Mount Mary University Digital Collections

Mount Mary Fashion Program

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Sister Aloyse Hessburg displays the dress she designed and created in 1967 for Mrs. Frances Howard Robb for the wedding of her son Charles to Linda Byrd Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The dress is featured in the Digital Fashion Archive, Object ID #1967.01.
Source: Mount Mary University Archives
In the fall of 1965 Mount Mary began offering a major in fashion design with a minor in clothing and textiles. Sister Aloyse Hessburg was appointed as the first program coordinator. The fashion major was developed in response to the apparel industry’s need for professionally trained graduates in a course of study that combined a foundation in the liberal arts with a strong art and design background and good technical skills in clothing construction and pattern-making. The four year B.A. degree, which drew substance from an interdisciplinary combination of art, clothing, and textile courses, was the first of its kind in the nation. Unique in its marriage of creativity, technical standards, and market acumen, the Mount Mary fashion department quickly developed a national reputation for excellence.
Sister Aloyse earned widespread praise in December 1967 when she designed, made, and fitted the dress worn by Frances Howard Robb (wife of James Robb) at the White House wedding of her son Charles Robb to Linda Byrd Johnson. Mrs. Robb was thrilled to work with the soft-spoken and highly skilled Sister Aloyse on the design of her mother-of-the-groom dress. The reviews were fabulous and helped the Mount Mary fashion program gain national attention.
The new program grew slowly but steadily. The first graduating class in 1969 had four students; by 1973 the outgoing class had grown to nineteen, with incoming freshmen increasingly drawn to Mount Mary’s fashion program.
Sister Aloyse, who also taught various fashion courses, began collecting garments and accessories because she believed that students could enhance their design and technical abilities with hands on experience. What began as a small “closet collection” eventually evolved into the Fashion Archive, which now contains more than 10,000 pieces. Sister Aloyse remained involved with the fashion department for more than fifty years, and continued to serve as part of the Friends of Fashion, a group whose members help support the Fashion Archive, after her retirement in 2008.
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Sister Aloyse Hessburg working with fashion design students in a Mount Mary classroom
Source: Mount Mary University Archives
Since 1968 the fashion department has put on an annual fashion show featuring student designers. Each year fashion design and merchandise management majors collaborate to plan, produce and manage a professional-caliber fashion show featuring the work of Mount Mary students. The fashion show is part of a larger celebration of the School of Arts and Design which showcases work of all the school departments with an exhibit of art and design student achievement. Now branded as CREO, this annual tradition offers many learning opportunities and draws over 1000 guests.
Notable Mount Mary fashion design alumnae include Donna Ricco '81, who designed a dress worn by former First Lady Michelle Obama on “The View,” and is currently an Executive Fellow with the Fashion department; Karen Davidson '81, who started the branded line of Harley-Davidson MOTORCLOTHES; and Eliza Audley '91, who designed athletic apparel worn by professional tennis player Lisa Raymond and other tennis stars during the 2012 London Olympics.
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Cover of Mount Mary University Fashion Show Program 2010
Source: Mount Mary University Archives
Mount Mary's fashion programs are rated among the best in the nation. The curriculum melds the excitement of change and challenges of new technology with design, manufacturing, and merchandising. The fashion design major prepares students for careers in creative design, technical design and product development. The merchandise management major educates students for careers such as assortment planner, buyer, fashion magazine editor, fashion stylist, product developer, retail manager, or visual merchandise manager.
Learn more about the fashion programs here.