we would be interested in a class where we would make professional outfits for the women at Grace House. Grace House is a residential program that provides interim housing, emotional and spiritual support, and professional counseling to women who are exiting the Illinois prison system.  

We all were excited about the opportunity to learn how to tailor garments to fit on real women sizes, instead of the typical model size 6 or 8. For our first trip to Grace House we created a slideshow presentation on how to make the best first impression in an interview with professional dress. 

The atmosphere at Grace House was welcoming.  All of the women said hi and smiled with excitement as we entered.  As we were paired up, they were very excited to get going with measurements and sketching.  

My resident partner, Tracey, expressed her excitement with me and her trust in what we would create. I then went ahead and took her measurements: bust, ribcage, low hip, hi hip, waist, and height.  She has a very kind and spunky personality. She was clear to me on what she likes and what she doesn’t like. I could tell she was drawn to simple, classic, tailored looks. She described to me her personality and style as soft spoken, confident, and determined.  I then made a goal for myself to design something that would personify this personality.

I then asked her a series of questions to get inspired: Tracey told me her style inspirations are Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.  I learned she likes silhouettes that show off her shape, but does not like low cut tops, as she said she is more of a tomboy. Some of her favorite colors to wear are brown, cream, and black.  The materials she is most comfortable in are knits and silks.  Her inspiration images show a Calvin Klein suit and double breasted jackets.  She seemed to like streamlined, sleek, and classic looks. 

After sketching a few ideas, we decided to go with a black wool suit with a cotton knit cream shirt.  The jacket has a waist seam to create a nice fit and stops at the hip to create the image of a small waist. The gold knit top is fitted and has a black stripe at center front, to add some glitz and something simple to the basic knit top. I hoped that Tracey would feel confident in a suit that had great fit but which also was fashionable and professional.  

After working on patterning and sewing our looks in muslin to fit the women at Grace House, we then went as a class to pick out final fabrics. Seeing the fabric always makes the idea or concept in the sketch so much more real. 

We had two weeks to fit the garments and sew them to perfection. We wanted to make them perfect because the women were going to have professional portraits taken in their outfits on our last visit. I spent every day of those two weeks in the fashion lab, and the Thursday before we left, the whole class (including Professor Johnson) was in the lab finishing everything up until late in the night.  But seeing all of the women’s faces and excitement when they tried on the garment really was rewarding. 

All the hard work was recognized and appreciated by the happiness and confidence expressed by the women as they had their pictures taken. I was so happy to see my goal met, as Tracey looked confident and professional. The icing on the cake was that the Chicago Tribune realized how life-changing this experience had not only been for the women at Grace House but also for us students, who don’t always get this immediate satisfaction for our hard work. 

For more, check out the story and video and photo slideshow by the Chicago Tribune.

March 27, 2014
Danielle Moorhouse '11

Danielle Moorhouse '11 collaborated with Melissa Carr, associate professor of apparel merchandising, for her URSCI Expo presentation.

Near the end of every semester is the time when research papers are due. Students are working hard to study for exams and finish up final papers. For me, as an apparel design and merchandising student, this means finishing up research papers and presentations, while at the same time sewing and fitting garments.  

At Dominican there are many conferences that give us the opportunity to further our research abilities including the Women and Gender Studies Conference and the URSCI Expo.  

Dominican’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Studies (URSCI) helps to promote undergraduate research by providing funding on a competitive basis. URSCI’s Expo, held on campus each April, provides an important opportunity for students in all majors, even apparel design and merchandising, to present their independent research. 

Although science students have traditionally been well represented at Expo, one thing about the Expo that I have always enjoyed is the display of garments from each of the senior collections. It provides an opportunity for the community to see the student work up close and personal. 

As one of Dominican’s four pillars is study, research is a very important part of the curriculum.  Personally, I am considering taking advantage of another opportunity by working for a degree with distinction my senior year in which I will have the opportunity to invest my time in researching a topic that is interesting to me.  I would not only write a thesis style paper, but also create a garment inspired by my research. 

I look forward to this and the other opportunities to learn and challenge myself that Dominican University has each year. 

February 25, 2014
Dominican University students in Paris

Dominican University apparel design students have the opportunity to study the essentials of French fashion in Paris.

As an apparel design and merchandising student at Dominican University, I am always looking for ways to challenge myself.  Studying at the Paris American Academy has been a dream of mine event since I heard about the program freshman year. 

I have been working hard to fund this dream ever since by working full time in the summer, working two jobs this past semester, applying for scholarships, and being frugal with my money.  I’m so excited to say that I recently learned that I have been accepted into the couture techniques program, and I can’t wait to learn in Paris this July!

While completing my internship with ZZAZZ Productions, I realized how big the world of fashion really is. There is so much more left for me to learn, and I have only touched the surface. 

This opportunity will give me the chance to learn more about draping, working with delicate materials such as lace and chiffon, and couture design techniques. Lace has always been an art that has interested me, as I learned from my Mother how to tat. I hope to strengthen my creativity and challenge my ability to be innovative in design. 

This program also will allow for the opportunity to not only challenge myself, but also learn new techniques, such as millinery and dyeing. When I return home, I hope to have challenged myself and have an understanding of what kind of designer I would like to be.

However, these are only the material things I will learn. I am excited to gain a new worldview by being fully immersed in the French culture and the chance to learn about the essentials of French fashion, as I have always been intrigued by the French culture and language. 

I have been looking for ways to incorporate my career path of fashion design with my 6 years of learning French. The chance to learn how to design in the city that has defined what fashion is for centuries is a chance of a lifetime. Not only will I be able to learn about design in the classroom, but I will be immersed in a city filled with fashion and opportunities to strengthen my knowledge. 

I cannot wait to have this study abroad experience and am so happy to have this opportunity to study fashion in the city that is known for fashion. Bon Voyage!

January 23, 2014

It’s winter. I am drinking a cup of tea, trying to overcome a cold and thinking of Dominican University’s tagline: “Inspired Minds Amazing Possibilities.”

Indicative of the winter months, I haven’t been outside except to walk to class or my car. But regardless of being trapped by the weather and my cold, I could not feel any more independent and free to pursue my dreams.

A Monika Horvat Original

I have become accustomed to drinking coffee every morning and tackling an on-campus job, my internship, being vice president of Campus Activities Board, and my school work each week. (Regardless of whether drinking coffee every day was a good idea, it is a symbol of adulthood.)

Dominican has been a place where I was given the space to challenge myself in my studies, faith and worldview, but also with the support and mentorship of the staff and faculty when I felt lost. I had been provided with the perfect home away from home to prepare me to be an ethical, knowledge seeking, and independent person in my career.

Looking ahead to life after graduation, I am aware of the struggles ahead of me, but I am going to take advantage of my time left at Dominican. As a junior I still have time to do so. That is why I am making a few New Year’s resolutions: 

First, I will find ways I can give back to the community using my skills in apparel design and merchandising.

This semester I had the chance to take two community-based learning courses.

For Cultural Perspectives of Dress I will volunteer at a second-hand clothing store, New to You, where I will sort clothes to be displayed in the store. Last year, we had the opportunity to design and donate a garment to New to You, and this was a great experience! (The garment I donated is pictured to the right.) I am excited to donate my time to the resale store.

For Tailoring and Fit, I will design a tailored garment for a woman being helped at Grace House, which provides interim housing, emotional and spiritual support and professional counseling to women who are exiting the Illinois prison system. I am excited to be inspired by these opportunities, which showcase just some of the amazing possibilities Dominican offers.

Second, I will take advantage of every opportunity I get to network and challenge myself in my field of study, to help set myself apart. To meet this resolution, I will be continuing my internship with ZZAZZ Productions this semester and applying for job opportunities in retail and to study abroad in Paris.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

November 13, 2013

Hunger BanquetAt Dominican University you cannot turn the corner without seeing an opportunity to give back to the community. It shows me that Dominican is an institution really lives up to its mission.

Having participated in University Ministry, I have had the chance to give back to students through leading retreats like Kairos and the larger community with van outreach giving food to the homeless on the streets. 

Another event I look forward to every year is the Hunger Banquet (pictured, right), which takes the time to put into perspective the number of people who do not have enough to eat every year. This year as a volunteer, I am looking forward to seeing how they express awareness of hunger in the Chicago area. 

With the holidays approaching it is important to create awareness on the topic of hunger, as many may go without a Thanksgiving dinner. Another annual event I look forward to is the Adopt-a-Kid program, which gives students and faculty a chance to donate a Christmas gift to a child in need.

Not only are there programs and organizations on campus that support giving back, but Dominican also offers community-based learning classes, in which one has the opportunity to give back inside and outside the classroom. For example, as an apparel student I was able to participate in a class in which we created a garment and donated it to a local thrift store.

This week while registering for classes I was excited to find another design chance with a chance to give back.  Next semester I will be participating in a custom tailoring and fit course in which we will create garments for women in need.

There are so many more opportunities to give back at Dominican and I try to take advantage of all that I can, as I believe the best way to create a better world in the future is to set an example for others through service and compassion. 

October 31, 2013

Dominican University alumni Abby Zupancic '08, Miriam Cecilia Carlson '09 and Tracey Tarantino of ZZAZZ Productions
Dominican University alumni Abby Zupancic '08 and Tracey Tarantino of ZZAZZ Productions >>



As I mentioned in an earlier post, this semester I have an internship with ZZAZZ Productions. As October is the month we celebrate Homecoming, I thought I would take this chance to write about how Dominican University alumni stay connected with the university and are a great resource for current students to network with and learn from. For this post I interviewed my supervisor Abby Zupancic, a 2008 alumna of Dominican University.  She is a great example of graduates at Dominican who were able to find success in the fashion world after graduation.  She is an inspiration to me and is a great role model for other fashion students at Dominican.

MH:  What do you think sets Dominican’s fashion program apart from other schools?

AZ:  Having the experience as a student and also when working with other schools during fashion shows, I would say that Dominican is conscious of taking an idea and executing it, keeping the quality of construction high, and having a business mind—not just a creative mind. This is huge when you want to be a designer and to make a profit.  Also the liberal arts requirements allow students to study all realms—history, philosophy, theology—not only expanding students’ knowledge, but helping them relate to the design inspiration and design process.

MH: What about Dominican prepared you for your career the most?

AZ:  Definitely taking design classes. It was helpful for getting to know good construction and the design process. It helped me develop an eye for choosing a designer, styling, knowing the quality of a garment, and what is marketable of the fashion shows produced by ZZAZZ.  Also knowing quality helped me in my position at Neiman Marcus while working with high caliber designers such as Chanel, Michael Kors and Donna Karan.

MH: Are there any opportunities at Dominican that you suggest to current students, and what opportunities did you take advantage of?

AZ:  I was Fashion Club vice president my senior year, which gave me the opportunity to network with businesses and speakers. I was also able to gain leadership experience. I would suggest students take advantage of all opportunities to network. When I attended the Entrepreneur’s Boot Camp, that is where I met my current boss Tracey Tarantino. When volunteering for World Fashion Chicago, I ran into Tracey again, and asked about an internship position. You should always do what you can and go above and beyond. If it sounds like a good opportunity, go for it. This is how I approached my internship, taking on tasks and doing them above what was needed. Once I even cleaned the office while everyone was out.

MH:  What were you able to do to set yourself apart at Dominican University?

AZ:  My internship with ZZAZZ Productions—I learned styling, production, music selection and was able to apply it to programming and set design committees for the DU fashion show. The internship also turned into a position, so I had a job right away after school in a fashion career. Building relationships and connections over the years has set me apart for more opportunities, such as with Neiman Marcus. As with coming back to ZZAZZ, I have been able to grow with a company and take more opportunities and keep learning, knowing who I am, and producing fashion shows like Style Chicago’s Taking it to the Streets, Art and Soul for Splash magazine, and more to come in the future!

MH:  What do you wish you knew about life after college as an undergrad?

AZ:  Your first career may not be what you want right away, but appreciate the time and the experience of the job. Remember that if you love what you do, you never work a day. Also right after college it is best to fast-forward into your career, but after a few years, slow down to allow yourself time to learn lessons and learn from mistakes.

MH:  I was thinking about how ZZAZZ Productions is so supportive of Dominican students by inviting them to volunteer at fashion shows and opening up internship opportunities to them. To name a few, Brittany Rapala Dana Nolan and myself have been recent interns with ZZAZZ.  How do you reach out and support Dominican students?

AZ:  I am a member of the advisory board. At the end of each year I come in to critique and advise senior portfolios. I am a huge supporter of design students that wish to make a name for themselves. I consult with them to help them market their collections, narrow branding and aid with photo shoots. I have also taught a class at Dominican about production of the annual fashion show, staging, models and music.

MH:  Is there one thing you learned at Dominican that you will always remember?

AZ:  I was perfecting a pattern with Professor Johnson, and it was not going well. I stayed in the lab until I got it right. It taught me to know everything and learn from my mistakes. Dominican is a second home to me. I remember being down in the lab sewing, eating Sun Chips, listening to the radio, having fun with friends and creating memories. I will always have that. Sometimes when no one is in the lab on Sunday afternoons during the summer, I will go down to the lab and sit, sew and remember.

October 28, 2013

Dominican University Fashion Sewing SkillsOne of the requirements of both the apparel design and apparel merchandising majors at Dominican University is to complete an internship in the field. This provides a way for students to learn how to apply what they learn in class to the industry and to make connections before graduation. In addition, to receive credit for the internship, students must not only write a paper on their experience, but also create a portfolio spread to use when searching for jobs.

When applying for internships this summer, I was excited when Tracy Jennings, professor and chair of the department, sent an email to students that ZZAZZ Productions was in need of a fall intern to focus on social media and help with fashion shows. I had volunteered to dress at fashion shows with ZZAZZ in the past and thought the company was a great fit for me.

ZZAZZ is a special events and fashion production company located in Oak Brook under the direction of Tracey Tarantino. They have produced shows for Chicago Magazine, Infant Welfare of Chicago, Seventeen magazine, Chanel Boutique, Escada Corporate, Max Mara Corporate and the American Cancer Society, among many others.  ZZAZZ also has a great relationship with Dominican’s fashion program and its students. Not only does ZZAZZ ask for Dominican students to volunteer to dress at their fashion shows, but both production coordinators and stylists Eileen Bracco and Abby Zupancic are alumni of Dominican. In addition,Tracey Tarantino, the director of Zzazz’s runway shows, often is a judge at Dominican’s annual fashion show.

On my second day at the internship, I was still a little nervous. When I arrived, Tracey was taking photos of Eileen in a costume to show to a client. Almost immediately, I was asked to help create a tray for a cigarette girl costume, when they sent me to Nordstrom and H&M to pick up a few items for an approaching fashion show. In doing so, I had a moment where I realized that that I can take on the big world of fashion. I knew that I could find success in my career, as my education at Dominican University had prepared me for it. I am excited to continue with my internship and see where it takes me next. Stay tuned!


October 25, 2013

Homecoming 2013 on YouTubeThere are many opportunities to get involved on Dominican’s campus.  My freshman year I took some time to look around and try out the club and organizations I was interested in, such as Fashion Club, Student Leadership and Ministry and Campus Activities Board.  

I started in Campus Activities Board (CAB) as the publicity co-chair, a position in which I was able to use my creativity to invite students to events on campus.  Now, as a junior, I am vice president of CAB.  We plan many events throughout the year for students, such as an Outdoor Movie, a Homecoming Dance, and Casino Night. Campus Activities Board was in high gear putting on events for Homecoming Week, October 9-13. You can watch a video (right) with highlights of the week. 

One of my favorites is our annual Sundaes with the Sisters event, in which students get to eat ice cream and chat with some of the wonderful Sisters that teach and live on campus. It was amazing to watch students learning from the experiences of the Sisters.  

Other events we held were a bonfire and a movie night where students came to enjoys watching The Great Gatsby.  Finally, on Saturday night after the soccer games, students came to Parmer Hall for our Great Gatsby-themed dance.  Fashion club put on a costume contest for those that dressed in all the glamour that goes along with the 1920’s.  

This Homecoming Week is only one example of all the exciting things that CAB and other clubs and organizations do at Dominican.  I am proud to be a part of an organization that provides fun events for students at Dominican and that brings people together through conversation and fun!   

At Dominican anyone is welcome to get involved in the clubs and organizations and be a leader on campus.  For me, being involved at Dominican has helped me to grow as a leading and as a human being. 

October 22, 2013

Movie StillEach year Dominican University hosts a campus-wide symposium filled with sessions featuring paper presentations, panel presentations, round-table discussions, workshops, debates and original creative works that strive to pursue truth, give compassionate service and to participate in the creation of a more just and human world. This happens to be Dominican’s mission.

In the past I had to attend at least one session for different classes, but this year I choose to go regardless of a homework assignment. I appreciate the tradition of the symposium and the way it showcases the Truth and Love that makes Dominican special. This year’s theme was to explore the questions of being and becoming, of meaning and calling and of mindfulness and wonder.

The day started with a beautiful opening plenary with a call to prayer and reflection by Chad Rohman, professor of English and director of core curriculum. The day also included a great lunch with table settings and dessert. Yum!

I went to two different sessions which I enjoyed for different reasons. The first was presented by Jamie Visser, who compiled a short documentary interviewing the Sisters of Dominican. These women have each inspired students at Dominican and have set an example for the loving spirit that makes Dominican so special. I couldn’t help but to cry as I saw the appreciation on each sister’s face for Jamie’s beautiful way of creating a permanent legacy for these strong and wise women who have done so much for Dominican University and the community.

Next I went to a session on Dante’s semiotics of love by three students: Molly Mcgrail, Cody Mueller, and Concetta Stanfa.  It was interesting to see how, when translated, the information in literature can be misinterpreted and how it can be better analyzed in its original language.  It was great to see how students can be recognized outside the classroom by presenting their work at the symposium. 

These were only two examples. However, talking with friends, I heard of many other interesting and insightful sessions—there were more than 40 in total given by students, faculty and staff. The day ended with the academic convocation and the presentation of the Sister Mary Clemente Davlin, OP Diversity Leadership Award to Professor Kathy Heskin, who told a beautiful story about her first time as the professor for a class on Indian spirituality and the Bradford O’Neill Medallion for Social Justice to Sister Carol Keehan, DC, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, who made a call for better health care in America. Overall the symposium is a tradition that I cannot wait to experience again next year. So proudly Dominican!

October 22, 2013

Lewis Hall in the FallFirst to introduce myself, I am Monika Horvat. However, most of my friends just call me Mona.  Being from Wisconsin, as a freshman I was afraid of leaving to live in a new state and, ultimately, a new culture. Now as I start my junior year at Dominican University, I have fallen in love with what it means to be a part of this school.  It has been more than just a place that has challenged and strengthened me intellectually—it has become a place that I call my home.  

My friends and even the staff at Dominican have become a part of my extended family.  As a double major in apparel design and apparel merchandising, I was surprised and pleased to find a strong support system in my classmates.  Additionally, the support from professors and fashion volunteer opportunities in Chicago alone make Dominican’s apparel program great. 

At the start of this semester I was pleased to be greeted by my friends with hugs and stories of our summers.  Things started to move quickly, as I had to work and start planning events for Campus Activities Board, for which I serve as vice president, but I was happy to be home.  

For the first few days of school, my job at the Welcome and Information Desk provided a welcome tent for students as they arrived for classes. It was exciting to greet old friends and to welcome incoming freshman. The students were able to enter a raffle, ask questions about the campus, and grab a snack to go. I was happy to continue the hospitality and kindness that was given to me when I began only a few years ago. 

The welcome tent is only one of the many examples of the compassion and aid Dominican gives to its students.  Which reminds me that what it means to be a student at Dominican University really can be described by the university’s mission, “to pursue truth, to give compassionate service and to participate in the creation of a more just and humane world.”