The girls begin the weeklong junior fashion and design camp on Monday dressed in their usual summertime garb. By the end of the week, however, they display more style and flair, donning skirts instead of shorts or pants, 20 bracelets rather than a few, as well as different color combinations or hairstyles.

The transformation makes Andrea Olney-Wall proud. For about 15 years, she's been teaching fashion design at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, one of the many summer classes for children that the venue offers. She teaches 9- to 13-year-old girls that fashion suits every size and shape, hoping to get them to appreciate their body types before they're influenced by images of the pipe-cleaner-thin models that dominate mainstream media.

"I really try to knock that Twiggy image out; all girls and all women are beautiful," said Olney-Wall, referring to the famously slender 1960s model.

Olney-Wall said that allowing the girls to explore their own sense of fashion "gives them a creative outlet that they might not have thought about. The more different we are, the better."

Her efforts seem to be paying off.

"Almost all models are bone-thin, and it doesn't seem right," said Emma Jackson, a rising seventh-grader from Annapolis. "I don't think it's fair, because if you see the clothes on the model, it might look good on them, but when you try it on it would look horrible on you because you have a totally different body type."

Emma's fashion drawings included turning a scarf into an earring. She said that she's been so inspired to create fashion that when school reopens, "I'm probably going to dress nicer because I know what looks nice."

Nearly a dozen students attended this week's camp, which focuses on drawing skills to create contemporary fashion clothing and fashion designs.

Students learn to coordinate colors and how to draw pleats and drapings. They design their view of next year's summer or spring fashions as well. They then make their designs from tissue paper on doll-sized wooden mannequins and end their camp with a mannequin fashion show — complete with a company name and logo — for family and friends.

Olney-Wall stresses focusing on full-length figures and tells campers that often what goes on in a designer fashion show — from the clothes to the models — are extremes.

"I always tell them, 'When you see a model that is 6 feet tall and weighs 100 pounds, this is an extreme. When you see them going down the runway, [the clothing] might be a little overboard. It is not really meant to be worn; it's more of an art form than actual fashion, so you can bring that down a little bit to something you can really wear."

She inspires the students to enhance their personal sense of fashion by making designs from their three favorite colors as well as their least favorite colors. Then campers vote on which designs are best.

"A lot of times they spend more time working on their least favorite colors so it looks the best," said Olney-Wall.

Ellery Halsey, a rising seventh-grader from Annapolis, said she decided to take the camp to bolster her sense of self-expression and delights that Olney-Wall "gives us a template and tells us to do our best."

Michele Hare, a rising fourth-grader from Bowie, said she wanted to learn to draw fashion "because I'm not so good at drawing fashion on my own."

The girls price their own clothing for the fashion show.

"They're very pricey — we've had [items for] $25,000," said Olney-Wall.

She added that she hopes the campers hold on to what they learn in the class when they reach the age at which clothing type and style become more important.

"They're thinking ahead a little bit," said Olney-Wall. "They're a little young to be wearing fashion, but it's the ideas that they're coming up with."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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