Clothing for a Cause

Four College of Design students. Photo by David Bowers

Juniors in Lucy Dunne's technical design class get hands-on experience in all the steps involved in mass-producing clothing, but as valuable as this experience is, it's what happens next that leaves a lasting impression.

This year, the dresses designed and produced by class members were delivered to 5- to 18-year-old girls living in orphanages in Uganda and Tanzania. Since 2011, Dunne also has sent student-made garments ranging from pajamas to school uniforms to rural villages in Haiti, India, and South Africa. Supply and shipping costs are funded by gifts.

"Every single year, students are so engaged," says Dunne, assistant professor in the U's College of Design. "The aspect of helping people and doing something productive for the world is such a big motivator."

The reward for all this hard work is a stack of photos and grateful letters from girls who receive the clothing, with comments like "I feel so smart and beautiful in my new dress."

Over the last four years, Dunne has seen the clothes from the program's first year becoming threadbare—a sign that they're being worn and loved.

"They have nothing," she says. "Anything they're given, especially something that's made just for them, is so important."

In the future, Dunne hopes to expand the program to other countries.
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities