(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

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Budding fashionistas may abound throughout Orange County’s public schools, but it takes more than just a keen eye and sense of style to turn a love of fashion into a potential career. Fashion Camp, an after-school enrichment program, is striving to help kids who might not get a shot at the runway, flex their fashion muscles.

It’s Sew On

“I founded Fashion Camp to help children acquire the types of skills needed to help them bring their fashion-focused dreams into reality,” says Erin Bianchi Hibbert, who started the program in 2010.

Fashion Camp is available for parents to access privately outside the public school system, but that wasn’t enough for Hibbert, who wanted to make sure all kids who wanted the program could access it in Orange County and other nearby areas.

Fashion Camp receives some funding from non-profit organization, Arts Bridging the Gap, which is committed to bringing top quality arts programs to children in underserved schools. In some schools, Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) pick up the rest of the financial slack.

“We work within the public schools as an after-school enrichment program and provide additional seats for kids who are eligible for free or reduced lunch. For every eight paid-for students, we take on an additional two that are unpaid in around 80 percent of the schools we work with,” explains Hibbert. The cost of the program is around $15 an hour per child. Fashion Camp’s highly trained fashion professionals comes into the schools once a week for a one hour class, over a two-month period of time. Children are supported to create and sew a design of their own execution during that time frame.

Some schools currently featuring the program include Arroyo Elementary School in Tustin, the Vista Verde School in Irvine and Newport Heights Elementary in Newport Beach.

Turning Fashionable Dreams into Tangible Reality

Debunking the it’s all glamour myth, Fashion Camp provides a comprehensive, learning-based curriculum with a strong concentration on a variety of skill-based areas, so that kids can acquire the know-how needed to make it in the highly competitive fashion industry. Children learn how to hand and machine sew, sketch and drape, as well as how to create and design clothing and fabric. Students also learn the basics about how to work a sewing machine, read a pattern and choose fabrics and notions. Even for those not dreaming of a career in fashion, the classes provide valuable motor skill practice and valuable time spent away from screens and electronics.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.