Caroline Chwalisz

Caroline Chwalisz works on part of her Jeune & Démodé line ahead of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Fashion Studies Showcase on April 20. (Photos by Russell Bailey)

April 16, 2023

SIU fashion students to showcase their creations April 20

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Fashion creations, from clothing design, merchandising and styling, will be highlighted when SIU Carbondale’s Fashion Studies program hosts the 2023 Student Showcase and Runway Fashion Show at the Student Center on Thursday, April 20. The annual event is free and open to the public.

For Tatum Rayl, a senior in the program’s fashion merchandising specialization, that meant creating a second-hand retail store, complete with market research, creating her own brand, exploring her location and pricing. Her showcase will premiere her brand and store The Grayl.

Tatum-Rayl-Fashion23-sm.jpgRayl, who is from Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, said friends and family kept wondering why she wasn’t in involved with fashion after she initially was in the university’s mortuary science and funeral service program.

“It made me realize fashion merchandising is a career, and I can do something that I love,” said Rayl, who is earning a minor in marketing and will graduate in December. “I wasn’t into couture and high-end stuff. I just didn’t really consider fashion was something I could do career wise. I do enjoy the business side of it. That’s why I went into merchandising.”

Rayl’s retail brand concepts and her fashion styling efforts are among those featured from 6-7 p.m. in the Student Center’s John W. Corker Lounge and ballrooms C and D.

Finding the right style

Allison Ulrich, a senior from Waterford, Wisconsin, will graduate in May with a specialization in fashion styling. Ulrich said she has loved fashion from a young age and would style her mom and sisters.

“From then, I knew that I wanted to style people specifically. I really enjoy making people feel good in the clothes that they are wearing and giving them an option,” she said.

AllisonUlrich-Fashion23-sm.jpgFashion stylists can work as wardrobe consultants for a variety of personal clients and firms, with many opening their own businesses. Ulrich said that it is important to listen to clients’ suggestions on what they are looking for but to also provide them with options.

Her goal is to be a personal fashion stylist, possibly in Chicago or Milwaukee, who goes to stores and picks out different pieces and outfits for clients to consider, including digital retailers, such as Stitch Fix. While on campus the last two years after the pandemic, Ulrich was active in the program’s Fashion Club, a registered student organization.

Siwon Cho, an associate professor in fashion studies, said communication is important for stylists.

“Stylists cannot just do whatever they are told. They should have good communication skills to persuade clients to look their best or be appropriate for certain events depending on the occasion,” Cho said.

In addition to Ulrich’s and Rayl’s work, other fashion styling projects on display will be from Bella Musselman, a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, and Kylah Smith, a junior from Memphis, Tennessee.

Historically inspired showcase

Caroline Chwalisz, a senior double major in fashion design and management from Elgin, Illinois, will present her Jeune & Démodé line. Her six-outfit line will include circle skirts, corsets and sleeveless tops “which can be pretty scandalous if you go back centuries past,” she noted, adding she has always been inspired by clothing from the 1600s to 1800s.

“The patterning and fitting process has taken me the longest,” she said, noting that she was doing custom sizes for closely fitted silhouettes for her models.

Chwalisz (pronounced Shwa-liz) will graduate in December. She learned how to do hand sewing from her grandmother and then started sewing lessons as a senior in high school, based on her “pickiness of clothing.”

“I thought it would be a good idea to come up with my own, since I didn’t like this neckline or I didn’t like this fabric or this length,” she said. “That’s what propelled me to make my own clothes.”

Chwalisz said her goal after graduating is to start her own clothing line – “feminine, modest, with a bit of historical flair. I would like to play around with that using natural fabrics.”

If she didn’t go into fashion, Chwalisz said going into the business was a good idea. One class she has is creating a business plan, so she is using her fashion experience for class material in determining factors including target market, brand values and financing.

“Once I figured out that I wanted to do fashion and make clothes I thought, ‘This is a good idea; let’s specialize in entrepreneurship.’ That’s been a good choice,” she said.

Laura Kidd, an associate professor and fashion studies program director, said Chwalisz is a “meticulous student” who may go into the business of making historical pieces, as it is a niche market.

“She likes to do a lot of historical stuff, so that’s fun” Kidd said. “She’s talented and a beautiful artist.”

The runway fashion show begins with three first-year students who will each present a design titled, Dressed for Effect. Those students, with hometowns, are: 


Chicago: Jia Brown.

O’Fallon: Noah Eaton.

Royalton: Alora Lefler. 

Four advanced students will present fashion designs as part of mini-line collections with designs that highlight decades from the 1960s to 1990s. Those students, with hometowns and line, are: 


Carbondale: Nicole Robinson, 1980s, Obsession.

Chicago Heights: Niy Vaughns, 1990s, Super Fly.

Herrin: Aaron Elliot, 1970s, Tranquility.

South Elgin: Lisa Vasilopoulos, 1960s, Summer Bummer. 

More information on the Fashion Studies program is available at or 618-453-1970.