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Senior Ali McKay’s clothing line takes shape

Photo courtesy of Ali McKay

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The Chicago Building is only two blocks away from the Chicago Art Institute, approximately a ten minute walk. Making the arduous climb up the marbled stairs of the Art Institute takes another three. To find your workshop room and get settled for the day, five minutes. But immersing yourself in creativity—cutting, sewing, designing, measuring, and creating—that’s an experience that cannot be measured by time, or taken on by just anyone. However, for senior Ali McKay artistic creativity is her life.

For two weeks over the summer, McKay participated in the Art Institute’s Art and Science of Color program for high school students. The program offers classes through various art mediums, however McKay’s focus was fashion construction.

“You basically start off with a design element and learn conceptual things about fabrics and clothing styles. They teach you about sewing. And in the end, we each have our own collection of clothes,” McKay said.

Fashion has always been an interest of McKay’s, and she’s constantly on the look out for new ideas to inspire her wardrobe. She loves emulating outfits she finds on fashion blogs and even at the occasional music festival. But her true inspiration, she says, comes from art and colors.

“I guess I wear trendy stuff, but I try to put my own twist on it,” McKay said.

Taking in all of those experiences and putting them in her own clothing and designs, however, takes a lot of practice. This is why McKay spent her summer studying fashion construction—to better her fashion abilities.

The teachers McKay worked with were professionals in their craft– adults who teach at the Art Institute year-round and also sell their own clothing lines. McKay said that working with the teachers was a very educational experience; the workshops were intense and time was tight, since they only had two weeks to complete their course, but there were also a lot of lighthearted moments, too.

“The cool thing is that, on certain days, you’d work long hours. But, afterwards, you can hang out with the other kids in oil painting, and photo and other crafts. I even got to be in weird artistic photos for people’s portfolios. So it was a really cool experience,” McKay said.

And those experiences paid off in the end because they inspired and enlightened McKay, allowing her to produce her own line of clothing as the finished product of her two weeks spent downtown. The clothes are kept at home, safely in her closet.

“I spent so much time on the clothes I made that I’m scared to wear them. They’re my children. I sewed a skirt at home once I got back from camp, and I’ll wear that, but the stuff I made I keep doing and redoing until it is perfect—I don’t want to wear it,” McKay said.

As far as summers go, McKay had the experience of a lifetime, and she plans to continue her passion for fashion in college. Her hope for the future is to attend a liberal arts school where she can experiment with fashion design and other art forms.

“I think I want to get into fashion; I’m not sure I like the structure of sewing and the math, but I definitely want to be in the realm of art. Somewhere where all the lines overlap.”

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The news site of Hinsdale Central High School
Senior Ali McKay’s clothing line takes shape