Student Spotlight: Judith Smith
All of the female members of Judith Smith's family were in tune with fashion.
“My grandmother was a seamstress and worked on Halsted Street in Chicago during the ’50s and ’60s sewing wedding dresses. She knew all of the hand-working arts: sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery... you name it, she did it,” Smith explained. “My mother worked in retail around women's fashion and the store she worked for sold furs, so she's my ‘go to’ girl to identify fur. Even as a young kid, I remember reading/looking at my mother’s ‘W’ magazine. My mother and sister are by far the most innovative 'dressers' in my circle of family and friends and the best thrift store shoppers for clothing.”
When Smith quit her job of nine years at a dental office, she decided to come back to school and narrowed her options to two.
“It was terrifying because the economy in 2009 was not so good and jobs were hard to come by, especially for those of us in our 50s,” she said. “It was between Joliet Junior College and studying prosthetics or COD and studying fashion design. I decided for once in my life to be semi-frivolous and chose fashion over prosthetics. I really wanted to learn advanced garment construction and design garments that I wanted to sew and wear. It’s a very liberating experience knowing that you can visualize an idea and then be able to execute it.”
With College of DuPage relatively close to where she lives, Smith also took advantage of evening and weekend classes. The coursework gave her the confidence to apply for a job sewing “sample” bedding items for the photography on WakeUpFrankie.com.
“I probably would never have attempted or thought to apply for a sewing job without the basic and technical skills that I had acquired from my classes at COD,” she said. “Every instructor was extremely helpful and generous with their time, knowledge and experience. I feel very privileged to have had them as teachers.”
With the owner of WakeUpFrankie retiring, Smith is now working at 5th Ave. Costumes in Naperville, where she sews costumes from scratch for various school and local neighborhood productions. She also is working on commercial fashion shoots and fitting models for advertising.
While at COD, Smith participated in the student fashion show “Sketches” and the annual Jury Show, where her work received the Best Collection award.
“My collection was all about three colors: black, gray and a deep purple," she said. “The fabric was donated to the school and I happened to be in class at the time it was dispersed. The fabric I chose was a thick double knit and it looked old or ‘retro.’ So I used those three colors and basically color-blocked my entire collection. I was also interested in ‘insertion’ techniques which I thought could also be fun with the play of the three colors and the challenge of sewing circles into the fabric.”
Although her job has slowed her progress on a degree, she still plans to graduate.
“As far as my education and career goals, they’re very modest. I don’t see myself continuing with any formal education, although I’m constantly researching different sewing techniques and I will always be learning – that will never stop,” she said. “Presently I’m very excited with machine knitting after taking a course, and who knows? When I'm 60 I may go back to school for more.”
College of DuPage
425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn IL, 60137
(630) 942-2800 (Main)
(630) 942-3000 (Student Services)
2018 College of DuPage