Patterned fabric falls over the end of the table down in the basement of the Reich Education Building. The thick cinderblock walls make it impossible for a cellphone signal to pierce into the classrooms. Megan Smith watches the needle lance into the fabric, as she creates piece by piece. A blue-green infinity scarf hangs around her neck. Her eyes are focused on the needle, dipping up and down.
“Sewing is therapeutic almost—I can sit down in front of a sewing machine and lose hours,” Smith said.
Smith is a senior apparel and design major at Appalachian State University. Born in Dallas Feb. 27, 1993, Smith is the second oldest in her family next to older sister Sarah, 22, and younger brothers Nico, 18, and Will, 13.
She moved first from Dallas to Houston, then from Houston to Charlotte, N.C. in 2003. In high school Smith developed an appetite for academic competition.
“I am graduating early because I came to college with around 20 credit hours,” Smith said. “I am not good at rejection and failure and I wanted to get into every college that I applied to.”
As a senior in high school, Smith received acceptance letters from UNC-Chapel Hill and Clemson University in South Carolina.
“Then I decided that I didn’t want to compete anymore,” Smith said. “I wanted to do my best still. I didn’t want to be constantly working and not relaxing because of my competitive nature.”
The relaxing atmosphere at Appalachian and low number of students was appealing to Smith. She did not want to be intimidated by the large student populations at Chapel Hill and Clemson.
“I didn’t like the idea of it being hard to find my place or find friends,” said Smith. “I just really like App, everyone was so welcoming.”
A sheet of paper with graphite outlines shine under the florescent lights in Reich. Her eyes are fixed on the cloth. The square reflection of the laptop screen sits on the iris of her eyes. Her foot moves up and down slowly applying more and less pressure to the pedal attached to the sewing machine. The sewing machine sounds like a mini-locomotive gaining and losing steam.
“I don’t have class right now until one or two and I get in there at 11 at least,” Smith said. “I get in there and work through my class at one. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anything done, other times it’s the opposite.”
From loose pencil sketch to a done piece on the mannequin, a dress or piece can take Smith up to 50 hours to create.
“I like looking for inspiration on the Internet,” Smith said. “I am a big Pinterest junkie.”
Smith was recently introduced to the Computer Aided Design program, which is supposed to help her build the foundation for every piece. Some other students in her major are more illustrative with their designs, adding watercolors to bring the initial drawings more to life.
“I’m not fancy, I just use a pencil,” Smith said. “I am a very hands-on person.”
In preparation for the department’s Spring Fashion Show, Smith is putting together a “bridal” collection. Each student in production class is to come up with a theme and present a collection based on the theme. For the project Smith did background research on the history of bridal fashion.
“I was researching everything and it showed up that from the beginning of time there was never a single-use wedding gown,” Smith said. “If you had the money you would have a dress made for you and it was used for that purpose, but you didn’t just put it in a closet or in a box and put it away and never wear it again. It just became your new nicest dress.”
The collection is a twist on “bridal” and “boho,” or bohemian style. A trend that follows the philosophy of the bohemian lifestyle, but only in regards to clothing. Smith is focused on combining the boho and bridal styles into a collection where the clothing could serve as more than a one-time use wedding dress.
“It’s funny because bohemian used to be these people who were very free, off the map and didn’t conform to society. Now we have created this concept of boho-chic,” Smith said. “You act like you’re a free hippy but it’s in a refined way.”
Smith plans to go back to a city like Charlotte, though there are not finalized plans. After graduation she wants to open a bridal boutique, somewhere that reduces the stress on brides looking for dresses.
“I want to create a laid back and comfortable atmosphere to put people at ease,” Smith said. “Wedding dress shopping has been made into this big ordeal. It puts a lot of pressure on people. I think just having a comfortable environment would play into the dresses I would have there.”
The last piece of the dress is being sewn together. She rubs her eyes, takes a deep breath and looks at the finished dress on the mannequin.
“I don’t like constructing pieces that are really straightforward,” Smith said. “I like pushing myself. I always create puzzles that need solving that have all these elements to them. I want to make something that you don’t see everywhere.”