Sandy student and Hale Theatre stitcher is part of SLCC spring fashion showJun 06, 2023 09:35AM ● By Heather Lawrence
Sara Riches, center in floral dress, is surrounded by her “Alice in Wonderland”-inspired creations at the SLCC spring 2023 fashion show. (Sara Riches)
Sara Riches of Sandy was studying theater at BYU in 2021 when she had the chance to work on some costumes for a charity event. The theme was villains, and she was making ball gowns for Cinderella’s stepsisters. Then she had a realization: she liked theater, but she loved theatrical fashion.
Riches loved learning to sew in middle school and helping with costumes at Alta High productions when she was a student. After some research Riches found out that only one school in Utah had a program dedicated to fashion, Salt Lake Community College.
“So I moved back home and registered at SLCC, and I love it. I just finished my third semester at SLCC in the fashion program, and I have learned so much,” Riches said.
The small class sizes and expert faculty members are two things Riches likes about the program.
“They are all industry professionals and highly qualified. They have experience in different aspects of the business, from bridal to warehouses. The classes cover the range of what’s out there: stylists, alterations, retail classes, running your own millinery business and corset making,” Riches said.
Moving back to Sandy also gave Riches an opportunity to work at Sandy’s local professional theater, Hale Centre Theatre.
“I started working at Hale about seven months ago as a dresser. Dressers are part of the stage crew. They are there during performances organizing costumes and moving them around. They physically take the costume where it needs to be and change the actors,” Riches said.
She worked as a dresser on “The Little Mermaid” and “Titanic” productions at Hale, where she said some of the costume changes were only 25 seconds long.
Riches moved up from dresser and now works as a stitcher. “Stitchers work on the costumes. They are there regular daytime hours, creating patterns and sewing. Right now I’m working on the Jewel Box Theater’s production, ‘Hans Christian Andersen in New York,’” Riches said.
“This show is really exciting because Hale is doing the world premiere. That gives us kind of a bare slate to create the look and the costumes for the show.”
Riches has experience creating from a blank slate. As part of her program at SLCC, she entered eight and a half of her creations in the annual spring fashion show.
“The fashion show is the big final for design students. The requirement is at least seven submissions. I say I did eight and a half because one of them is a quick change outfit that becomes something else,” Riches said.
For the April 22 student-led fashion show, Riches took inspiration from “Alice in Wonderland” characters. She started preparing in August of last year.
“In the fall we went through the design process and thought about what inspired us, what colors we liked, what vibe we were going for. This semester we worked on construction. We made the final pieces and had fittings with models,” Riches said.
Because she wants to design costumes, Riches decided to use actors for her models. “I made variations of Alice costumes, and designed costumes for the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Red and White Queens and the Caterpillar.”
Riches liked playing with the audience’s ideas about these well-known characters. “We often see Alice in a blue dress with a white apron. I put her in pink. Not only is it a naïve color, it also works with the red and white queens in the story.”
Her time at SLCC has taught her that sustainability and being able to make your own clothes are important. She believes they will be a huge trend.
“I knew ‘fast fashion’ was bad, but at school I started to learn how bad it truly is. So I like making something that’s high quality and sustainable. Knowing how to sew is empowering. It’s so nice to be able to make your own things and be creative instead of having to support fast fashion brands,” Riches said.
Riches has an Etsy store, Sara Sews Designs, as a side business where she sells accessories, mini backpacks, lanyards and wristlets.
The mini backpacks were inspired by her trips to Disney parks where the backpacks are popular, so it makes sense that her next big adventure and her future ambitions are Disney related.
“I’m going to work for Disney in Florida through their college program. I haven’t been assigned a specific area yet, but while I’m there I hope to have the chance to study their incredible costumes up close. My dream is to one day work for Disney designing costumes.” λ